Originally Published: Aug 21, 2010 10:17 PM CDT
Oklahoma Sports Mobile Journalist
TULSA, Oklahoma – The 2009 Bartlesville Bruins had a bit of a tortoise and the hare quality to them. Ron Smith’s club got off to a lightning quick start, the best in school history, before getting caught from behind in the end by more steady, talented 6A squads.
“I’m the same guy that went 2-8 a few years ago,” chuckled Smith. “A man’s got to hope. It’s been a long time since we were sitting here at Bartlesville saying, ‘If we don’t go to the playoffs we’re disappointed.’”
Smith knows talent when he sees it, especially when it comes to quarterbacks. He coached Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy in high school and helped push his son, Paul, to University of Tulsa stardom and eventually the NFL.
Now, better-than-advertized Kirby Schoenthaler is his newest prized right-arm and the key to making 2010 a special season.
“We’re on the verge,” the quarterback smiled. “We’re working as hard as we can to get there.”
Schoenthaler, Smith and the rest of the Bruins have talent to spare. The team hasn’t lost too much from 2009’s head-turning squad that started the year 7-0. The offensive line will be the team’s strength again. That certainly makes their quarterback smile.
“This is not about personal goals. It’s not about me throwing touchdowns or yards,” said Schoenthaler. “It’s about us as a team going as far as we can go.”
The Bruins went as far as they had originally set out to last year. They made the playoffs after missing out on the postseason in each of the previous five seasons. Once they got in, they reassessed their goals. The Bruins wanted a title.
They bowed out after struggling against Southmoore in the second round. The team still has those "what-if" feelings.
“It’s been a bitter taste in our mouths all summer long,” said Smith. “We won nine games, and we’re not happy. It’s been a long time since we could say that in Bartlesville.”
Smith admits that a 9-3 record is nothing to hang your head over in the grand scheme of things.
Bartlesville just wants more.
“We’re really aware of how good 6A is and the two giants down there at the end of the tunnel,” he said.
He was referring to Jenks and Union, the two schools that have dominated the class since the mid-90s. One of the two programs has raised the gold ball in each of the last 15 seasons. The Bruins know a title goes through them.
“They’ve proven that it’s theirs to lose,” said Schoenthaler. “So, every other 30 of the 6A schools in Oklahoma is working towards getting where they are, and we feel like we’re one of those teams that are in the hunt for it.”
His head coach agrees.
“Those two schools have won it 15 years in a row,” said Smith. “They deserve everything they get, all of the accolades. For any of us to beat them, you almost have to play perfect football.”
Beating Jenks and Union and playing for a championship means staying healthy, and the Bruins aren’t very deep. The team will rely on multiple underclassmen in key positions this season. The Bruins know they can’t afford many injuries.
“We have trouble with depth right now, but we’ve had some young guys step up,” said senior safety Garrett Powell. “We just have to stay healthy mostly and work hard.”
The Bruins will open their season against Shawnee on the road. Their first home game of the season is a Week 2 battle with East Central.
2009: 9-3/5-2 record, third in 6A-District 3.
PLAYOFFS: Lost to Southmoore in the second round of the 2009 postseason.
BEST PLAYER: Kirby Schoenthaler. The quarterback is a dynamic playmaker and the Bruins’ undisputed leader. He will play a little wide receiver this year as well. He has tons of confidence in his teammates after preseason workouts.
BIGGEST GAME: Week 8 at Union, October 21st. On the road, late in the season with possible playoff implications?yeah, this one will be huge. The Bruins may have already locked up a playoff spot by Week 8, but this game could mean a lot for seeding purposes in 6A.