Fort Gibson’s non-district slate was refreshed with two new opponents for 2020 and 2021. On Saturday, the Tigers had another update.
Instead of continuing the matchup with Berryhill that started in 2018, the Tigers will face a team they’ve never met in the Tecumseh Savages. Berryhill had two cases of COVID-19 confirmed and went to distance learning while canceling its first two games of the season Saturday. Tigers coach Greg Whiteley and staff shared the news via social media and met with the players on Sunday to refocus on a new opponent.
““It’s a sad situation for Pat Harper (Berryhill head coach). He told me they were shutting down and he couldn’t even meet with his kids and tell them,” Whiteley said. “We’re just fortunate no matter who we play that we get to go play football.”
That was the response he got from his team.
“They were like ‘Coach, we don’t care. We’re getting to play,’” Whiteley said. “What’s going through their minds is if we don’t get Tecumseh, we don’t have a game.”
It was a bit of an adjustment in preparation, since Berryhill was already on their minds and they had plenty of knowledge of the Chiefs, having played the past two seasons.
But the players just rolled with it.
“We watched film on them, stuff like that,” said Tigers safety Morice Ford. “Coach (Scott) Bethel gave us instructions on defense (as coordinator). Our offense has some things to work on, actually both sides of the ball. But I’m glad we’re not having to sit out two weeks (like Berryhill).”
The Tigers have some good momentum coming off an impressive 35-3 scrimmage win against Oologah. In that game, Ford had a scoop and score off a fumble caused by linebacker Deven Woodworth, and later had an interception. Linebacker Weston Rouse also had an interception and linebacker Tim Murphy recovered a Rams fumble. Woodworth had nine rushes for 103 yards. Second-year sophomore starter Cole Mahaney was 6-of-8 passing for 94 yards and four rushes for 49 yards.
Berryhill entered the week ranked No. 7 in Class 3A. Tecumseh is not ranked, and didn’t receive votes in the Associated Press state high school 4A poll, but the Savages will be a test, particularly up front.
Ethan Rickey (6-foot-4, 305 pounds) leads a huge offensive front.
“The other guys are right there with him — 295, 305, 290, 285,” Whiteley said. “There’s a bunch of them. They’ve got 80 kids on their roster and Ty Bullock (Tecumseh head coach) has brought that town to life getting them into the playoffs last year after a long time not being there.”
Tecumseh was 7-4 a year ago, losing to Cache in the first round of the 4A playoffs, just days after losing a sophomore member of the team in a car accident that also severely injured another teammate.
While the Savages aren’t ranked, they may be more of a measuring stick as a team from the west side of the state that the Tigers could very well see again in the postseason. It’s week one, though, and the games that shape playoff destinies don’t start for three weeks.
“It’s a test,” Whiteley said. “They’re just like us, run and play-action on offense, and they’re physical. What I liked about going against Oologah last week was that we were so much quicker than they were up front. We’re going to have to rely on the same thing Friday. We’re not going to match up with them size-wise.”
One thing is certain — at least they’ll be matching up at kickoff. As of Wednesday night, anyway.
“Every day we walk through that locker room and put on a helmet, we’re fortunate men,” Whiteley said.