By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
There’s a reason Stillwater High School football coach Tucker Barnard likes scrimmages. While they may not have the same feel of an actual game, he knows scrimmages like the one being held in Norman Friday will be crucial to the team’s success down the road.
“We made a lot of mistakes last week on both sides of the ball,” Barnard said. “There were a lot of busts. We talked about how we were happy with the effort, especially early in last week’s scrimmage. But toward the end, whether it was fatigue or whatever, we kind of dropped off. Hopefully we’ll endure better and our conditioning will be better so we last longer.”
No doubt, Stillwater made its fair share of mistakes in its first scrimmage against Broken Arrow, but one area where the mistakes were few and far between was in the turnover category. The Pioneers didn’t commit a turnover on offense and tallied three against Tulsa Edison and Broken Arrow on defense, and that’s something that Barnard expects to continue Friday.
“That’s something that we work on a lot here in Stillwater, just making sure that we don’t give up turnovers this year,” Stillwater receiver Brandon Prather said. “We have this three-whistle rule in practice that makes us hustle harder. We know if we do something wrong, we have to do up-downs so we make sure we execute.”
And while it’s not likely that the team will be doing up-downs in the middle of the scrimmage, Barnard said the Pioneers aren’t really thinking of it as a final tune-up before the season begins for real next week against McAlester.
“There’s almost a summer camp feel to it,” Barnard said. “You play so many teams and three or four consecutive plays against three or four different teams, so that’s always difficult for you on offense and defense.
“We just look at this like one more practice. When we’re in practice, we’re not going live and playing to the ground. There’s a lot of times where the intensity is relatively low, so in that sense it should be like a dress rehearsal because they get to gear up and really play, but there’s no game plan involved. It’s just a matter of reacting to what we see and hopefully our rules and our training will come into effect.”
Friday’s scrimmage may have more of a practice feel than an actual game – particularly with Stillwater’s opening opponent, McAlester, also on the field in Norman – but make no mistake, there will be things Barnard and the Pioneers will be working on as they gear up for next week’s season opener.
“Last scrimmage, something that we’ve needed to work on was stopping the run,” Prather said. “We seemed to have trouble with that sometimes. I think we could score more and execute a little better on offense, as well.”
Even if it may only be another practice in the eyes of Stillwater’s coaches, just knowing that the games begin for real is enough to get the Pioneers pumped up for one final scrimmage.
“It really is cool,” Prather said. “McAlester is going to be there, so we get to look at them before we play them and see what they got for us. It helps because we beat them this summer in 7-on-7, so I’m pretty confident that we’ll do good, but it never hurts to see a team again before we play them during the season.”