By Stu Ludwig
Phoenix Sports Writer
CHECOTAH STILL PERFECT – The Wildcats (4-0, 1-0 3A-8) take on Valliant (1-3, 1-0) this Friday looking to stay undefeated, and first-year coach Chad Hendricks has been pleased so far with how quickly his players have bought into his system, which was similar to what they had under Brandon Turley (now at Henryetta).
“The kids have understood the terminologies we have been using. It has not been foreign to them,” said Hendricks.
This week is homecoming for Checotah, so Hendricks is busy keeping the focus on the task at hand on the field. “Our mindset is we want to win a district championship and we just need to take care of business,” he said.
Running the table won’t be easy for Checotah, whose 3A-8 map includes games at defending champion Stigler in week 7, a vastly improved Eufaula team in week 9 and Spiro, which beat Stigler in another 3A-8 opener, in week 10.
“This district is as tough as any in the state and on any given Friday you can get beat,” said Hendricks.
PORUM OPTIMISTIC – It’s been a couple of roller coaster weeks for the Panthers (3-1, 2-1), who take on Wetumka (4-0, 3-0) in a big B-4 matchup on Friday and it will be their toughest opponent this season.
A 28-14 loss to Weleetka two weeks ago was compounded by first-quarter mistakes that Porum was unable to overcome. “We played with Weleetka for three quarters, but you cannot win games when you only play three quarters,” said coach Ken Hokit.
The high came last week as they put up a 50-20 win over Gans and were never really challenged in that game as Porum proved to be the more physical team.
Wetumka, Hokit acknowledged, is the better team on paper but “our kids have the mindset they can play with anyone,” he noted.
The keys for the Panthers will be to eliminate the mental mistakes that plagued them against Weleetka, and to continue to play their brand of power football. If they can win the battle on the offensive line and tackle well Hokit feels they will find success.
“If we keep the ball and extend drives they cannot score,” he said.
WEBBERS FALLS BANGED UP – The Warriors (3-1, 2-0) take on Thackerville (3-0, 1-0) in C-4 on Friday.
Despite only playing one half in a 48-0 mercy-rule game against Bokoshe the Warriors came out of that game with a few injuries. Matt Haraway is out with a knee injury. He had been getting extensive snaps at linebacker and tight end. Center Tristan Warwick broke his thumb, but is expected to be back for Thackerville.
“The key for us to come away with this win will be to put pressure on their quarterback and to take their running back to the ground early, something that we have seen other teams not do,” said coach Steve Corn.
On the other side of the football, Webbers Falls has been averaging 48 points a game and will be looking to continue that to have success against the Wildcats. They will need to as the Wildcats have been averaging 50-points a game.
EUFAULA, STIGLER IN KEY BATTLE — For Stigler (2-2, 0-1 3A-8), Friday’s game at home against Eufaula (3-1, 1-0) is a bounce-back game to get back in the hunt to defend its district title.
The Panthers come in off of a disappointing loss to Spiro where they gained over 400 yards of offense, and only put up 14 points. The Ironheads, off to its strongest start in five years, blasted Idabel 35-12.
Stigler coach Chris Risenhoover has two freshmen starting on the offensive line and is a big concern for him. “Eufaula has some big guys up front, and we will have to run our schemes better and continue to open running lanes,” said Risenhoover.
The key for Eufaula will be to have gap control defense and be able to shut down Seth Sandlin, who has 923 yards passing and 470 rushing, accounting for 94 percent of the Panthers’ offense.
“We won’t change up anything in our defense to stop him, we’ll try and keep our plan simple, but he’s a tough kid who can run and throw the ball well,” said Eufaula coach Larry Newton Jr.
WAGONER’S TOUGHEST TEST TO DATE – The 4A No. 1 ranked Bulldogs (4-0, 1-0 4A-3) will face the No. 7 ranked McLain Titans (3-1, 1-0) in their toughest test of the season.
While most people around the Wagoner program would tell you Lawrence Evitt (311 yards last week rushing) is the backbone of this team. Coach Dale Condict would disagree.
“Our key to our success first of all is our really good defense, It’s is the backbone of our team,” Condict said.
True, the Bulldogs are allowing 12 points per game and when Coweta held Evitt to 62 yards rushing in Wagoner’s 21-2 win to open the season, it was the Bulldogs’ defense which stepped up, holding Coweta to 147 yards of offense.
Since then, though, Evitt has had no worse than a 200-yard night and the Bulldogs have hung 35 points in three consecutive games.
Critics will question the Bulldogs’ lack of a passing game. “But when you have the fastest guy on the field (Evitt), the passing game may not need to improve,” Condict said.
“Our passing game can be developed but until someone finds a way to stop Lawrence we will be fine.”
Condict has inserted some different dime packages this week to help shut down the Titans’ athletes.