ENID, Okla. —
It’s been a while, but Chisholm football, sitting third in 2A-1 and a win away from clinching its first playoff berth since 2002, has been here before.
The problem’s been staying.
Only three times in the team’s history have the Longhorns strung together consecutive winning seasons, topping out at six straight from 1987-92 and five in a row from 1971-75. Otherwise, each time Chisholm finished over even, they were never more than a season away from falling back to .500 or below, the darkest of ages being the one the Longhorns are on the tail end of right now: One 6-5 season (2002) surrounded by 14 of non-winning years, 40-105 altogether, and an average of 2.9 wins a season.
So is this season the vanguard of a gridiron renaissance at Chisholm, or just another blip?
Next season also should be another at least competitive one for the Longhorns, who will lose impact seniors Bryce Stewart, Turner Reed and Matt Wilson, and others, but are slated to retain at least 18 players with starting or rotation experience, among them junior QB Taggart Brown, receiver Austin Swann and tight end Karsten Brady.
After that, the Longhorns’ composition is much murkier, though far from hopeless.
Chisholm’s junior high season finished at 5-2, and the team’s summer weightlifting sessions drew a bumper crop -- even a share of non-mandated sixth graders joined the iron-pumping craze.
The trick to remaining competitive, coach Joey Reinart said, is to shore up what had historically been a dearth of athleticism entering the program by creating athletes early.
“A lot of the freshman here, they’ve been to the weightroom every summer,” said junior receiver Bryson Rolfe. “They’re just trying to get better. They want to be up there.”
“Those things have really started to pay off for the guys who bought into that,” Reinart said. “You’re seeing those older guys that did that now having a lot of success. And the younger guys, they bought in two years ago when they were in junior high. They’re in.”
That widely-embraced approach already has yielded some results. Sophomore lineman Jake Curless is a regular starter, freshman Logan Hise earned a start along the line in last week’s 49-7 thrashing of Pawnee that also included sophomore Zach Swafford’s first career interception and freshman Beaux Biggers’ first touchdown catch.
So far in 2013, five underclassmen have recorded 10 or more tackles or a forced a turnover, three others have scored touchdowns and freshman Connor Pasby hasn’t crossed the goal line, but has 77 yards on 12 carries.
And the consensus is there are more underclassmen coming next season.
“There are some really good-looking kids that can be some linemen down there (in middle school),” said assistant coach Mike Karnes, who is partially in charge of working with young prospects. “We’ve never really had linemen linemen. Like, big kids on the line. We have kids with big hearts that just work their tails off and do a good job and get the job done, but there are some younger kids that are ‘linemen-looking’, that if they buy into the program and do what’s right, they can just keep it going.”
“I’m pretty confident we can sustain it this time,” Rolfe said. “There’s just more effort being put into the program. In years past, we’ve been at the top and we would come back down because no one would really get into the weight room. They weren’t committed like we are this time.”