By Ryan Costello, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
In a practice-ending huddle Tuesday at Pioneer High School, head coach Kurt Myers reminded his team how last season started.
Three days short of another chance at their first win of the season (7:30 p.m. Friday at Snyder) and four days removed from a 20-0 loss to Okeene — Pioneer’s second shutout loss in three games and the second time in as many seasons the Mustangs opened a campaign with at least three losses — Myers explained pointedly, and apparently effectively, given the “yes sirs,” his speech drew, that an 0-3 start didn’t guarantee another season that fell short of a playoff berth. Just like an 0-7 start didn’t ensure an abridged season in 2012, when the Mustangs won two of their last three before a 41-21 season-ending loss to Minco finally extinguished their postseason hopes.
“There are three seasons in a season,” Myers said after his practice pep talk. “You break it down to non-district — and you want to win those games because you want to get better — and you’ve got your district season and postseason. Right now, we’re just trying to focus on getting better for the district (games).”
Admittedly, that first season hasn’t gone well.
After a promising opening quarter-and-a-half against Fairview, staying within a touchdown and opening holes for running back Chase Courter, Pioneer has struggled to remain competitive, losing its first three by a decisive 89-20 scoring margin, including a 34-0 final against the Yellowjackets.
The Mustangs’ woes didn’t even wait until week one to start.
An already fresh-faced Pioneer coaching staff had another shakeup just a week before the first game of the season, when offensive coordinator Brent Hendrix left the program to pursue a private business venture. Myers, who handled the majority of the play-calling duties even when Hendrix was on staff, insisted the split was amicable and said the late-preseason shuffle didn’t play a part in the offense’s production struggles, its 20 total points rank 52nd of 58 Class A teams.
“We still call the same plays,” Myers said. “We don’t do anything different.”
“It doesn’t affect that much,” said senior receiver Blake Gabriel. “It’s just getting used to each other, kind of, but it’s mostly the same.”
The Mustangs’ next opponent is in the same boat, maybe worse.
A season after turning an 0-2 start into a 5-6 finish and a playoff berth, Snyder is back on the ropes to open 2013, allowing at least 38 points in three losses, each by 24 points or more.
Snyder’s offense (26 points, 49th of 58 Class A teams) is only marginally better than Pioneer’s, and Snyder’s defense (116 points allowed) is among the class’ leakiest.
“We try to respect each one of their positions,” Myers said. “We try to treat them as if they’re the No. 1 team in the state. We’re gonna respect them. They can make plays, and they’ve got good athletes, too.”
“We just want to play well,” Gabriel said. “We gauge ourselves on how we play, not the other team.”
Gabriel, after an injury initially feared to be a fractured wrist was confirmed to be a less serious bone bruise, likely will play against Snyder, but lineman Hunter Lamle will be sidelined by a bruised knee.