ENID, Okla. —
Coming off a four-game losing streak and a 63-7 loss last week at Tulsa Union, Enid head football coach Steve Chard wondered how the Plainsmen would respond the next day, and even if everyone would show up.
Turns out his worries were unfounded.
“I was concerned Saturday morning (after the Tulsa Union loss) that there may be a few kids on the periphery that may want to jump ship and not come in,” Chard said. “But every single kid showed up Saturday morning on time for film. Their attitudes remain solid. That’s a tribute to our staff as well.
“They don’t see our (staff) pouting, so they don’t. We won’t allow that. We don’t dwell on the negatives around here. We hope to beat Ponca City.”
The Plainsmen (2-4, 0-3) will be looking to snap their four-game skid, and secure their first District 6A-1 win, when they host long-standing rival Ponca City (0-6, 0-3) 7:30 tonight at Selby Stadium.
The Plainsmen have won seven straight games in the series, having dominated the Wildcats, beating them by an average of 23 points during that stretch.
But don’t expect the Plainsmen to take the Wildcats lightly.
“We don’t have an ego to say we are looking past anybody, including Ponca City,” Chard said.
While the Wildcats are winless and are coming off a 47-17 loss to undefeated Sand Springs last week, Ponca City has been in most of its games this season, including trailing 19-10 into the third quarter in their homecoming loss to the Sandites. They also were in tight contests against Sapulpa and Guthrie before falling 34-28 and 36-7, respectively. Guthrie is the only common opponent so far between Ponca City and Enid with the Plainsmen falling 49-26 to the defending 5A champs.
Chard does not see Ponca City as a typical winless squad.
“They line up soundly and correctly,” Chard said. “They have good skill players. They’re all seniors. I’m a little surprised they haven’t won a game. They are not getting blown off the field. They’re better than I wish they were.”
The Wildcats are led by senior quarterback Jake Didlake, a 6-0, 185-pounder who completed 21-of-34 passes for 195 yards against Sand Springs, and was their leading rusher with 56 yards on 13 carries.
“He runs up there on the quarterback draw and the read,” Chard said. “They run a lot of routes over the middle, high-risk high-reward routes. That’s what they do, and they’re good at it.
Didlake also has three receivers over 6-feet that can pose matchup problems, led by 6-3, 170-pound junior Hunter Womack, who leads the team in receiving, while 6-foot, 212-pound senior tailback Eric Segura is both a receiving and rushing threat.
The Plainsmen, meanwhile, will be looking to get their own running game on track after being held to 24 yards against Tulsa Washington two weeks ago and only 13 yards in its loss to Union.
The common denominator in both losses, besides coming up against a pair of quick and deep defenses, was the absence of tight end Steven Hocker, who has been sidelined with a personal illness, but is expected back in the lineup Friday against Ponca City.
“There’s no doubt we want to get the running game going,” Chard said. “The loss of Steven Hocker has affected us a bit. He’s a big, 260-pounder.”
Hocker’s blocking is a key element in the Plainsmen’s bread-and-butter rushing plays, the double-down and kicking out, according to Chard.
Chard said the team has put in a few wrinkles to get Seth Handley re-started. Handley leads the team with 608 yards this season, but has rushed for only 31 yards the past two weeks.
The team plans to use Handley in the slot (he also leads the team with 293 yards receiving) and is working on getting him on the perimeter more frequently.
“He’s not a between-the-tackles guy,” Chard said. “He’s all of about 165 pounds – that’s not his best thing. He’ll run up in there ... he’s just not a big back. We need to get him on the edges.”
Sophomore Raheem Mitchell has been getting more reps at tailback in practice as well. Also coming off a tough game is Plainsmen quarterback Chance Pryor, who had the worst game of his career against Union, throwing four interceptions after throwing only six through the first five games.
But Chard believes Pryor will bounce back.
“He’s frustrated,” Chard said. “He felt, like every quarterback, that the weight of the world was on him after the last two losses. I told him that’s not the case. He just wants to play better and have success. As for his picks against Union, well, we didn’t stop them (on offense) either. It’s behind him.”
Putting it behind them is important and consistent with what Chard has preached this season.
“Just like when we won the Edmond (Memorial) game, we didn’t talk about that,” Chard said. “We talked about the next game. It’s not like we are going to be in denial about the loss ... you just have to keep your focus on the next minute.
“We had a great, physical practice (Tuesday), maybe the best we’ve had in five weeks. The kids are hungry and they don’t like the last four games. They want to win.”
Injury update: Junior Aaron Beagle, who leads the team with three touchdown receptions, but missed last week’s game at Union after breaking his hand in practice, may be back in the lineup. Beagle had a pin placed in his hand, but did not require a cast. He will practice and see how he feels.
Legends return: A pair of former Plainsmen legends will be in attendance at Friday night’s game.
Paying a visit Friday will be Ken Mendenhall, who was the starting center for Enid on the Plainsmen’s back-to-back state champion teams in 1964 and 1965, earning All-State honors. Mendenhall went on to an All-American career at Oklahoma, where he was a three-year starter, and played on the Sooners’ 1968 Orange Bowl championship team. Mendenhall was named All-American in 1968 and 1969. He played for 11 years in the NFL, starting at center for the Baltimore Colts for 10 years, playing in 118 consecutive games.
Also on hand Friday will be former Oklahoma standout, collegiate All-American and Super Bowl champion Jim Riley, a member of the Miami Dolphins’ famed no-name defense and member of the 17-0 Dolphins squad, the only undefeated team in the history of the NFL. Riley played for Big Blue from 1961-1962 and was named Oklahoma Lineman of the Year and earned High School All-American honors.