By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
A season that started with so much promise has quickly turned into a tailspin of disaster for the Stillwater High School football team.
Dropping four straight district games — including a 41-27 loss to Sand Springs on Thursday — the Pioneers (3-5, 1-4 in district) have effectively played their way out of a playoff spot.
But with two weeks to go, it doesn’t mean that the games against Enid and Owasso are meaningless.
“We don’t have anything to play for in terms of the playoffs, so we’re just playing for pride and for what we want Stillwater football to be,” Stillwater coach Tucker Barnard said. “Playoffs or no playoffs, these guys don’t want to lose football games. They want to win and go out winners. We have a couple of tough ones ahead of us, but we’re going to do everything we can to win those football games.”
Injuries, slow starts and giving up big plays have without a doubt been a big reason for Stillwater’s struggles earlier in the season. It happened again Thursday, when the Pioneers gave up an 85-yard touchdown pass in the middle of the third quarter.
“I’m not sure what happened,” Stillwater junior safety King Williams said. “We just have to quit looking in the backfield at the quarterback and keying on pump fakes and double moves.”
The 85-yard pass wasn’t the first time Stillwater’s been beaten by the big play this season. Barnard hopes it will be the last, but knows that with each big play there is an opportunity to improve.
“I haven’t seen the film yet, so I don’t know exactly what happened,” Barnard said. “We’re going to go back and look at the film, see where we made the mistake and then go back and try to correct those mistakes. You obviously hate to give up the big play, but plays like that usually stick in a player’s head. They think, ‘OK, last time I got beat on this play because I did this wrong,’ so they begin to correct those mistakes.”
With so many juniors and sophomores playing vital roles for the Pioneers this season, Barnard will have plenty of time to work on fixing those mistakes.
For others like seniors Chuck Neal and Davyn Thompson, the loss to Sand Springs means their time in a Pioneer uniform will come to an abrupt end.
“You obviously feel for those seniors,” Stillwater sophomore wide receiver Brandon Prather said. “We have to tell our seniors to keep their heads up. We still want to play hard for them. Some of them can still boost their stats and maybe even get a scholarship or some coaches to look at them. We want to do everything we can to help them.”
Whether it’s finding ways to improve for next season or hoping to impress some college coaches and possibly earn a scholarship, the Pioneers still have a lot to play for over the next two weeks — even without the possibility of making the playoffs.
“I don’t think our guys are just going to lie down and call it quits,” Barnard said. “That’s not the way this team is. They’re a competitive group and a confident group. They want to go out there and show everybody what Stillwater football is all about and show us — as coaches — that they can take what we teach them in practice and apply it to a game situation.”