By Andrew Glover
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Almost 10 years ago, the Pawnee Black Bears were on top the Oklahoma high school football world as they won the 2004 Class A state championship.
Now with the Black Bears program happening upon struggles the last three seasons, coach Marlon Houston hopes to return Pawnee to its winning ways of the 2000s.
“One of the first things I had to do, was restructure the program to give it a greater chance of success,” Houston said. “ ... We needed to get more systematic. I’ve put sixth through 12th grade under one leadership. That way we can get the kids more familiar with how things run.”
Pawnee enters the 2013 season four years removed from its last playoff run in 2009, when it went 9-3. Over the last three seasons, the Black Bears have posted a 6-24 record including 4-13 in district play — a far cry from their record of 82-20 from 2002-2009, a run that included two trips to the state championship.
Houston said some of the teams struggles are due to the size of classes but added he’s not trying to find answers in the past but looking to the future.
“From 2000 to 2008 we had good circumstances around the football program,” Houston said. “We were one of the biggest schools in Class A. Even when we moved to Class 2A we were still in good circumstances with 12 to 18 players per grade.
“We were doing good in other areas. We had the fastest track and field times. Over the last few years we are getting four to 12 players per class and are one of the smaller schools in Class 2A.”
Houston’s first season last year is definitely one that he wants to forget as the Black Bears, who have been in Class 2A since 2010, went 1-9 and 0-6 in district. Pawnee was outscored by an average of 41-7 in district games. Houston said it didn’t effect his team’s morale.
“We were very close,” Houston said of last season’s team. “There were a few games that we lost by one touchdown. We saw how much we improved at the end of the season.”
The coach said he expects his second season to go better and added his players have worked hard.
“Once our season ended, we saw where we wanted to be,” Houston said. “The kids answered the call. They have worked very hard and built a strong foundation last May. We are doing everything we are supposed to and we cannot wait for the season to begin.”
Something Houston will have on his side this season that he didn’t last season is experience. Pawnee only had three starters with varsity experience last season.
“We got a lot of experience with our younger kids,” Houston said. “This year we will have nine to 11 starters on each side of the ball with significant varsity experience.”
The Black Bears kick off 2013 hosting the Morrison Wildcats on Sept. 6.