ENID, Okla. —
Sophomore lineman Jake Curless remembers No. 11 Chisholm’s recent down years. Not as a player — Curless was a reserve as a freshman, and is one of few Longhorns with a winning career record at 9-5 — but as a fan.
What a change a few years can make.
“Whenever I’d come watch my brother (Derek), I’d just see how flat (the crowd was),” said Curless, who has nine tackles and a sack in four games. “When I was in eighth grade, with them going 1-9 and getting destroyed, no one had any energy. In the stands, there’d be parents there, but no one else. It’s just way different.”
Life is good for Chisholm football, a 4-0 team for the first time in a decade playing in front of packed stands, at the top of 2A-1 after a 21-13 win against Alva and entering a 7:30 p.m. Friday matchup against district foe and favorite No. 5 Hennessey.
Since enduring a 1-19 mark his first two seasons, senior defensive tackle Turner Reed is among a senior class that is in the midst of what likely will finish its best season after a 5-5 run in 2012.
“People see that we have a good team this year, a better team this year,” said Reed, a well-worn cog in Chisholm’s 10th-ranked defense with a team-high 3.5 sacks. “We have a more positive tone from people this season. At the beginning of the season, we were just 1-0, then we went 2-0 … Now that we’re 4-0, people are getting a little more excited … (When) we beat Alva, I heard comments from the stands, people saying, ‘Wow, we might be a powerhouse. We might be a good football team this year.’”
That talk has reached even the ears of coach Joey Reinart, who in his fifth season can finally start to enjoy the fruits of a rebuilding effort that has spanned his career.
“At points in the past, we’ve heard sympathetic tones,” said Reinart, now 13-31 as Chisholm’s coach. “We tried to make sure we answered that as truthfully as possible … They’re starting to expect a little bit more, and we’re still answering the same way: When we show up and do what we’re supposed to do and play aggressively like we have these first four games, we’ll have a chance.”
So far, it’s worked.
The Longhorns already have snapped long losing streaks against Fairview (eight games) and Alva (nine) in weeks two and four, and face another longtime nemesis in the Eagles, winners of 10 straight in the series and at 3-1 and among 2A’s best, likely the stiffest test to Chisholm’s fast start, as it was the last time the Longhorns last started 4-0, when Hennessey beat them 13-7 that spurred a six-game losing streak to close Chisholm’s 2003 season.
In its only loss of the season, a 31-0 defeat to 3A contender Kingfisher, Hennessey also lost senior quarterback Dylan Hatchel for the remainder of the season with a torn ACL. Junior backup Tony Mendoza completed 7-of-16 passes for 94 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in his starting debut on Fri-day, a 38-14 win against Tulsa NOAH.
“They’re very similar players,” said Chisholm coach Joey Reinart. “(Hatchel is) quite a bit bigger, stockier, and probably a little bit harder to bring down, but (Mendoza) stepped in and did a really good job last week, so we’re gonna prepare the same way. They’re not going to change their offense, so preperation, everything is the same.”
Hennessey running back William Arndt had a career outing after the shuffle at QB, notching new benchmarks of 18 carries, 178 yards and four touchdowns.
Chisholm has reached its 4-0 start 4.38 yards at a time, 212 of its 261 yards per game coming on the ground. Senior Bryce Stewart carried the ball a career-high 37 times in the Longhorns’ win against Alva, and through four games is on pace for 1,750 yards, a mark that would shatter his previous high of 1,100 yards as a junior.
Since nearly blowing a 28-0 lead against OBA and allowing a season-high in scoring in a 34-26 Week 1 win against the Trojans, Chisholm has allowed a tidy 8.3 points per game, including the 13 against Alva, which had scored 59 points the week before.
The combination has led to increasingly high hopes for the Longhorns. Reinart, typically one to downplay expectations, has let some of the optimism seep in.
“We’ve talked all year about turning the corners, turning the corners,” he said. “It seems like every week, there’s another corner. Our program, we take another step, another step. So we’re looking for another step.”
The last time Chisholm started 5-0, the year was 2002, and the fifth win came against, of course, Hennessey.
Chisholm at Hennessey
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Records: Chisholm (4-0, 1-0) Hennessey (3-1, 0-0)
Series: Hennessey leads, 19-10
Last: Hennessey won 46-6, 2012
Radio: KXLS (95.7 FM)