Just a few thoughts as I prepare myself for kickoff of the high school football season. Exactly one week from today, Thursday, everything gets started with a few great match-ups. The most intriguing game is probably Booker T. Washington at Owasso. Itâ€™s Antwain Jimmersonâ€™s first game as Hornetâ€™s head coach.
Jimmerson is no stranger to stiff competition, heâ€™s spent his entire coaching career on the Jenks staff. However, this game against one of the top teams in class 6A is a real monster for a program trying to regain past glory. I talked to Jimmerson for a story I wrote on his new job this summer. I left our interviews feeling like this was the kind of guy who would accept nothing less than a quick turnaround.
It was different than the way Tulsa University coach Keith Burns sounds when he talks about a turnaround. After you hear Burns, you usually ask yourself if he was serious or just trying to fire up his players. Jimmerson is more matter of fact, like heâ€™s not trying to convince anybody of his intentions. If youâ€™d like to read more about Antwain Jimmerson, check out the Friday Football Fever page.
By the way, Jimmerson will be one of the first guests in our weekly Coaches Chat Room. Jimmerson will be on-line to answer your questions live at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Along with Jimmerson, two other area coaches will chat live with fans Saturday. Beginning at 6:30 p.m. Mannford Coach Kurt Boomer (pictured above) will be our guest for thirty minutes. Then at 7:00 p.m. Catoosa coach Scott Morgan (pictured below) will take over. Click here to join the chat room, then bookmark the chat page so you can join every Saturday night at 6:30 p.m. We have a full line-up of the best coaches scheduled for the entire season.
More Thursday Games
By the way, there are two pretty good games besides the Owasso-Booker T. Washington game Thursday night. Commerce travels to Tulsa to face Victory Christian. It will be the first game ever for the Conquerors as part of an OSSAA football district. The team went 7-1 last season as an independent.
Just a quick drive up Highway 169, Oologah hosts Claremore. Oologah is looking to bounce back from a somewhat disappointing 5-6 record in 1999, disappointing by their standards anyway. Claremore is actually one of the teams in 5A thatâ€™s getting a lot of pre-season buzz. Coaches from around that state routinely mention the Zebras when asked about surprise teams for 2000.
Does anybody else wonder what this weekâ€™s All-City Preview would be like if some of the great Tulsa Public Schoolâ€™s talent had not moved to suburban schools? Two of the top running backs in the state this year both played for a city school at one time.
The story of Jenks tailback Kejuan Jones is well known. Jones moved to Jenks after rushing for 1,200 yards in his sophomore year at Tulsa Hale. Several fans of both Nathan Hale and Tulsa Public Schools hit the roof when their most talented young player left for the â€œgreener pasturesâ€ of a defending state champion.
â€œIt hurt us,â€ said Hale athletic director Tammy Smith. â€œBut, we understand what people and families need to do to promote themselves. Itâ€™s a highly competitive world out there and to get a division one scholarship is very important to a lot of these kids. I canâ€™t fault a family for doing whatâ€™s best for a kid.â€
At nearly the same time Jones transferred to Jenks, another similarly talented tailback was quietly leaving the city for the suburbs. Lamont Moore had a very good sophomore year toting the ball for Webster High School. Moore played for a less successful team than Jones and quietly slipped away to Owasso after the Kejuan Jones uproar created a diversion.
More than just wishing these two great backs would face each other this week, they will in fact face each other on their new teams October 19th, coaches are really concerned about the football futures of city schools. The current trend is not to have great playerâ€™s move after having a good year. The current trend is actually to have potentially good eighth-graders to move before their freshman season. If they move before they play a down for a high school, a players transfer is not scrutinized by the Oklahoma Schools Secondary Activities Association.
One T-P-S coach told me heâ€™s lost more than ten potential players in the last two years to freshman transfers. While it decimates team numbers for city schoolâ€™s, most of the coaches say they understand why families decide to move. Private school and suburban school players have been awarded an inordinate amount more college football scholarships in the past ten yearâ€™s. Theyâ€™ve also distinguished themselves academically from Tulsa Public Schools, with the notable exception of Booker T. Washington. Itâ€™s natural for kids and their parents to want the best of both the academic and athletic world for themselves.
There is one huge selling point that T-P-S coaches are using in an attempt to keep these players in their systems-
Both Union and Jenks had around 100 playerâ€™s show up for the first day of summer practice this year. The odds of even the best players playing more than one year of regular game action is relatively slim. However, at a Tulsa Public School, a good player will likely start during his sophomore season.
One glaring success story of T-P-S football this year is Memorial High Schoolâ€™s mammoth defensive lineman Efe Mowarin. At 6â€™2â€ and 265 pounds, Mowarin is considered one of the best players in the state at any position. Heâ€™s unquestionably on his way to a division-one college football scholarship. He says he probably would not have received all of the attention heâ€™s getting from colleges had he moved to a suburban school.
â€œThere is no replacement for live game experience,â€ said Mowarin. â€œI learned things by playing against real players at full speed that you canâ€™t learn in practice. I would not have liked sitting on the bench at another school.â€
Some say that this trend of players moving to higher ground is nothing new, just something new for Tulsa. East Central coach Travis Hill points to cities like Houston, Cleveland and Dallas. He says those cities have dealt with the same issue long before it ever hit Tulsa, and some of those inner-city schools have adapted while some have fallen into obscurity. Hill thinks that itâ€™s really up to T-P-S coaches to keep the players at their schools.
â€œLetâ€™s just be honest, Tulsa football just went stagnant,â€ said Hill. â€œIf you can build a good program and start winning, those kids wonâ€™t leave. In fact, some of those kids at other schools might say â€˜I want to play at East Central.â€™ All of that comes from winning.â€
Area high school football previews are rolling along nicely. Friday begins the big schools with two days of 5A districts followed by two days of 6A schools.
I took a quick look at 6A and one thing really jumped out at me. District 6A-4 is a monster. One of the two eastern districts were going to be especially tough after realignment because there are so many good teams in this part of the state, but district four is just loaded.
Start with Jenks, four straight championships and a number two national ranking by Fox. Then add Broken Arrow, Owasso, Muskogee and Tahlequah, all teams to be feared this year. One of those last four teams is likely to be left out of the playoffs, only four per district move on. â€œThat team that misses the playoffs would likely compete for a district championship on the western side of the state,â€ said Broken Arrow head coach Rick Jones.
Tahlequah coach Todd Dilbeck, whose team is generally regarded as the leading contender for that fifth-place spot, agrees with Jones. â€œThe third or fourth place team in our district is likely to go upset a top team from the west in the playoffs,â€ said Dilbeck. It sounds like big talk, but nearly every coach in the district agrees.
What this stiff competition does is make for some potentially very good drama late in the season. Jenks, Tahlequah, Owasso and Muskogee each face one another in a round robin sort of end to the regular season. Every game will mean so much. Meanwhile, Broken Arrow has a murderous opening four district games, facing the four mentioned above in successive weeks.
Whatâ€™s this all mean? Well, it means a lot of fun for fans of these five teams, and a very large heartache for one.
Have fun at this weeks scrimmages and check me out again next Thursday, the start of a great regular season.