By BEN JOHNSON
It’s for the craziness to commence.
High school football teams have had three weeks — five weeks, if you count preseason scrimmages — to test-drive their players. Clubs have been looking for that right combination of speed, agility, cruise control and anti-lock brakes.
But no longer can teams peruse the dealership in search of what works best. No, selections have been made and coaches have to stick with the vehicles they chose.
That’s right, it’s time to begin district play. Wins and losses in league play will determine if a team gets to play in Week 11, of if a team has to begin basketball and wrestling preparations for the wintertime.
So far, wins have been hard to come by for teams in this county. Tahlequah, Sequoyah, Keys and Hulbert are a combined 1-11.
But, there is good news: none of the losses count — other than if you count playing for pride and such things.
No, every team has been reset to 0-0 and may the best four teams in each district punch their tickets to the postseason.
- Record: 0-3.
- Results: Fort Gibson (42-33 loss); Rogers, Ark. (41-6 loss); Sallisaw (45-28 loss).
It’s been a mixed bag for the Tigers thus far in 2013. The final scores and Rogers and Sallisaw are misleading, because both games were tight at some point in the second half.
Tahlequah has plenty of offense to keep up with the masses in District 5A-4. Quarterback David Dick, running backs Colton Wright and Brandon Conrad and wide receiver Kourt McMillan are all dangerous with the ball in their hands.
The question will be: can the Tigers’ defense turn opponents back in district play?
Luckily for Tahlequah, the district appears to be befuddled this year, outside of Coweta and Claremore — likely the two teams in the running for the district title.
Right now you could toss Tahlequah, Grove, Pryor, Collinsville, East Central and Central into a free-for-all, and any of the six could claim the final two playoff spots in 5A-4.
The time could be right for Tahlequah to strike and make a mad dash for a playoff spot that has been elusive for more than a decade now.
— Prediction: Tahlequah beats Grove, Central and possibly Pryor to set up a potential showdown with Collinsville in the final week of the season for a postseason berth. Tigers finish district play 3-4.
- Record: 1-2
- Results: Okemah (45-13 win); Beggs (47-33 loss); Victory Christian (62-24 loss).
More so than any other team in the state, Sequoyah needed the three nondistrict games to figure out what it had. The Indians were not allowed to participate in preseason scrimmages against other schools — due to the OSSAA’s ruling after the investigation into improper summer camps benefits in 2012 — thus placing more importance on their first three games.
All seemed to be going well for Sequoyah with a blowout victory against Okemah. But then reality reared its ugly head in back-to-back losses to Beggs and Victory Christian.
Turnovers and defense have been Sequoyah’s downfall the last two weeks, and those will have to improve drastically to Locust Grove.
The Indians will likely need wins against Westville, Keys, Locust Grove and Jay in 3A-7 play to make the playoffs. That makes tonight’s game that much more important.
— Prediction: The Indians beat Keys and Westville in district play, setting up a battle with Jay on Oct. 25 for a potential showdown for the final postseason spot. Sequoyah finish district play 3-3.
- Record: 0-3
- Results: Claremore-Sequoyah (37-7 loss); Checotah (44-0 loss); Eufaula (49-22 loss).
Keys head coach Gary Willis provided some quick analysis after his Cougars were more than doubled up on the road at Eufaula last week.
“We are starting seven sophomores and two freshman,” he said.
Anyone who follows Keys football knows that teams in 2011 and 2012 were veteran-laden clubs.
Now the reset button has been pushed, and it’s a gradual learning process for the Cougars now.
A win at Westville may surface tonight, but others could be hard to come by in 3A-7.
There is good news, though: Willis loves the youth on his team, and he thinks it could be a special group by the time everyone reaches senior status.
And who are we to argue with a coach who makes near-annual trips to the postseason?
— Prediction: Keys goes 1-5 in district play, but the Cougars set themselves up for big things to come in 2014 and 2015.
- Record: 0-3
- Results: Yale (40-6 loss); Warner (20-19 loss); Kiefer (43-6).
Gary Riley can sympathize with Willis. Riley, Hulbert’s head coach, is dealing with some youth, too.
It also didn’t help that starting quarterback Brandon Thompson suffered an injury that has hampered him early on this season.
A promising performance by Levi Carson bodes well for the Riders moving forward.
The one problem the Riders face will be a treacherous district slate. Only Hulbert and Quapaw have sub-.500 records right now. Colcord, Kansas, Ketchum, Salina, Wyandotte and Commerce all have winning records with Commerce at a perfect 3-0.
Victories could be hard to conjure up for Hulbert in 2A-8. But at least Wyandotte, Commerce, Quapaw and Kansas all venture to Rider Field to play.
— Prediction: Wins against Quapaw and Ketchum could be forthcoming, but the Riders conclude the 2013 season at 2-5 in 2A-8.