By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Some who were in attendance at last week’s Midwest City-Edmond Santa Fe game might have seen two offenses squandering chance after chance only to have the game end up being decided by a lone field goal.
Stillwater High School coach Tucker Barnard saw something else.
“We attended that game with several guys from our staff,” Barnard said. “That was a 3-0 football game. You don’t see very many of those in Class 6A, especially when you’ve got two competitive teams. ... We’re concerned about the defense ability that Midwest City showed against Santa Fe. Santa Fe is a team that’s shown a lot of ability offensively, and then for Midwest City to shut them down like that is pretty impressive.”
No doubt, defense will be at the forefront of both team’s minds as Stillwater (0-1) faces the Bombers (1-0) Friday at Rose Field in Midwest City — and for good reason.
Stillwater is coming off a less-than-spectacular defensive performance of its own, while the Bombers are hoping to carry over the momentum from an upset of No. 4 Edmond Santa Fe last week.
“I’m pretty sure that they’re thinking they’re going to blow us out,” Stillwater junior receiver Brandon Prather said. “They’re probably thinking that we’re a push-over team, but when we get there we’re going to have to let them know we’re not and knock them around a little bit.”
Knocking Midwest City around is a little easier said than done, however. The Bombers aren’t exactly an aerial team, opting to use a power running game to wear opponents down.
And that’s not necessarily a good thing for the Pioneers, who gave up nearly 300 yards on the ground to McAlester.
“They have an outstanding group of football players over there that do a great job,” Barnard said. “Offensively it’s a very heavy running game. If last week is any indication, that doesn’t bode well for us.
“We had a hard time tackling and we made a lot of physical tackling errors. If we don’t get that fixed, we’re going to have a hard time on defense.”
Fixing those issues has been priority No. 1 this week in practice. In addition to the usual drills, Barnard said he’s added a tackling circuit to practice in hopes of eliminating those mistakes.
“We’re rotating our kids through tackling drills, but the thing about defense and tackling is that you have to want to do it,” Barnard said. “To be a good tackler, you have to want to tackle.
“I felt like there were times last week when ... I have to question how confident we were throwing our bodies at those guys.”
Stillwater may have had problems taking down McAlester quarterback Dalton Wood — who tips the scales at 6-feet-4 inches and 230 pounds — but don’t expect Midwest City’s squad to be much lighter.
“Midwest City is a physical team,” Barnard said. “They really run the ball well and run the ball hard. They have a lot of speed and are just full of incredible athletes.”
Before you chalk Friday’s trip up to a loss, don’t count the Pioneers out just yet. While Midwest City may have the power and speed to wear out Stillwater’s defense, Barnard is hoping his high tempo offense will return the favor. And the end result could be a shootout.
“It’s going to be hard to stop them, but I feel like our offense for sure will have a big day,” Prather said. “We have really smart coaches that know what they’re doing and know how to get us open.
“We just have to listen to them and with a little skill from us, we should be good.”
“It’s important that we start fast,” Barnard said. “We need to get off to a good start, but we need to endure longer. Last week, we gave up a touchdown on the last three series of the first half. That can’t occur. You can’t finish a half that way and expect to have great success.
“Yeah, we’ve got to start fast but we’ve also got to be more consistent and play at a higher level throughout the course of the game.”