By Ronn Rowland
Phoenix Sports Writer
Friday’s game at Stilwell will be a good test for the Fort Gibson Tigers’ resolve.
The No. 7 Tigers (7-1, 4-1 District 4A-4) are coming off their first loss of the season, a 35-7 decision at the hands of No. 1-ranked Cascia Hall, and looking to show their fans that last Thursday was not what they are all about.
One of the kids chomping at the bit is junior linebacker Brian Cerveny, the team’s leading tackler with 58 takedowns on the year, two sacks and the team’s only defensive score for a touchdown.
“Last Thursday might have been the big game atmosphere that got to us,” Cerveny said. “The coaches have worked on us being in better position and wanting the leaders to step up and be leaders.”
While Cerveny anchors the middle of the defensive scheme, he knows that the entire squad will have to step up a notch in order to get the taste out of their mouths from last Thursday’s loss.
“We know we are a better team than that,” Cerveny said. “We didn’t play up to our capabilities and we really worked on those things in practice. Getting lined up on defense, doing the basics and things like that.”
One person that has faith in Cerveny’s leadership skills is Kenyatta Wright, the team’s defensive coordinator and linebackers coach who played his high school football at Vian and collegiately at Oklahoma State.
“Brian is like that kid that every coach wants to have,” Wright said. “He’s a middle linebacker by trade but we move him all around. He works hard and has a no-nonsense attitude.”
Cerveny attributes the leadership qualities he has retained to the seniors on the team and hopes to pass that down to the underclassmen coming up behind him.
“I like playing in the middle because I know I’m going to get to hit someone on every play,” Cerveny said. “Whenever the run comes inside, I get to take on that fullback and make the play on the running back.”
While Wright praises the work ethic of one of his leaders, he’s quick to point out that Cerveny’s leading by example is sometimes his own worst enemy.
“The biggest knock against Brian is that he’s so hard on himself,” Wright said. “Last Thursday was a good example because while Cascia Hall is a good team, we missed on a lot of our alignments and Brian took that personally.
“You have to keep telling him ‘You’re going to make mistakes. You just have to avoid making big mistakes.’ As a linebacker, he’s the kind of kid you have to have on your program. He’s undersized but he’s got more heart and will that any other player I’ve coached.”
The only motivation for Stilwell (1-7, 1-4) is that of spoilers. The Indians are eliminated from the playoff picture, while Fort Gibson wants to take care of business this week and seal up second place and a first-round home playoff game next week at home against Sallisaw.