Muskogee’s football team is looking to improve on its 5-5 record last season, but there’s a major obstacle in its way: a lack of experience on offense.
The Roughers don’t return a single starter from last season’s offense. The closest thing Muskogee has to a returning starter is junior running back Jimmie Coleman, who shared carrying duties with a pair of seniors before suffering a broken collarbone against Booker T. Washington.
In all likelihood, this year’s Muskogee offense will not resemble the unit that scored 37.8 points per game last season. It certainly won’t resemble it to start the season.
That’s why every bit of experience on Muskogee’s defense matters. For coach Rafe Watkins, the team’s success will start up front on the defensive line.
“We have three of our four back on the defensive line with two seniors, Colton Edwards and Nikaury Ruffin, and junior Davion Williams, who’s a beast,” Watkins said. “We moved Ruffin to nose guard because he’s the strongest kid on our team and he’s got good speed and quickness. Edwards started as a defensive end for us last year, though his natural position is outside linebacker, which is what he’ll play at the next level. I wish we had more depth at defensive end so we could move him back.”
Edwards, the younger brother of Muskogee alumnus and New Mexico State defensive end Michael Edwards, began playing football in the seventh grade partially because of his brother.
However, he hopes to end his high school career by leaving his own legacy.
“I believe I’m good at the position,” Edwards said. “I want to break the sack record and win games.”
The sack record Edwards mentioned is held by his brother, who earned 24 sacks in his career according to MaxPreps. Edwards sits at 12 sacks with at least 10 games left in his career.
It would take a big senior season to break that record, but it’s certainly possible.
“I just like hitting the quarterback,” Edwards said.
Watkins would be pleased to see Edwards break the record, as it would certainly help the team succeed.
“That sibling rivalry doesn’t exactly hurt us,” Watkins said.
Ruffin, meanwhile, has been adjusting to a new role on the Roughers’ front four. After spending years at defensive end, he’s now tasked with acting as a one-man blockade in the middle.
He doesn’t necessarily mind the change.
“It’s a fight every single play,” Ruffin said. “That’s what I love about it.”
Much like Edwards, Ruffin got into football because of his family. However, in his case, he was much younger.
“I think my momma just put me in it,” Ruffin said. “I had cousins who played too. I ended up loving it.”
Ruffin, Edwards and Williams are three of the five returning starters on Muskogee’s defense, so their coach sees them as crucial pieces to the team’s prospects of success in 2018.
“Our linebackers weren’t starters last year, but those two inside guys (Ruffin and Williams) will demand double teams, so that should help our linebackers be able to just run and fly to the ball,” Watkins said. “We’re going to be so inexperienced on offense, but we’ve gotten better with spring ball and we’ve gotten better in the weight room. I like the kids that we’ve got. They’re working hard on and off the field for us. We’re very proud of them.”
Though neither Edwards nor Ruffin have received offers from colleges yet, Watkins expects that both of them will receive offers from Division II schools in the near future.
Until the time comes when they can focus on continuing their gridiron careers at the next level, they’ll work toward ending their high school careers with championship rings.
However, that won’t stop Ruffin from becoming excited about the offers that could come his way this fall.
“Keep your eyes open,” Ruffin said. “Watch out for Nikaury Ruffin. You’ll see.”