By Bruce Campbell, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Ringwood defensive coordinator Mike Felder will have some “bittersweet’’ feelings tonight when the Red Devils host Waukomis — his former employer — at 7:30 tonight.
Felder was Waukomis’ head coach for eight years before resigning after the 2011 season, but his bond with the Chiefs goes beyond that.
As a physical teacher, he taught all the current Chiefs from kindergarten on.
“It’s definitely going to be tough on me because I had these kids for their whole school careers,’’ Felder said. “I always hope they score a lot of points and be successful ... except for Thursday night.’’
The Chiefs offense, led by quarterback Justus Crites and receivers Zach Prince, Aaron Harrington and Chase Mullins are averaging 36 points per game after a 74-48 victory over Covington-Douglas last week.
“I knew these kids would be special,’’ Felder said. “I saw Justus throw passes to Aaron and Zach over the last seven to 10 years. They put in a lot of time. Justus has been a special kind of player since he was tearing up the EJRT in grade school.’’
Felder, though, doesn’t see the game as Waukomis vs. Felder.
“I’m not going to be the one that’s trying to stop them,’’ Felder said. “I have eight kids on defense to do that. It’s going to be a challenge for them.’’
Felder said Waukomis hasn’t had a quarterback with the maneuverability of Crites since Gabe Martinez in the early 1990s.
“He does such a good job of not letting people get a good hit on him,’’ Felder said.
Felder said he left coaching to pursue his masters at Northwestern Oklahoma State.
“If I was ever going to do it, then was the time to do it,’’ Felder said. “I love it at Waukomis, but it was time for a change. I absolutely love being back in coaching.’’
He is content at Ringwood where the Red Devils (5-2 overall and 4-2 in district) control their destiny for playoff berth.
“That’s our goal — to make the playoffs — and Waukomis is the next team on the schedule,’’ he said.
Second-year Waukomis head coach Jon Claborn, who replaced Felder, said he hasn’t talked much to his players about facing their old coach.
“I’m sure it will stir some emotions,’’ Claborn said. “I’ve been in that situation before where you’re coaching against kids that you coached before. Once the kickoff is in the air, that (emotion) goes away.’’
The Chiefs’ win over Covington-Douglas was their first over a District B-1 opponent since 2009. Waukomis was in Class C from 2010-11.
“We’re glad that’s over,’’ Claborn said. “There’s some validation for the kids. We have talked about this for two years about improving and working hard. They’re starting to see the big picture.’’
Claborn could talk about his defense for the first time this season. It was the first time WHS had held an opponent to under 50 points.
The Chiefs forced four turnovers, including three interception and held Covington-Douglas on downs twice and forced a punt.
“The defense came up big in spots,’’ Claborn said.
Waukomis’ defense, though, will face one of its biggest tests in trying to stop Ringwood quarterback Eudaldo Gomez, who went behind center after starter Braden Moehle went down for the season with an injury.
Ringwood twice has scored 84 points in a game. The Red Devils are averaging 44.8 points per game despite having been shut out twice (Pond Creek-Hunter and Laverne).
“Gomez is even more dangerous at quarterback because he touches the ball every play,’’ Claborn said. “Everything goes through him in the shotgun. They throw the ball less, but their running game is a lot more aggressive.’’
Ringwood head coach Rustin Donaldson said Gomez is learning his reads better and is improving his passing.
“The more snaps, he takes the better he gets,’’ Donaldson said. “We need to throw it some because team are packing it in against us.’’
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m.
Records: Waukomis (2-5, 1-5)
Ringwood (5-2, 4-2)
Series: Waukomis leads 7-2
Last: Ringwood won 63-32, 2012
Radio: KXLS (95.7 FM)