Tahlequah Daily Press

Sports

October 5, 2012

Critical 5A-4 matchup on tap for Tahlequah

Brad Gilbert and the Tahlequah coaching staff had a plan going into district play.

Win four games and a playoff spot would all but be wrapped up.

Well, that plan is still in stable condition with the Tigers having split its first two District 5A-4 games against Grove and Claremore. However, the condition of that philosophy could upgrade to good or drop to serious depending on the outcome of Friday night’s clash at Doc Wadley Stadium between Tahlequah and Class 5A No. 7 Coweta.

“Coweta presents a major challenge for us,” said Gilbert, whose team carries a 1-4 overall mark and 1-1 district record into Week 6. “But the guys are looking forward to playing in front of the home crowd.”

As well they should be. Tahlequah’s home-vs.-road splits are staggering.

The Tigers are averaging 27.5 points at home with a 1-1 mark, while only posting 13.3 points while giving up 36 in three losses on the road.

“We’ve played well at home this year,” said Gilbert, whose only loss at home this season was to Sallisaw, whom Tahlequah was leading at halftime in Week 3.

“We’re hoping that continues.”

In order for Tahlequah to assert its dominance on Gable Field, it’ll have to get its offense back on track after a disjointed performance at Claremore a week ago. The Tigers scrapped together only 102 yards of total offense with five first downs.

“Offensively, this season, we’ve had some success, but Friday night we did not,” Gilbert said. “Against Claremore, we couldn’t get anything going.”

He’s right there. Even Tahlequah running back Mason McMillan, who went in averaging 166.8 yards per game, was limited to 54 yards on 13 carries.

On the plus side, Tahlequah’s defense turned in another strong showing after getting shelled in non-district play. The Tigers limited Claremore’s offense to only 21 points.

“They have improved every week,” Gilbert said of his defensive unit. “You can see the lights coming on with those young men. They had their backs against the wall all night long against Claremore, but those guys played extremely well and played down to the very last second.”

Tahlequah will need a solid defensive showing if its to reverse its recent history with Coweta. In the last four games between the two, Coweta has outscored Tahlequah, 140-27.

“That’s been the case with a lot of schools that we’ve played,” Gilbert said. “Coweta is a physical team, and at times, we haven’t been prepared for their physical brand of football. We have to respond with our own brand of physical football. We have to match their physicality on both sides of the ball.”

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