By BEN JOHNSON
If Gary Willis could go back in time, Keys’ game against Hilldale last week would be a likely destination.
Sure, the Cougars were shut out for the second straight home game, 48-0, but Willis wishes his club could take another shot at the Hornets.
“It was frustrating,” Willis said after the game and again this week. “Hilldale is a good team, but they didn’t get our best shot. That’s how I feel.”
The Cougars collected only 133 yards of total offense against Hilldale, which prompted Willis to call the performance “embarrassing” not long after time ran out on the scoreboard.
“We didn’t give ourselves a chance to show them what we have,” Willis said. “The effort not being there is not acceptable.”
But Willis now knows the Hilldale game is in the past.
Time to move on.
“It’s been a good week,” Willis said. “Our heads are up and we’re decently healthy.”
All good signs for the Cougars, which will play another critical District 3A-7 game this week. Keys be at Jay at 7:30 p.m.
The Cougars (3-4, 2-2 in 3A-7) and Bulldogs (5-3, 2-3) could be playing for as high as the second spot in the district. If Keys wins, the Cougars would lock up a playoff spot and could earn a home playoff game — depending on how things pan out with Sequoyah’s eligibility issues and if the Indians are forced to forfeit games from this season.
“It all starts with Jay,” Willis said, referencing implications within the district. “We can’t look any further than that.”
If Sequoyah is allowed to keep its victories from earlier this season, the Cougars could finish no higher than third in 3A-7. So that’s Willis and Co. are aiming for.
“If we win out, we’re sitting third regardless of what happens,” Willis said. “We don’t want to benefit from something we didn’t earn, but it could wind up bumping us higher.”
The No. 1 goal for the Cougars this week is to shut down Jay quarterback Shai Jones, a running and passing threat in the Bulldogs’ offense.
“They are a good hard-nosed team,” Willis said of Jay. “Their quarterback is a player, that’s easy to see.
“That’s where we started this week, focusing on stopping (Jones). He’s the workhorse of their offense.”
Keys at Jay
Where: Bulldog Stadium (just south of 6th Street, near the intersection of 6th Street and West Gray Street).
Radio: Game will air tape-delayed on KEOK, FM-102.1, immediately following Tahlequah’s game.
Nicknames: Keys Cougars; Jay Bulldogs.
Coaches: Keys (Gary Willis, 72-46, 11th season); Jay (Darrin Wegner, 10-9, second season).
Records: Keys 3-4 (2-2 District 3A-7); Jay 5-3 (2-3).
Rankings: Neither team is ranked in Class 3A.
Series record: First meeting.
Last week: Hilldale 48, Keys 0; Sequoyah 46, Jay 24.
News to know: A win would all but guarantee Keys a playoff spot in Class 3A. ... This season has been the first time Keys has been shut out twice (vs. Vian and Hilldale).
Players to watch
Keys: Trevor Eubanks (QB), Cody Cole (RB).
— Both Eubanks were thwarted in the running game, combining for only 32 yards on 15 carries. That came a week after torching Lincoln Christian for close to 400 yards rushing combined.
Jay: Shai Jones (QB).
— Jones leads the Bulldogs in rushing with 973 yards and nine touchdowns on 121 carries.
Looking ahead: Keys will close out the regular season at Locust Grove, while Jay will play at Blackwell in non-district play.