By Bruce Campbell, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
WAUKOMIS, Okla. —
Waukomis will have a “special weapon’’ when the Chiefs host No. 2-ranked Pond Creek-Hunter at 7:30 tonight in a District B-1 contest.
Sophomore Justus Crites had kickoff returns of 95 and 76 yards for touchdowns in a 61-50 loss to Seiling last week. He just missed a third when the last man got him on a shoestring tackle.
“I never had anyone do that before,’’ said Waukomis coach Jon Claborn, who gave out awards to all special team members. “It was pretty special.’’
Crites had kickoff returns for scores against Kremlin-Hillsdale and Garber as well. Seiling coach Bruce Hendrickson called Crites “maybe the best player in the district’’ before the game.
“He has good vision and speed,’’ Claborn said of Crites. “He has really good footwork in the open field. He’s hard to tackle because he’s so good about making people miss. He cuts back really well in the open field.’’
Quarterback Crites has rushed for five touchdowns in the Chiefs’ three district games, but his skills come out even more as a kick returner.
“Kickoffs are the best opportunity to showcase those skills,’’ Claborn said. “It’s hard to do when you’re under center. When he can get in a situation where he’s one-on-one or two-on-one, he can use that space between him and the defender to use that ability.’’
The only trouble is Crites may be getting too many opportunities to return kicks. The Chiefs are allowing 61.3 points per game.
“But it’s a great counterpunch,’’ Claborn said. “When somebody has a six-to-eight play drive to score and you run one back, it takes a little bit of wind out of their sails.’’
The Chiefs’ (1-3 overall and 0-3 in district) district losing streak hit 13 with the Seiling loss. Claborn, though, could see some positives.
The Chiefs were driving when the game ended. They had 266 yards rushing and another 147 in the air.
“We were down 21 at one point, but the kids never quit,’’ Claborn said. “We got a few stops and we were chipping away at the lead. We’re still learning, we’re still trying to get better.’’
Crites has thrown touchdown passes to four different receivers — Riley Williams, Zach Prince, Aaron Harrington and Chance Mullens.
Kickoff: 7:30 tonight
Records: Pond Creek-Hunter (4-0, 3-0), Waukomis (1-3, 0-3)
Series: PC-Hunter leads 15-5
Last: PC-H won 52-6, 2012
Prince and Williams had pass interceptions. For the first time in Claborn’s 14-game reign at Waukomis, the Chiefs were on the positive side of turnovers.
Senior defensive lineman Austin Thorlton was recognized with a special award for his effort against Seiling. Thorlton, at 170 pounds, has been giving up 40 to 50 pounds on a weekly basis.
“He’s got a few bumps and bruises, but it hasn’t affected his effort,’’ Claborn said.
Meanwhile, Pond Creek-Hunter (4-0 overall and 3-0 district) doesn’t appear to have a weakness.
Quarterback Josh Irvin has thrown for 458 yards and six TDs. Zach Rayner (7 catches for 253 yards, 4 TDs) heads a deep group of receivers. Trent Grimes (346 yards rushing, 11.16 yard per carry average) and Harley Comeau (235 yards rushing, 6.71 yard per carry average form a 1-2 running punch
The Panther defense has allowed only one touchdown and has forced 11 turnovers — five fumbles and six interceptions. The only blemish is four lost fumbles against Medford last week.
“They’re really good,’’ said Claborn of last year’s defending state runnersup. “A lot of people think they’re better than last year, but that’s for coach (David) Kerr to determine.’’
Claborn is taking a positive attitude as the heaviest of underdogs.
“We need to find a few areas where we can have success and show that we can play with the big boys,’’ Claborn said. “If we can do that, it’s a sign we’re headed in the right direction.’’
The game was moved to Thursday when the original officials backed out.