Originally Published: Aug 24, 2010 9:18 PM CDT
Oklahoma Sports Mobile Journalist
COLLINSVILLE, Oklahoma – The wee little piggy spooked the Big Bad Wolf a year ago in 4A. Collinsville, owners of a 6-4 record, traveled to Sallisaw to take on the 9-1 Black Diamonds.
The round one battle went to the home team, but the Cardinals gained momentum after that postseason letdown.
“As long as I have been coaching, it's probably the best I've ever felt after a loss,” said new head coach Kevin Jones. “We probably played as well as we did all of last year against Sallisaw in the first round. We came out of that game with tons of confidence.”
Jones takes over for Lance West after spending the last three seasons as the Cardinals’ defensive coordinator. His team has a brand new set of challenges ahead of it this season after jumping from 4A to 5A.
“I don't think it is going to be more difficult,” said senior running back Tyler Lowe. “No matter what class or competition, it's still football. It's still 11 football players on the field and we'll just go out every night expecting to win no matter who we are playing.”
Lowe’s three word response – “bring it on” – when he found out the Cardinals would play in 5A is more confidence than bravado. Collinsville returns just seven starters from last year’s team that finished 4-3 in district play. Jones said the offensive line will be relied upon heavily against bigger and faster competition in 5A.
“A lot of guys have playing experience, but they are not really returning starters on the offensive line,” he said. “We're real big and guys are working real hard up front. I think that is going to pay off for us.”
One of the returners is senior quarterback Shane Douglass. He’s got a good arm and manages the football game very well. His quick decision making will be key when the Cardinals line up against the likes of Bishop Kelley, McAlester and Booker T. Washington district games.
“We are in a tough district with Booker T. and Bishop Kelley, but we're returning a lot of seniors, a lot experience, and we are expecting to win,” smiled Lowe.
Jones knows 5A well, having spent time on the Bishop Kelly staff before landing in Collinsville. He likes his team’s chances and expects to sneak up on some teams in 2010.
“Right now, a realistic goal for us is to be in the playoffs again,” he said during practice. “There are some good teams in our district and we're going to have to beat a couple of good teams to be in the playoffs. But, we think that is a realistic goal that we can slide into that fourth spot or three spot and go to the playoffs.”
Despite losing tailback Merin Oakley from last year’s team, the Collinsville offense should remain pretty balanced. Players used the word ‘explosive’ to describe the unit’s potential.
The defense is a different story, for now.
“We've got to stop the run, no doubt,” said Jones. “We are a work in progress. We're nowhere near where we were last year at this point, but we'll get there.
“We've got a big guy up front, Patrick Moss. He's a nose guard for us and he is a heck of a player. He started for us last year and played a little bit as a sophomore. People will know who he is when they are breaking us down.”
A push towards the playoffs will be tough without a total team effort. Established 5A teams know what it takes to make a dent in their tough districts, but Collinsville expects to outwork teams in 2010.
“We're not a bunch of superstars. Sometimes, coaches just say that to keep the egos under control, but we're just a hard working bunch of kids that just come to work with their lunch pail and get after it,” Jones said confidently. “The thing we have been preaching since last spring is effort and toughness. We've got to be tougher than everyone we play and we've got to play harder than everyone we play.”
2009: 6-5/ 4-3 record, fourth in 4A-District 3.
PLAYOFFS: Lost in the first round to Sallisaw in the 2009 postseason.
BEST PLAYER: Patrick Moss. The senior defensive tackle will have a lot to prove in his final season. He has the ability to single-handedly shut down an opponent’s running game. He has great size at 6-foot-1, 265 pounds and should shine for the Cardinals this season.
BIGGEST GAME: Week 6 vs. Booker T. Washington. It’s the game the players want to play. Tyler Lowe said he couldn’t wait for it to get here. The Hornets’ tradition and 2008 gold ball are two things that Collinsville will be thinking about heading into this district battle.