By TOMMY COBB
WAGONER — Hilldale coach Chad Kirkhart left Thursday night’s three way scrimmage with Wagoner and Tahlequah with a good feeling. He had every right to feel that way.
The Hornet defense limited Wagoner and Tahlequah while the offense moved at will in both mini games. But, despite the impressive performance, Kirhart’s team knows it has the same record as every other Class 3A team going into the season opener with Stigler.
“I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t pleased with what we did tonight,” Kirkhart said. “We have a good feeling going into the first week of the season. But, we have a long way to go to get where we want to be and we’re not going to be satisfied.”
Hilldale got a total team effort in both mini-games. The Hornet defense held Wagoner without a first down in the 25-minute running clock contest. That included holding Bulldog star back Lawrence Evitt to just 12 yards rushing on seven carries.
“It gives confidence to limit a player like that even in a scrimmage,” Kirkhart said. “We were sound defensively everywhere. If we can play like that, our defense will put us in a position to win a lot of games.”
Offensively, Hilldale did what it wanted. The only blemishes were a pair of fumbles. Chandler Puckett completed nine out of 14 passes for 115 yards. Chandler threw 35 yards to Bradley Campbell on the second play of its scrimmage against Wagoner for a score and also connected with Bradley for a 40-yard touchdown on its first play against Tahlequah.
The running game struggled against Wagoner, but got on track against Tahlequah. Hunter Woods rushed for 52 yards on seven carries against the Tigers including a 34-yard dash for a score.
“We want to be a run first team,” Kirkhart said. “We have to have balance which we did tonight. But we want to be able to run the ball. We were able to run out of our two back and one back formations.”
While Kirkhart was leaving W. L. Odom Field with a good feeling, Tahlequah coach Brad Gilbert was at the opposite end of the spectrum.
“We had a very difficult time tonight,” Gilbert said. “This was not what we were expecting. We thought we would be a little more physical and sharper. We took a step back tonight.”
A bright spot for the Tigers was the play of quarterback David Dick. Dick had runs of 14 and 12 yards against Hilldale and set up the Tigers only score of the scrimmage with an 18-yard run.
“David is playing well,” Gilbert said. “We are having to put more responsibility on him and he wants that. I think tonight we saw how he is starting to respond.”
Wagoner coach Dale Condict left with a mixture of feelings. The Bulldogs have been searching for a quarterback and Monday Condict put in two players who have played the position before.
“I thought Fisher Medlin and Roman Rodriguez did pretty good for just three days of practice,” Condict said. “We have athletes that are talented, but we have a lot of new faces and it’s going to take some time.”
The Bulldog offense struggled against Hilldale but rebounded against Tahlequah for two scores. Condict rotated between Medlin, who showed the ability to throw the ball while Medlin was able to spark the Wagoner rushing attack.
“I was surprised that our offense was not sloppy,” Condict said. “We didn’t turn the ball over or commit a lot of mistakes. We’re just going to have to play great defense and continue to improve.”