By BEN JOHNSON
Brad Gilbert was complimentary when it came to his defense. The Tahlequah head football coach made reference to the Tigers' defensive unit immediately following Friday night's scrimmage against Miami and Muldrow at Doc Wadley Stadium.
But during his postgame comments, it only took him 18 seconds to point to his team's glaring weakness of the night.
"The thing that stands out to me offensively, though, is turnovers," said Gilbert, whose club handed the ball over three times. "The ball was wet and it was a muggy night, but I told them that's no excuse."
During short-field drills early in the evening when teams would start 30 yards from the opponents' end zone, Tahlequah running back Brandon Conrad had the first turnover when the ball was punched out by a Miami defender. Conrad's teammate in the backfield, Colton Wright, would hand the ball over later in the night, too.
But a turnover by quarterback David Dick was the one that hurt the most.
Going against Muldrow's defense, Tahlequah opened up a drive from its own 30-yard line with a 40-yard run up the middle by Wright. But on the next play, Dick rolled to his left and dumped off a pass directly to a Muldrow defender, killing the Tigers' best scoring chance of the night.
"We're inside the 15- or 20-yard line, and we've moving the football," Gilbert said. "Then we have an immediately turnover with the interception. That's something we can't have. We're improving, but we're not good enough to overcome three turnovers in the course of a game."
On the flip side for the Tigers, they didn't allow an opposing team to score while defending the full length of the field.
"I thought we executed and did a lot of things well," Gilbert said. "We were physical, at times, and more so than I've seen. Defensively, I think we improved as the scrimmage went on, and we were flying to the football."
When tasked with the chore of navigating the whole field to score a touchdown, Miami was the only team to do so on the night. It came against Muldrow's defense.
- Tahlequah defensive lineman Wesley Rivas, who was nursing a twisted ankle last weekend, was seen sitting on the sideline with his leg propped up on a chair at one point. However, he was not injured and played on the Tigers' next defensive series.
"He was resting. He needs all the rest he can get," Gilbert quipped.
Gilbert said everyone else made it out of the scrimmage in good health.
- Tahlequah's first touchdown on a short field came when Dick hit wide receiver Wyatt Jones on a route across the field. Jones later punctuated his evening with an 18-yard slant route.
"He hasn't played, I believe, since the seventh grade," Gilbert said of Jones. "He comes out and he scores a touchdown on a post pattern, and then he also caught some balls throughout the night. He has improved and he continues to improve, and we're excited about his progress."
- Prior to the scrimmage, Gilbert said he wanted his team to display maturity against Miami and Muldrow. There were times when all three teams had lapses in that area.
"That's expected," Gilbert said. "...There was energy, emotion and all the players were wanting to come out here and hit somebody -- other than yourself or your teammates. So that's going to happen."