By Dave Ruthenberg, Sports Editor
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Entering tonight’s final preseason football scrimmage against Yukon at D. Bruce Selby Stadium, Enid is looking to firm up its strengths and do a little scheming, while also developing several new players.
“We have a lot of guys playing their first varsity action who made a decent account of themselves,” said Enid head coach Steve Chard, referring to last week’s scrimmage at Bixby.
Those players, and Enid’s returning starters, will lineup tonight starting at 6:30, followed by a two-quarter scrimmage utilizing a running clock, scheduled to start at 7:15. The junior varsity starts things off at 5:30.
Among those Chard and the coaching staff came away impressed with last week was first-year starting quarterback Freddy Lawrence.
“He had as good of a scrimmage as anybody,” he said. “He has a strong arm, he wants to look downfield, but is also recognizing to make that swing pass. We have a good, little back that’s going to take that swing pass. It’s a good option and an easy play, as opposed to trying to wedge that ball in there when nobody is open.”
That “good little back” is junior Raheem Mitchell (5-7, 160) who saw a lot of time with Raeshaan Finley being held out with a minor injury. Finley is expected to take some snaps tonight.
But it also was another player with limited varsity experience that impressed out of the backfield last week.
Sophomore Devin Pratt not only showed he is capable of gaining yards, but the 6-foot, 185-pounder show his strength as well.
“We had him blocking one play and he pushed the whole pile (against Norman) back four-and-a-half yards,” said offensive coordinator James Smith.
It’s that kind of effort and talent that has Chard enthused about his backfield options this season.
“We feel confident about the tailback position, and for the first time in my life, I feel that we have three legitimate guys that can carry the football at any time, no matter the down and distance,” Chard said. “What a luxury.”
The Plainsmen also feel a bit luxurious at wide receiver.
“Our starting receiving corps didn’t have a drop,” Chard said. “Sam Clemens, Aaron Beagle and Alex Lofton do not drop many passes.”
But that is not to say there aren’t plenty of areas that need to be developed, and going up against Yukon in tonight’s scrimmage will give the coaching staff a better idea where the team stands.
“They (Yukon) made the playoffs the last four years,” Chard said. “They’re hardworking kids like ours, but they’re much bigger, too.”
Yukon also runs a spread offense, which will give the Plainsmen a chance to work on their new 3-4 defensive scheme. Against Norman at the Bixby scrimmage, the Plainsmen were unable to make use of the 3-4 as the Tigers are one of the few 6A teams still using two tight ends.
It will be a good test of the largely inexperienced defensive line. Other than senior Steven Hocker (6-4, 245), the rest of the line, juniors Jacob Wiens (6-0, 265), Austin Duplantis (6-3, 205) and senior Mason Dillard (6-4, 275), have not had varsity starting experience.
The team plans to stunt more and use the 3-4 to take advantage of its speed to make up what it lacks in size, especially after the departure of 300-pound Logan Miller, who now is at Northwestern Oklahoma State.
“We feel like we have a little more quickness,” Chard said. “We’re going to get them on the move. We’ve got to get in there and run the stunts. It’s one thing when I am out there (in practice) standing behind them as we go through our stunts as opposed to standing on the sideline and getting them executed.”
Chard said the team also needs to improve its linebacker play, but so far, the starters have looked good, including seniors Isiah Singleton (5-10, 200) and Christian Voitik (5-10, 180), who has moved from rover to inside linebacker, along with Clemens and Pratt, who had a pick against Norman last week.
And while the secondary is an area of strength, Chard said there were some mistakes that need to be fixed.
“There were a couple of little coverage busts, but that is normal the first week,” Chard said. “It’s like candy ... when, you know, you see a kid in front of you and you want to cover him and you don’t stay true to your coverage. Just like it’s natural that if you see a ball coming at you, you want to catch it. We run a lot of things on the back end, so it’s difficult to maintain zone integrity.”
Also getting attention will be the offensive line, which saw first-timers Dillard and sophomore Gavin Richmond (6-4, 255) on the field more than expected, especially with starter Estevan Arana (6-5, 270) held out due to injury.
“We looked at the film and they did all right,” Chard said.
Chard said the team won’t show its entire playbook tonight, nor even a good portion of it.
“There’s not a play in our playbook that we haven’t practiced, but there are things we feel more comfortable with now than others,” he said. “So we are going to stick with a handful of things and get good with those. We’re not going deep into the playbook.”
The Plainsmen would like to try to establish the run against a physical Yukon squad.
“We want to be in the 65-35 range for run-to-pass,” Chard said. “I’d be tickled to death if we could move the ball 6-7 yards at a time.”
He also would like to see the defense get a bit more stout on third down.
“We gave up a couple of long third down conversions against Norman. We need to be able to get off the field,” Chard said.
Of course, like most coaches, Chard has one primary concern with scrimmages.
“Get out of there healthy, and let’s get ready to start the season,” he said.
There is no charge for admission to tonight’s scrimmage.
“I really encourage the community to come on out and see the work these young men have put in and see the changes at the stadium, like the new scoreboard and the new Plainsmen Pros sign,” Chard said.
The regular season starts Sept. 6 at Choctaw.