Eufaula

Eufaula’s Tyler Lee intercepts a pass against Metro Christian in the first half Friday at Eufaula. The Ironheads, 56-21 winners, take on Oklahoma Christian School tonight on the road in the Class 2A quarterfinal round.

Something caught Larry Newton’s eye last week in his Class 2A second-round game against Metro Christian.

It spoke to a difference which adds fuel to the never-ending debate of whether private schools should compete alongside public schools. It’s a discrepancy that becomes glaring in the lower classifications. At least, on this day. 

And in this case, technologically speaking.

“I looked over on their sideline and they had that sideline view where I bet they had four or five cameras set up to where they could air plays instantly,” Newton said, referring to the technology that brings Friday’s game film from next week’s practice preparation to in-game adjusting.

“Some of the facilities and things these schools have, we can’t compete with. Even if we had it, our kids are playing so much on both sides of the ball and our coaches coaching both sides of the ball, we wouldn’t have time to look at all that stuff,” Newton added.

So teams like the Ironheads just resort to putting together 48 minutes of sound football from kids prepared over a season.

Eufaula won that matchup, 56-21. They get another against Oklahoma Christian School out of Edmond on Friday with a spot in the semifinals at stake.

Newton’s teams have put together eight consecutive postseason years, breaking this season a run of seven set by Kerry Roberts’ squads from 1999-2005. There’s one thing Newton’s run hasn’t included yet that Roberts’ run did, and that’s three semifinal appearances (2000 and 2001, both losses to Millwood and 2005 to Cascia Hall).

Paul Bell, the winningest coach in Eufaula history with 110 over 18 seasons, made one semifinal in 1975, but he coached when one team per district went to the playoffs and few if any privates were around to get in the way.

“The thing in a place like Eufaula is we’re blessed with kids who want to work really, really hard,” Newton said. “Summers, I’m very brutal on them. We do a lot of stuff some today would consider unorthodox to gauge their mental toughness.”

But there’s a trade-off for that kind of test.

“I don’t bring them in on weekends (during the season). I know a lot of schools do,” he said. “I don’t go to team camps in the summer. A lot of my kids have jobs. A lot of them can’t afford those specialty team camps. We will do 7 on 7s in the summer, but otherwise we’re relatively limited but we’re effective with it. Still, I set time aside to let kids by kids.”

His perspective was shaped by his time as an assistant at Skiatook where in that time, he said, six players died of various causes, the majority in traffic accidents.

“One of the kids wanted to go deer hunting. We had practice, he didn’t go. The kid ended up dying,” Newton said. “There’s a lot more to life than football.”

So this week, a holiday week in school due to Thanksgiving, he called for morning practices with the rest of the day set aside for hunting opportunities, or just being with family and friends.

“Kids need to be away from it for a while,” he said. “That’s why we do what we do with the weekends. Very seldom will we watch the game film from the week before showing them what we did wrong. They may watch it on their own but that’s on them. Coaching time is important to me, but I want family time for them too.”

That goes not only for players but his staff, which includes two former Eufaula players, Michael Campbell and Josh Luna. Newton himself is a Eufaula ex. His father, Larry Sr., coached linebackers and offensive line for Frank Farrow in 1980-2003.

“We think a lot about the kids but also each other.”

It’s an approach that has worked. 

Maybe that semifinal notch will be added Friday.

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