By Bruce Campbell, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Okeene’s Jeff Wardlaw is excited for his chance to notch his 200th career win Friday against Mooreland.
Not for ego reasons, but it would mean the newly-crowned District A-1 champion Whippets would finish the season at 9-1.
“I knew if I got to 200 this year it would be great because it meant we had a great year,’’ Wardlaw said. “If we get that win Friday, it would be awesome.’’
Wardlaw said the 200 wins “would be a great accomplishment for our program and coaches.’’
Assistants Steve Heckart and Mike Jinkens have been with Wardlaw since he took the Okeene reins in 1991.
“It’s a tribute to those guys, too,’’ Wardlaw said.
Wardlaw has had only one losing season (4-6, 1996) and has been to the playoffs 13 times. He said the support of the administration and community has allowed him to keep continuity.
“This is a place where they let you do your job,’’ he said.
The Whippets clinched the A-1 championship with a 28-12 win over Texhoma last Friday. It was the seventh straight win for Okeene, which only has lost to Thomas 14-0 the second week of the season.
It was Okeene’s first district championship since 2008.
“It’s been a while for us,’’ Wardlaw said. “The kids have been working very hard, and I’m very proud of them.’’
Okeene’s accomplishment is even more impressive considering the Whippets would be in Class C if they chose to play eight-man football. There are 50 eight-man schools with larger ADMs (Average Daily Membership).
“That means a lot to me,’’ Wardlaw said. “I don’t know how much it means to our kids ... but I know it’s something the coaching staff takes pride in.’’
The Whippets, with nine returning starters on offense and defense, were expected to be a major contender, but have done so despite a number of injuries.
Okeene started with six tight ends and at one point was down to one. Star running back Chase Bedwell went down the first week of the season with a torn ACL.
Sophomore tight end-linebacker Lane Gambill is out with a torn ACL.
“The kids responded to things,’’ Wardlaw said. “We were proud of how they came up and handled that and how hard they worked each week.’’
Things are looking up injury-wise.
Senior tight end Will Bedwell, who was out for five weeks with a knee injury, is back. So is massive tight end Hunter Miles, who wasn’t being counted on this season after breaking his leg last year against Oklahoma Bible Academy.
Wardlaw just hoped Miles could come back and play some basketball as a senior, but he’s given the Whippets a big lift after returning two weeks ago.
“That’s just awesome,’’ Wardlaw said. “It would have been easy for him to say I don’t want to play football ... to be willing out come out and play like he has, has a been a big help to us.’’
Quarterback Scott Dobrinski has carried the team on his back, rushing for 1,168 yards and 17 touchdowns, and passing for 730 yards and another four scores.
He had three three-yard touchdown runs against Texhoma as well as an 80-yard kickoff return.
“He’s a heck of a competitor,’’ Wardlaw said. “You could see at practice that he was going to have a good game. He gave it all he had.’’
The line of center Austin Jordan, guards Tanner McCollum and Mitchell Howe, tackles Danyon Rackley and Jamie Dobrinski and utility man Will Sproul dominated the trenches. Okeene had 246 yards rushing.
“We were pretty well able to move the ball at will against a good football team,’’ Wardlaw said.
The Whippets have lost only one fumble in district play. They have gone four straight games without losing a fumble. That’s quite a contrast from the five turnovers (two interceptions, three fumbles) against Thomas.
“Hush,’’ said Wardlaw with a chuckle. “We know the five turnovers we had against Thomas was not indicative of how we want to get things done. That’s something we stress in practice every day. We have drills on that.’’
The one negative against Texhoma was an interception inside the five.
Lineman McCollum, Jamie Dobrinski, Miles and Will Bedwell stood out on defense as did linebacker Howe. Howe leads the Whippets in tackles with 71.
The Whippets have allowed only 86 points this season and have not allowed an opponent to score more than two touchdowns in a game.
Wardlaw said the Whippets won’t overlook Mooreland, which will take a 6-3 record into the contest.
“We haven’t been in this situation too often where we have already clinched the district before the season was over,’’ Wardlaw said. “We want to go into the playoffs on a positive. Mooreland is a good football team. We’ll prepare just like we have every week. We’ll be all business when we get off the bus and try to earn their respect.’’