Checotah’s defense in a 30-14 win against Hugo last week should look strikingly familiar to Hilldale head coach David Blevins and those Hornets that were witness to last year’s first quarter meltdown when the two teams met in week two at Checotah.
Malachi Harris had two interceptions, one for a touchdown and Trenton Dan had an interception for a touchdown in beating Hugo.
Flashback to last year:
Harris blocked, then chased down the football for the first of three touchdowns not registered by the Wildcats’ offense in building what would be a 27-0 lead. Hilldale recovered, striking once in the final 1:30 then rallying just short of a win, 35-28.
So when Blevins talked about how his team wasn’t at 100 percent in football smarts, even in a 54-0 win over Tulsa Rogers, there’s no detail to be overlooked.
“We had four penalties on punt returns, either hitting someone in the back or the new rule that if you’re up field to block someone you’ll get called all the time if you don’t lead with your hands,” he said.
“We talk about three phases of football, offense, defense and special teams, and we saw that what happened on special teams started things going bad last year.”
On the subject of last year, Hilldale followed that first mistake up with a fumble scoop-and-score and a pick six that deepened the early hole. At that point, Blevins switched to Johnnie Durossette at quarterback, who connected on an out-route to Dylan Walker who went 57 yards for a score. He had two to Walker in a 280-yard performance that got the Hornets back in the game. Walker had 165 yards on 9 catches.
Durossette will be in from the get-go this Friday at Hornet Field.
“I think the quarterback looks very under control and composed,” said first-year Checotah head coach Zac Ross. “He runs the offense well and Walker is a special talent who can catch and make a guy miss. They’ve got other athletes beside those two but that’s a good combination that works well for them.”
Ross was happy with his opportunistic defense in week one.
“We were physical and swarmed to the ball. I thought we did a good job,” said the one-time Muskogee Rougher and Fort Gibson Tiger quarterback who coached four seasons at Porter and two seasons at Wyandotte. “Offensively we struggled at times but defensively we made some big plays.”
Of Hilldale’s mistakes last week, none were of the turnover variety. The offense posted 48 first-half points, which is pretty efficient too.
“Overall special teams was a high mark,” Blevins said. “Our kickoff team looked really good. Tyler McCoy, our Special Teams Player of the Week, had five tackles on six kickoffs and we had 9-10 guys always at the ball.”
He said they’ll polish the punt return team. That leaves the punt team that opened the floodgate last year.
“That got us started out in the wrong direction,” he said. “The thing was after that first quarter we won every quarter. It’s just a lesson that if you start out behind four touchdowns in the first quarter, you’re going to be in trouble. If you refrain from those mistakes, you’re not in that position.
“I think we’re a more physical team than we were and we’re more mentally tough. If something bad happens in a game I think this team will respond better, but you never know until it actually happens.”