By Ryan Costello, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Now clear of what likely will finish on paper as Chisholm’s most challenging three weeks in the regular season, the Longhorns are headed to what should be their easiest stretch.
Not that they’re keeping track.
After a short non-district vacation against Crooked Oak, Chisholm (5-1, 1-1 in 2A-1) returns to 2A-1 play at 7:30 p.m. against struggling Perry (1-5, 0-3), the first of a two-game set against teams in the district basement. The Longhorns play seventh-place Pawnee next week and Newkirk (3-3, 1-1) the week after, a slate that follows games against district favorites Alva and Hennessey, and Crooked Oak, a playoff team a season ago and now 4-2 overall.
“It’s not easy,” said Chisholm coach Joey Reinart. “Perry’s been a consistent playoff team the last four or five years, and you’re looking at Newkirk, which is pretty much even with everybody else. These final four games are pretty evenly matched, especially late in the season when everybody’s dinged up a little bit.”
Chisholm’s return to district play comes on the Longhorns’ first short week of the season, having won their season opener against OBA 36-22 in their only other Thursday game.
The matchup couldn’t be much friendlier.
Perry has struggled to hold onto the ball in six games this season, losing 16 turnovers (a minus-7 margin) to only 11 touchdowns scored.
The Maroons’ 12.8 points per game is 50th among 2A teams, last in 2A-1, and isn’t likely to improve against Chisholm’s 14th-ranked defense at 14.8 points against per game and 12 takeaways, four of them last week against Crooked Oak.
Senior Perry quarterback Cooper Sluzacek has one touchdown and nine interceptions, freshman Dawson Padilla has one and neither QB has completed higher than 37 percent of his passes.
“We always key on turnovers every week coming into it,” said receiver and cornerback Austin Swann, who grabbed two of his team-high four interceptions against Crooked Oak. “But looking at the stats, seeing 10 interceptions, and watching them on film, he just kind of tosses it up, so if I can just go kind of ‘out-athleticize’ the other team and just get the ball, it’s kind of nice to know.”
The Longhorns’ offense, meanwhile, faces a second consecutive leaky defense after scoring a season-high 54 points behind their most balanced production of 2013.
Taggart Brown set season bests in completion percentage and yards for the second straight game, completing 9-of-12 attempts for 153 yards and a score, and Bailey Cross completed a 20-yard pass to bump the Longhorns’ total through the air to 173, the highest one-game passing output in Reinart’s five seasons. This week, they face 2A-1’s worst scoring defense, averaging 30.2 points against.
“That shows teams that we’re more than just (fullback) Bryce (Stewart),” Swann said. “Passing it, opening everything up, shows we’re a pretty big factor passing and running … Normally teams are keying on ‘hit Bryce, hit Bryce, hit Bryce, hit the running back, make them throw.’ Every team’s been doing that, and we’ve been proving that we can throw the ball.”
Chisholm still rushed for 216 yards with workhorse Stewart shelved for much of the game last week with an ankle injury, including 61 yards from freshman Beaux Biggers, who scored his first career touchdown.
Stewart is slated to return for Chisholm, as is Brown, who also left Friday’s win with an ankle injury. �