The Buzz: Coaches Pick State Title Contenders in Every Class
Thursday, October 12th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6
By Sean Mossman
Iâ€™m a firm believer that predicting winners only opens yourself to criticism and ridicule when youâ€™re eventually proven wrong. For those very reasons, Iâ€™m abstaining from telling the whole world who I think will win state titles in the various classes.
What I have done though, is spend a few hours on the phone with coaches across the state. Itâ€™s always been their opinions that I value the most. What came out of those conversations was a short list of three serious contenders and one sleeper from the eastern half of the state in every class.
Here are some of the thoughts from coaches around Green Country about the way the playoff season might shake out.
This was pretty easy for most to assess. The first word off everyoneâ€™s tongue was Jenks. Nobody really said that the Trojans are a stone-cold lock, but everyone agreed that they were the favorite.
The typical second sentence normally consisted of the words â€œUnionâ€ and â€œhad the game won.â€ Thereâ€™s a good reason why the Redskins remained at number two in every 6A poll and why theyâ€™re consistently moving up the national polls, they peak this week at number 14 in the Fox Fab 50. Most coaches were torn about who would win a rematch between Jenks and Union.
The only other mentions of serious contenders were Owasso and Stillwater. Both got a few kind words. Both teams have offensive stars; Lamont Moore and Jason Byars for the Rams, Josh Fields, Baba Ogundipe and Leonard Jones for the Pioneers.
The 6A sleeper of choice seemed to be a heavy lean towards Tahlequah. 6A-4 coaches are adamant that the Tigers should be ranked in the classâ€™ top ten; they arenâ€™t ranked by AP or either metro newspaper. The Tigers only loss came to Stillwater, and they have star-power of their own. Brett Bynum is the second-leading passer in the class. Chris Polson and Clint Rountree are the one and three respectively in 6A receiving.
This class seems to be the muddiest of all, especially after the upsets posted in week six. Ada got a tentative vote for most likely to win a title from area coaches. Chuckie Caufield seems to be finding his stride as the Cougars quarterback. The running game is in good shape, Rock Rodebush is the second-leading scorer in 5A.
Booker T. Washingtonâ€™s win over Bishop Kelley last week was not an upset. The Hornets had the Comets on their home field. They are nearly impossible to beat at Williams Stadium. Head Coach Antoine Jimmerson fully expected to be in the title hunt right away with this team. The defense is strong and the offense stretches the field like few BTW teams have in the past. The Hornets only loss came to 6Aâ€™s Owasso. They are legitimate contenders.
So is the team they defeated this past week. Kelley has been ravaged by injuries this season and continues to gut-out wins. Jake Murrell will be 100% healthy soon and that could spell trouble for the rest of the class. If the Comets reach full-strength by the start of playoffs, theyâ€™ll have a say in the outcome.
Now comes the overwhelming â€œbuzz teamâ€ of class 5A, Tulsa East Central. Asked which team they wanted to avoid in the first round of the playoffs, the run-away winner among 5A-4 coaches was the Cardinals. One coach describes them as the most athletic team in the entire state. Randy Jones exploded for nearly 300 yards rushing in last weekâ€™s win over Shawnee. Quarterback David Bowie can beat you with his arm or his legs.
Sallisaw was the most mentioned team with legitimate state title talent. Chris Sharp is an efficient passer who can take over a game if heâ€™s asked to. So far, he hasnâ€™t been asked to. This will be the second real test for the Black Diamonds as they face Poteau Friday night. They passed their first test with a win over Ft. Smith Northside. The other Biggie comes in the final week at Ft. Gibson.
Speaking of Poteau, they have a few ingredients that tend to make winners out of teams. First, they have a very good defense. If you throw out Clinton and Star Spencer, both have given up fewer than 20 points on the entire season to some extremely weak teams, the Pirates have the fourth best scoring defense in class 4A. Finally, they have a star tailback. Erick Warren averages about nine yards per carry and has gotten stronger as the yearâ€™s gone on.
If a great running back is a key to success in class 4A then Tecumseh should be included in a short list of contenders. We know how many touchdowns Pat Cobbs has scored, twelve, but no one seems to know how many rushing yards he has. The Warriors have failed to report that stat to any media outlets. It is fairly easy to deduce that he has around 1,000 though. Heâ€™s posted four 200+ yard games of the six heâ€™s played. The defense is a little shaky, but first-round opponents like Weatherford or McGuinness arenâ€™t as opposing as in past years.
The sleeper in 4A is Collinsville. Last weeks loss to Stillwell was a true shocker. If the Cardinals rebound quickly, they can move deep into the playoffs. The trip to Jay this week will tell a lot. The offensive line is huge and the defense is very stingy. A first-round home game is nearly a must against a very talented 4A-4 opponent.
Roland is the most talked about team in 3A. Theyâ€™ve given up the fewest points in the entire class. The running game is solid with three backs scoring at least five touchdowns this season. The next two games will tell a lot, at Morris and at Seminole.
Seminole is another team mentioned as a serious contender in 3A. Anyone whoâ€™s surprised should have his or her head examined. This is a team that can be penciled into the contenderâ€™s column at the beginning of nearly every season. Nobody really stands out in any of the classâ€™ statistical categories, but the Chieftains just keep peeling off wins.
Vinita has the most talked about player in the entire class, well at least on this half of the state. QB Jermaine Landrum has exploded for 17 scores already this season. When heâ€™s not keeping the ball himself heâ€™s handing it to Wes Hartley, whoâ€™s no slouch himself.
The fact that Claremore Sequoyah is only mentioned as a sleeper team is no slight to them. The reality is that coaches donâ€™t know what to expect from this team. They were picked by their own district foes to finish near the bottom of 3A-3, but now theyâ€™re undefeated. The Eagles have two of the top five scorers in the class and more points on offense than anyone else in the class.
Regardless of last weekâ€™s loss to Warner, Cascia Hall is still the popular pick to win state. In fact, one coach said the loss would probably help the Commandoes get focused for another run at state. The district is tough enough to prepare all qualifiers for just about anything they might see in playoffs. Cascia still has plenty of weapons and knows how to use them.
Metro Christian is finally getting the respect they deserve. Undefeated and fresh off a win over Colcord, 17-14, the Patriots look like the likely 2A-6 winner. Nowata is the real test left on the schedule, but they seem to be a little down compared to last year. Ross Spencer is already well over 1,000 yards rushing and ranks fourth in the entire state.
Staying with the star running back theme, Eufaulaâ€™s Avery Shine is regarded as the best player in class 2A. The Ironheads runner has nearly 1,200 yards and has 18 scores. Heâ€™s considered the best defensive back in the state and will likely man the position when he arrives at the University of Oklahoma next year. For now though, he simply takes over games. Buy a ticket early for the week nine game at Cascia Hall. It could be extremely exciting.
The most commonly mentioned sleeper in the class is Perkins-Tryon. The Demons continue to win in a fairly lackluster district. They beat Pawnee last week, Pawhuska earlier in the season and face Perry this week. A win Friday would likely mean a district title for P-T. This review has been brought to you byâ€¦ the letter â€œPâ€.
Anybody that can figure out this class please e-mail me. Coaches are having a hard time, but most agree that the real contenders reside on the western half of the state. The most mentioned teams from our neck of the woods are Luther, Hominy and Panama. The one â€œlook out forâ€¦â€ mentioned was Gore.
Things should shake out a little better in class A in the next few weeks.
Again, it seems that the power sits on the western half of the state. In class B, Prue, Foyil, Morrison and Weleetka receive votes of confidence. In class C, Midway and Welch seem to be the only teams recognized as contenders.
I donâ€™t mean to gloss over the smaller classes, but itâ€™s truly hard to figure these guys out right now. Not just by me, but by the coaches as well.
Games of the Week
1. Stillwater (6-0) at Union (5-1)- This game is considered as one of the biggest games in the entire nation this week. Stillwater has beaten quality opponents to post their six wins and is mentioned as one of the only teams who could disrupt a Jenks-Union final. Unionâ€™s only loss came to the nationâ€™s number two team and theyâ€™re ranked 14th by Fox Sports. Go watch these two passing games.
2. Poteau (5-1) at Sallisaw (6-0)- The winner likely takes district 4A-4. Both teams have great defenses and offensive superstars. See the class 4A contenders above for a more in-depth look at the two teams.
3. Collinsville (5-1) at Jay (5-1)- Anyone who says they knew Jay would be this good is likely pulling an â€œAl Goreâ€ and fudging the truth a little. They are one of the biggest surprises in the state. They run and pass with near equal success. Collinsville will muscle teams up-front on both offense and defense.
4. Tecumseh (5-1) at Mannford (4-2)- Tecumseh gets it done with their stellar running game led by Pat Cobbs. Mannford gets it done with their terrific linebackers led by Ryan Woody. The Pirates are gutting out wins without their three-year starter at QB, Paul Hix. He may return soon from a hand injury, but a tremendous group of sophomores have filled in quite nicely.
5. McAlester (3-3) at East Central (5-1)- This could be a real statement game for the Buffaloes. A win at East Central could signal a serious intent to make a title run. A loss would not be devastating, but would likely send McAlester on the road for all playoff games. East Central wants to keep proving that they can beat the big boys. So far, theyâ€™ve made a lot of people believers.
6. Muskogee (3-3) at Broken Arrow (1-5)- The respective records make this game look like a stinker, but this game may have more meaning than any other in the state. The loser likely misses the playoffs. Muskogee missed an opportunity last week against Bartlesville. Broken Arrow has taken their losses against the top three teams in the district. After Muskogee, the Tigers likely win their last three against Memorial, Bâ€™ville and Rogers. 4-3 in the district will get them into the show. Muskogee faces Jenks, Tahlequah and Owasso after this week. This game is the definition of â€œmust-win.â€
7. Prue (5-1) at Morrison (5-1)- The game pits two of the three teams in a logjam at the top of district B-3. Both will likely get into the playoffs. If youâ€™re a fan of good eight-man football, this is one of the best games of the year in the state.
8. Roland (6-0) at Morris (3-3)- This is one of those dangerous games for the 3A top-ranked Rangers. Morris has a lot of talent. In fact, linebacker Mark Holata committed to the University of Tulsa this week and would love to commemorate the occasion by knocking off the top team in the state.
9. Perkins (5-1) at Perry (4-2)- These are the only two teams yet to lose in district 2A-5. Both have very good defenses and have outscored opponents by about 15 points per game.
10. Victory Christian (4-2) at Cascia Hall (5-1)- Just two weeks after I tabbed Victory as the most underrated team in the state, they carry a two week losing streak into this weeks game. Cascia Hall needs to re-establish itself in the district race. With as many good teams as there are in 2A-7, the Commandoes will likely be near the top when things shake out.