By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
That’s been the theme for the Stillwater High School offensive line this week as the Pioneers have been preparing for their homecoming game against Bartlesville at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
“It doesn’t matter if we’re passing or running the ball, we just want to dominate them any way we can,” Stillwater senior offensive lineman Aaron Patterson said. “We all feel like we have something to prove. We want to prove that we are the best offensive line in the state. ... We gave up our first sack of the season last week so pass protection has been a big thing for us this week.”
Plagued by injuries, it was Booker T. Washington that did the dominating in Stillwater’s 41-22 loss last week.
“Last week, Cody Knight hurt his finger and we had some other injuries so we had to move some guys around a little bit,” Stillwater coach Tucker Barnard said. “This week we’ve had a little bit more time to work with them and more time to prepare them for what they’re going to face on Friday night. It’s still a lot of mixing and matching, but we feel a lot more confident now.”
What Stillwater (3-3, 1-2 in district) will face will be a variety of blitzes and stunts from Bartlesville’s defense as the Bruins (3-3, 1-2 in district) hope to rattle sophomore quarterback Taggart Brown.
“I hope we’ve put them in a position where they’re starting to feel more comfortable,” Barnard said. “We’re not doing these things because we want to, we’re doing them because of injuries. It just depends on who is out and what spots we need filled.”
The pressure of trying to plug guys in to fill voids will drive a coach mad, but having to handle that during Homecoming week has made it that much more difficult on Barnard and his staff.
“Any time you have Homecoming, there’s always a lot going on,” Barnard said. “It can be a difficult week, but we still have work to do.”
For Patterson, he knows exactly how much work has to be done. The team that loses will likely be staying home for the playoffs, while the winner could still be competing for a playoff spot.
“This is an extremely important game for us,” Patterson said. “If we lose this, we’re probably not going to the playoffs. On top of that, it’s Homecoming and — as a senior — I’d like to go out with a win in my last Homecoming.”
No doubt there will be nerves — particularly from some of the younger players like Brown — but Barnard hopes the experience in the offensive line will help Stillwater overcome the jitters.
“We trust those guys to step up and be leaders for us, not just in this game but in every game,” Barnard said.
“I know I’m definitely going to be nervous,” Patterson said. “We just have to go out there and do our best. We have to work hard, find a way to dominate and just stay confident.”