By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Sometimes its the little things that can add up — something Stillwater High School football coach Tucker Barnard has become all too familiar with this season.
Take for instance last week against Bartlesville. The effort was there. So was the intensity and play calling.
The only thing lacking? Execution.
“We had a full game going pretty much until the last few minutes,” Stillwater senior Spencer Parsons said. “It wasn’t really anything that we gave up. It was just some plays went wrong. Coach Barnard and coach (Trent) Worley say that effort and execution wins games. Last week, the effort was there and the execution was there at times. When it wasn’t there, that’s why we lost.”
Injuries have put a damper on that execution. Parsons alone has had to learn two different positions this season, and he’s far from alone in that department.
But as Stillwater (1-6, 1-3 in district) prepares for Friday’s trip to Sand Springs for a 7 p.m. kick off against the Sandites (3-4, 2-2 in district), Barnard is realizing just how important execution will be for the Pioneers.
“It always comes down to execution,” Barnard said. “Sometimes maybe it doesn’t show up as obvious to the common fan. If you get beat by three or four touchdowns, you can point to a lot of things. The point for us is that the kids and coaches feel like our effort was there and our mental awareness was there. We did that for four quarters, but now you’re looking at a few small mistakes that ended up being very important.”
Those mistakes Barnard is referring to are the three interceptions quarterback Jon Littell threw in the final five minutes of the game against Bartlesville.
But while Littell may have struggled late against the Bruins in his first start, Barnard said the senior is slowly picking up the offense.
“I’m sure (Jon) is more comfortable today than he was at this time last week,” Barnard said. “There’s a lot that goes along with that quarterback position. There’s a lot of pressures and a lot of things that he has to be aware of and on top of. It’s a difficult position to play, but we’ve got a lot of confidence in him.”
Littell’s execution of the offense may have been better at practice this week, but one area that’s a big concern for Barnard is his defensive execution.
While watching film on Sand Springs, Barnard noticed one thing — the Sandites are nearly flawless when it comes executing their offensive schemes.
“They’re going to really push to spread us vertically,” Barnard said. “It’ll be a little bit different than the Bartlesville game last week. ... They seem to have a lot fun with gadgets and trick plays, so that’s something we got on tape. You’ve always got to be on a mental alert for something different.”
And while things have n’t exactly worked out for the Pioneers the past few weeks, that mental approach is one thing Barnard said he has been impressed with over the past few weeks.
“When you get into a situation where you’ve lost several games like we have, you start wondering about what kind of mental approach the kids are going to be taking,” Barnard said. “Our guys have been strong the last two or three weeks. They’ve been mentally stronger the last two weeks than they were the first four, so that makes me proud of the team we have and I hope they get to taste that victory again.”
But for Parsons, there’s no hoping. He’s ready for the Pioneers to cap off their third road game in the last four weeks with a win before playing one final home game against Enid next week.
His philosophy for a win? Be perfect.
“We’re making everything perfect,” Parsons said. “There’s no little things. Every thing is important. Every little thing matters, every play matters, we just have to go out and do our jobs.”
And with a little execution and some luck, the Pioneers could go from just trying to keep its season alive to being the executioners on Sand Springs’ season.