From left, Hilldale’s Aden Jenkins, Alonzo Perez, Cason Albin and Rylan Nail close in on Checotah’s Dontierre Fisher in last week’s game at Checotah.

First, the better news among a good week for Hilldale.

The injury to Hornets defensive back Isaac Gonzalez, who was carted off the field as the contest was stopped with 10 minutes left on the clock, is not as serious as it could have been.

Gonzalez has entered concussion protocol and will be there at least one game, Hornets coach David Blevins said.

Gonzalez, who just returned from an ACL injury suffered in week seven last week, was alert and was able to move his arms and legs but was taken by EMS to a hospital for precautionary reasons.

With the 45-0 win over Checotah in the past, the Hornets look to their home opener Friday against Oologah, which is also a homecoming contest. 

Blevins saw a positive contrast Friday with a Tulsa Rogers team Hilldale had trouble shaking away from in the opener — starting with the return of defensive end Cason Albin, who had two sacks last week and gave constant pursuit after recovering from COVID and missing week one. 

“With Cason back we were able to bring a lot of pressure up front,” Blevins said. “And on the other side, the offensive line cleaned up a lot of stuff and we got big holes for Eric (Virgil) to take advantage of.”

Virgil had 178 yards on 14 carries, scoring twice. He also had a TD reception from quarterback Caynen David.

Checotah had COVID issues involving members of its offensive line, which hurt the Wildcats’ run game. Dontierre Fisher was shifted to a receiver spot and had six catches for 62 yards.  Checotah had a net 15 yards rushing with the sacks officially attributed to rushing yards. Tanner Jones, who replaced Fisher in the backfield, carried for 54 yards on 12 carries.

Speaking of COVID, Blevins hopes this week is not a repeat of week three a year ago, when Oologah had to pull out of the matchup on Wednesday of game week due to positive tests and contact tracing issues there. The Hornets’ staff hustled and found a replacement in Atoka. Hilldale won, but it made for a hectic turnaround at midweek.

But, some of last year’s scouting report on Oologah is still good. Most of the Rams’ offensive line is back, including center Gabe Grazier (6-foot-3, 275 pounds, senior).

“They’re big up front and that center is probably one of the best offensive linemen in the state,” Blevins said.

They have a new quarterback in junior Joseph Griswold. But he had quite a finish last week, guiding the Rams from a 24-7 deficit with less than eight minutes to play to beat Claremore 30-24. He connected with A.J. Streater on three  TDs in that stretch (9, 21 and 28 yards). Streater finished with 11 receptions for 206 yards and all four scores, while Griswold was 15 of 22 for 293. He was intercepted twice.

(Streater) was in his first year of football last year and has really stepped up,” Blevins said.

The Mustangs were without their top two running backs in the second half a week ago. Aldan Trimble was injured in the first half. Nate Morrow was out last week. Blevins believes it was a concussion-related issue.

The Rams, which lost to 5A power Collinsville 54-22 in their season opener, are four years removed from a string of three consecutive Class 4A championship game losses against their District 4A-3 colleagues from Wagoner. In head coach Darrin Wegner’s first season, they were 3-6 a year ago, losing to Sallisaw in the extra first round of the playoffs added by the OSSAA due to the pandemic causing loss of district games across the state.

“I think (Wegner’s) getting them close to where they were,” Blevins said. “We’re in for a fight. We’ll have to go do what we do.”

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