By BEN JOHNSON
The sandy beaches in Florida’s Panhandle were calling his name. With that in mind, Brad Gilbert delivered a short message to his football team and then his small group of quarterbacks.
Moments later, he was running off of Gable Field at Doc Wadley Stadium and on his way to pick up his family before heading to Destin, Fla., for vacation.
While soaking up some sunshine and staring out at the Gulf of Mexico for the upcoming week, Gilbert can relax and think positive thoughts after Tahlequah’s showing at the Northeastern State team camp. The Tigers wrapped up the two-day camp on Friday, and Gilbert had a glowing review for his Tigers.
“It was a productive two days,” he said. “A lot of young men, and young players who don’t have a lot of experience, stepped up, filled some holes and did a good job for us. It was encouraging.
“And our older and more veteran guys did what they’re asked to do.”
Nowhere was that more evident than on the offensive line. Anchored by senior Charlie Lamons at center, the Tigers’ offensive front made it difficult for opposing defenses to get any pressure in the backfield.
“They performed well, and they like to play with each other,” Gilbert said of his offensive line, which also includes Eric Garcia, Wesley Rivas, Cole Wilkie, Joseph Tucker, Jesse Rivas, Tyler Winfield and Mason McGee.
“They like when we run the football, and that’s what we’re going to be doing: running the football a lot.”
On countless occasions, the Tigers created seams and gaps to spearhead Tahlequah’s running game. Quarterbacks, David Dick, Will Carlile and Kyle Lucas, and running backs, Brandon Conrad and Colton Wright, had their pick for running lanes on the north end of Gable Field, including against Ponca City, a Class 6A school, which takes on Owasso, Union and Enid in district play.
“We did a really good against the 6A school, Ponca City,” Lamons said. “And then against all the littler schools, too, I thought.”
Perhaps, Tahlequah’s one weakness during the camp was in pass coverage. On more than one occasion, the Tigers were beat on the edge in pass coverage.
“Those are teaching moments,” Gilbert said. “That’s going to happen in the secondary; you’re going to look bad at times, but you just move on to the next play.”
With strong safety Hestin Lamons and cornerback Mitch Sellers absent, the Tigers were able to get Kourtland McMillan some reps in the defensive backfield.
“What we did see is we’ll have two physical corners (including Sellers),” Gilbert said. “We moved Brandon Conrad to corner, and he’s going to be productive there for us.”
Tahlequah will now shift its focus to the weight room during June and July before preparing for preseason practices in August.