By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
If defense wins championships, then Stillwater High School football coach Tucker Barnard certainly has to feel good about his chances this season.
Led by guys like Dayton Campbell and King Williams, the Pioneers defense forced three early turnovers — including Williams’ interception of Coleman Key in the vaunted Broken Arrow offense — during the first scrimmage of the season against Broken Arrow and Tulsa Edison Friday at Pioneer Stadium.
“We definitely shocked Broken Arrow,” Williams said. “No one thought that our defense would have been as good as we did. And honestly we would have done a lot better if C.J. (Citizen) or Brooks Zimmerman would have never got hurt.”
In fact, the only real hiccup early was a 35-yard touchdown on a swing pass to Oklahoma State recruit Devon Thomas during the team passing drills.
Broken Arrow did tally four touchdowns against the Pioneers during the actual scrimmage and Tulsa Edison hit a 38-yard touchdown pass against Stillwater, but that was after playing nearly an entire half of football.
“Offensively, we didn’t have very much success against Broken Arrow early and the defense didn’t have very much success against them late,” Barnard said. “As the scrimmage wore on we kind of wore down a little bit and started having some guys come over to the side with different issues. Overall, I was proud of them. I thought we competed well. We know that there’s things that we need to work on. It was a good chance to really see what those things are and to really attack them.”
Even with guys like Zimmerman and T.J. Black sidelined — two guys who are in the mix to be starters when Stillwater opens against McAlester in two weeks — perhaps the biggest surprise of the night came from the Pioneers’ front seven.
“Our defensive line and linebackers were a major part of (the defensive success),” Williams said. “They allowed us to go out there and make plays.”
“It always starts up there with those defensive linemen,” Barnard said. “That’s really the key. When they play well, the defense will look pretty good and when they don’t, then we’ll struggle.”
But as good as Stillwater’s defense looked, the same couldn’t be said for the offense. Braxton Noble did complete 7 of 15 passes for 99 yards — including a 38-yard touchdown to Brandon Prather in the scrimmage against Broken Arrow — but that’s about it for highlights as Barnard used a very vanilla offense compared to what he expects to use during the season.
“I liked some of the deep balls and stretching the field a little bit and making some plays there,” Barnard said. “That’s something that helps us out and may soften the defense up a little bit.
“We need to add a few things to our game, just in terms of our plan. ... We didn’t go very deep into the playbook offensively, and I’m sure the other teams were the same way. Maybe we’ll open up the package a little bit more next week and ultimately get ready for Week 1.”
Stillwater may still be a team that’s a work in progress, but whether it was Citizen’s big stop against Broken Arrow or even Cameron Mayberry’s 37-yard touchdown run against Edison, the Pioneers now have something to build on.
“We feel like if we can do this against Broken Arrow, we can do this against anybody,” Williams said. “This scrimmage just gave our defense and our offense more confidence than what we already had.”
No doubt they’ll need all the confidence that they can get as they turn around next week and head to Norman for its second and final scrimmage.
“We’re going to look at the tape, see what we did well and what areas we need to work on,” Barnard said. “Next week we’ll focus on those areas and try to improve and adjust those things before we kick things off for real.”