The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Sports

November 10, 2012

Chard saw progress in his first season at EHS

ENID, Okla. — It was a football season of ups and downs for the Enid Plainsmen in 2012, and while finishing with a 3-7 overall record (1-6 in District 6A-1) and out of the playoffs may suggest a down year, there still were some noteworthy highlights as the team developed under first-year head coach Steve Chard.

“I thought there was some good progress made,” Chard said. “The learning curve was steep, and we had to learn on the go with kids who hadn’t really played on Fridays. I think we were playing decent football by the end of the year.”

The Plainsmen, who finished 2-8 last year, started the season on a positive note with back-to-back home wins, defeating Choctaw 41-12 in the season-opener and then Edmond Memorial, 19-14.

Plainsmen senior tailback Seth “Popeye” Handley, who is drawing some interest from East Central, picked up where he left off in 2011 by rushing for 243 yards in the home opener against Choctaw. Handley would go on to rush for 1,240 yards this season, the fifth-highest single-season rushing total in Plainsmen history. Handley also ended his Plainsmen career in fourth place all-time on the career rushing list.

Late in the season, in a 49-21 win over Stillwater, Handley would rush for 336 yards, which combined with a 213-yard rushing effort in Enid’s 49-26 loss to Guthrie in Week 3, meant Handley would own four of the top 10 marks in Plainsmen history for rushing yards in a game. He set the record last season with 377 yards in an 80-57 win over Bixby.

“Anytime you get a 1,000-yard guy in 6A, you know you’ve got a quality player on your hands,” Chard said regarding Handley. “He takes great care of himself, and it also was a tribute to Coaches (Nate) Vogel and (Floyd) Winfield in developing the offensive line.”

But the season took a tough turn for the Plainsmen after their opening wins as they would drop six straight games, including a pair of heartbreakers in the closing moments. It is safe to say two plays kept the Plainsmen from a 5-5 season.

“When you’re young and 2-0, like we were at the start of the season, you tend to think you are doing everything right and everything you need to do,” Chard said when asked whether the opening wins may have give the players a false sense of security. “But our opponents really upgraded after those two games also.”

Following their loss at Guthrie, the Plainsmen opened District 6A-1 play at Bartlesville and held a 42-30 lead with less than three minutes remaining, but were unable to keep the Bruins at bay as Bartlesville’s Calan Crowder took a pass and leaped into the end zone to give Bartlesville an improbable 44-42 victory as time expired. The loss overshadowed a six-touchdown performance by senior quarterback and first-year starter Chance Pryor.

“That loss to Bartlesville really hurt their confidence,” Chard said. “And when you’re young and fragile, it’s hard to recover from that overnight.”

The Plainsmen weren’t able to shake off the hangover from that tough loss, suffering a 24-7 homecoming defeat to Tulsa Washington the next week and then lost 63-7 the next week at Union before welcoming longtime rival Ponca City.

The Wildcats would deliver another heartbreaking blow to the Plainsmen when they rallied from a 14-0 fourth-quarter deficit, taking the lead for good with 1:39 left in the game on a  70-yard punt return for a touchdown in a 21-20 loss that snapped Enid’s seven-game winning streak over the Wildcats.

“We would have had a better taste in our mouth,” Chard said regarding the two plays that potentially could have been the difference in going 5-5. “But it’s good to have that in my back pocket to coach to when things are not done the way we want. We can point to that (the two plays against Bartlesville and Ponca City) and say the lack of precision is why we lost a couple of games.”

The Plainsmen’s skid reached six with a 48-7 loss to district champ Owasso before snapping their skid with a resounding 49-21 win over Stillwater for its only district win, and then finishing on the short end of a hard-fought 35-21 loss at playoff-bound Sand Springs.

“I am thankful to our guys for sticking with it through a tough stretch,” Chard said. “It was a testament to both the players and coaches for keeping a positive attitude. This is a tough district, and there are no gimmes on our schedule.”

But while the season did not finish the way it started, several players had noteworthy seasons:

• Pryor, in his only season as a starter at quarterback, passed for 13 touchdowns, which places him in a four-way tie for 10th place for touchdowns in a season. His 54.9 percent completion mark is fifth all-time in a single season.

• Senior Jake Scott made the move to linebacker this season and was a dominating force, finishing second on the team in tackles. “Jake and lot of the guys were gracious about making a position change,” Chard said. “He really took to the position well. I wish I had one more year with him.” Scott has drawn interest from Tulsa and Northeastern Oklahoma.

• Junior free safety Marshawn Mills, son of Plainsmen wide receiver coach Shawn Mills, emerged as one of the team’s top playmakers, leading the team in tackles and with four interceptions.  “Marshawn did a great job at a position that is the toughest to learn in our system (4-2-5),” Chard said. “The hardest part of the learning curve is over with.”

• Junior linebacker Isaih Singleton developed into a playmaker at linebacker. “He had a solid season,” Chard said.

• Another junior, Aaron Beagle, led all receivers with four touchdowns. “He is one of our best,” Chard said. “He is a clutch performer.”

The prospect of an experienced junior class excites Chard for next season.

“We have a really great base there for some good players,” Chard said. “The junior class will be our leaders next year. The experience they gained this year bodes well for next season.”

While Chard acknowledges a 3-7 campaign was certainly not the result he was hoping for at the start of the season, he is grateful for the support the program has received.

“I have had nothing but positive feedback from the community,” Chard said. “The support from our administration has been great too, and they showed me the way and coached me up on how things work.”

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