The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Sports

October 25, 2012

Chard: 'We're playing to win'

ENID, Okla. — Enid hasn’t tasted victory since defeating Edmond Memorial 19-14 on Sept. 7 in the second game of the season, but heading into tonight’s Senior Night contest against rival Stillwater at Selby Stadium, Plainsmen head coach Steve Chard hasn’t altered his expectations. He also doesn’t want to hear about his team only playing for pride with two games left in the season.

“We’re playing to win the game,” Chard answered emphatically when asked about the team’s remaining games. “You always play for pride, but if we play well and don’t win, I don’t give a (darn). I want to win the game and our kids do too.

“They know they have played some good football at times and don’t have much to show for it ... that’s the way it is.”

Enid (2-6, 0-5) is likely two or three plays from being 4-4, and not riding a six-game losing streak if not for some late breakdowns in losses to Bartlesville and Ponca City.

But with a struggling Stillwater (3-5, 1-4) squad coming in on a four-game losing streak of its own, the Plainsmen see an opportunity to send their seniors off on a positive note.

“We’ve got two games left to flush this taste out for them (the seniors) and have a better memory of their senior year by ending it with a victory or two,” Chard said.

“If you’re not desperately hungry for a win right now, then you need to check in the mirror,” he added. “It’ll be good tonight. There’s some guys that have put a lot of time and work into the program before I got here.”

Indeed, tonight will be the last home game for 16 seniors on Enid’s roster, including quarterback Chance Pryor, tailback Seth Handley — who currently ranks fifth all-time on Enid’s career rushing list — as well as Johnny Lawrence, Demetrius Lofton, Wanya Hall, Colton Herrell, Jake Scott — the team’s second-leading tackler — and Rob Frantz.

 But Chard is quick to point out the contributions of other seniors who may not get the ink or recognition, but have been integral components of the team this season.

That includes players such as Logan Miller, Francisco Cuellar, Lance Smith and Zane Herbel, among others.

“(Defensive tackle) Logan Miller (52 tackles) is as good or steady of a player as you can have on a football team,” Chard said. “That goes for Cuellar, too. Both have been very consistent. We appreciate those guys.

“Lance Smith is a good example of a guy who never played a lot of football at any level in his life. He is gutsy, takes his lumps on the run. We have asked him to play a position (defensive end) where he is a little light, but has given great effort.”

Chard also notes it’s not just the senior starters who have worked hard, but role players such as Zane Herbel.

“Just this morning (Wednesday), as always, he (Herbel) was right toward the front in running,” Chard said. “He does everything he is asked. He never misses, lifts, plays scout team every day. A guy like Zane will get something positive out of football, even though he didn’t get to play as much on Fridays as he probably would have liked, because he kept the correct attitude about it and realized there is merit to coming to the job every day and taking something positive out of it.”

With the emotions of Senior Night and the chance to go out with a win, the Plainsmen may be catching Stillwater, a team Enid has defeated two of the past three seasons in the long-standing series, at the right time.

The Pioneers are a young team that is sophomore-heavy and coming off four straight losses after last week’s 41-27 loss at home to Sand Springs, a game in which they led 10-0 in the second quarter before the Sandites pulled away late.

Stillwater has had injury issues, and has started  sophomore backup Taggart Brown over the past couple of games at quarterback. Brown has struggled, completing only 41 percent of his passes with 8 interceptions, including four in Stillwater’s homecoming 35-21 loss to Bartlesville two weeks ago.

Brown also is a much less mobile quarterback than starter and fellow sophomore, Braxton Noble, who has rushed for 231 yards and five touchdowns this season, in addition to passing for nine scores.

“They were reeling back in that game (against Bartlesville), playing guys who hadn’t played due to injuries to their starters,” noted Chard. “But they have been playing better since then.”

The Plainsmen are hoping to contain Stillwater’s rushing attack, led by senior Davyn Thompson (527 yards, four touchdowns), and force Brown to make plays.

Stillwater was able to move the ball against Sand Springs by being versatile, using everything from the wildcat to a power-I formation.

The Plainsmen defense forced four turnovers last week against the Rams.

“The defense is playing a lot better,” Chard said.

On the other side of the ball, one player in particular that concerns Chard is senior defensive lineman Jonah Motley, a 6-foot-3, 312-pounder with collegiate potential.

“We are going to have to account for him on every play,” Chard said.

Stillwater, according to Chard, likes to play a 4-man front, and the Plainsmen hope their leading rusher, Handley (who is closing in on 1,000 yards for the season), will find some room running room off-tackle.

“We feel there are some spots we can do that,” Chard said. “The way they spread their linebackers out might allow for something up between the tackles. When you go spread formation, they will walk two linebackers out pretty wide, leaving a 5-man box, which says you should be able to run the ball up in there.”

But the Plainsmen know they need to avoid the breakdowns that have hurt them over the past six contests.

“Like Coach (James) Smith (EHS offensive coordinator) said, When we play error-free football, we’re not bad. We had an eight-play drive last week against Owasso where we didn’t have any busts and scored. We have a small window of opportunity and no room for error, and when you make small mistakes and don’t embrace the moment, you are not going to be successful.”

And Chard fully expects his team to embrace the moment on Senior Night. “Our kids are aware that this is a healthy rivalry,” he said. “We should be highly motivated.”

Honor roll: The following seniors will be recognized tonight: Francisco Cuellar, Rob Frantz, Wanya Hall, Seth Handley, Zane Herbel, Colton Herrell, Caleb Humphrey, Johnny Lawrence, Demetrius Lofton, Justin Luckette, Alex McCoy, Logan Miller, Chance Pryor, Jake Scott, Lance Smith and  Mike Walker.

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