By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
It may not have been Friday night, but there was definitely a hint of fall in the air as a cool mist swept over Pioneer Stadium just as the Stillwater High School football team wrapped up its first practice of the season Tuesday.
“It’s awesome being back out here,” Stillwater junior quarterback Braxton Noble said. “We haven’t been together doing team stuff as a whole unit since team camp and that was at the beginning of June.”
The weather and the stadium lights may have indictated that it was fall, but the play on the field indicated something else. There were still a few spectacular plays here and there, but there were also mistakes — as is to be expected on the first day of fall practice.
“We definitely missed some things, but there was some positive stuff that I think we can really build on,” Noble said.
“It was a lot of fun, but we’ve got a lot of work to do,” Barnard said. “We got off to a good start today. We’re excited about it. We had the ninth-graders out practicing with us. ... That was hard for them to adjust to the speed that we’re trying to do things at in our high school program, so they’re a little behind and a little confused but we think in the end it’s going to be a good thing for us.”
The ninth-graders weren’t the only ones confused. Barnard said Stillwater is still looking to find its offensive identity, knowing that the Pioneers have a slew of running backs and receivers at their disposal. He’s hoping the team took a step in the right direction Tuesday.
“Offensively, we got to really find out what our identity is,” Barnard said. “Last season, we were without Braxton for several weeks. We’re replacing tailbacks — we kind of have a tailback by committee situation going. We know what we have at the receiver position because we basically got all of that back from last year, but it’s those other positions that I just mention, we need to figure out what that will mean for us.”
Even though they are still trying to find their identity, Noble said the offense ran relatively smoothly — aided by the fact that the temperatures stayed in the 70s.
“We were a little surprised by the weather because we weren’t so water dependent,” Noble said. “We could go a little bit longer without it because we weren’t dead from the heat. That helped a lot because things went a lot smoother. The more upbeat we are, the easier practice is.”
And that — along with the play of linebackers Cameron Mayberry, C.J. Citizen and safety Brooks Zimmerman — may have been the biggest surprise to Barnard.
“I felt like we had a lot of confusion,” Barnard said. “I almost wished we would have had a dress rehersal (Monday). We had some confusion, but I think effort was pretty good — particularly out of our varsity guys. I’m really pleased with the way they came out compared to last fall.”