Muskogee Roughers

After an 0-2 start, to say the bye week was good for Muskogee is an understatement.

For starters, they learned they’d get a home game they didn’t expect in Friday’s final non-district tune-up. 

A bizarre truck accident damaged Coweta’s stadium and left shards of glass in a section of turf. The Tigers have been sentenced to road games pending a solution to the damages. About 1,200 tickets remain on sale this week as Indian Bowl will practice social distancing and restrict capacity to 1,500 total, split among the two sides.

Second, a significant young Roughers who have seen varsity action got some JV reps last week while also going through a full week of varsity practice.

Third, the team is healthier.

Linebacker Caleb Webb, hurt early against Bishop McGuinness with a knee bruise, will be back at one outside linebacker spot opposite Isaiah Givens. Running back Brandon Tolbert, who left the Bentonville West game with an ankle issue and was in a boot last week, is back. 

And, quarterback/safety Ty Williams, who hasn’t played so far in 2020, will be a game time decision as a starter. He was a partial participant in practice last week. 

Roughers head coach Rafe Watkins said Williams would return for the district opener against Putnam City West for sure.

“He’ll have to show he can go full speed this week to play Friday,” Watkins said. “No doubt he needs to get some rust off.”

If Williams does not go, it will be junior Walker Eaton or sophomore Walker Newton, or a mix of the two. Both rotated at quarterback in last week’s JV game against Tahlequah.

Some other points of focus over the last week or so has been the play up front on both sides. Injuries to the right side of the line with Jacob Terrapin and Grayson Fells hurt against Bentonville. Watkins said that some adjustments on both sides will in place by Friday but did not want those to be made known until game time.

“One of the biggest things we’re missing is consistency and some of that was not getting the looks we usually get in spring ball and the summer,” he said. “We worked a lot of technique on the chutes on keeping people low and keeping our heads down. You can’t block people and you can’t take off blocks getting high. Along with that we’ve done a lot of one-on-one tackling drills and I think we’re improved in all of it.”

Coweta is 1-1. It will be the first-ever meeting between the Roughers and the Tigers, who opened with a 28-0 shutout loss against Class 4A No. 1 Wagoner in an annual rivalry game. Coweta had Kansas Class 3A Frontenac last week and won 34-13.

Coweta rode the arms and legs of junior quarterback Gage Hamm, who threw three touchdown passes and ran for two scores out of the spread offense. Sophomore all-purpose back Mason Ford had four catches for 17  yards and two touchdowns, one a 98-yarder and another from 50 yards. Sophomore Na’Kylan Starks caught the third touchdown on a 48-yard pass and catch.

Against Wagoner’s defense, which had held its scrimmage opponents collectively to minus yards,  Coweta had 91 total yards in the season opener. Hamm was 5 of 10 for 54 yards. Last week, he was 13 of 21 for 319 yards. Starks is the featured “gimmick guy” who will move to all positions and be an occasional passer.

“They were more trick play, halfback passes and stuff against Wagoner just to try to get something going but were more their basic offense last week,” Watkins said. “The quarterback is solid and (Ford) and (Starks) are very good.”

Another factor on offense, according to Watkins, is Gunnar McCullough, a receiver/tight end who is 6-3, 225.

Defensively, Coweta runs a 4-2-5.  Jaxon Stidham is an outside linebacker who will line up everywhere defensively.

Kickoff is 7 p.m. Friday.

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