By Ryan Costello, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
KINGFISHER, Okla. —
When the NFL’s New Orleans Saints beat their NFC South rival Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, Kingfisher head football coach Jeff Myers sent a text message to Yellowjacket and University of Oklahoma alum Curtis Lofton, congratulating the fifth-year linebacker on beating his old team.
The response Myers received wasn’t a simple “Thanks, coach,” or even its abbreviated text-message translation, “Thx.”
Instead, the jist, albeit dotted with more “choice” tidbits, was simple: “Dominate Tuttle.”
Even for a starting NFL linebacker whose team is on the rebound from an unexpected 0-4 start and an alleged pay-for-injury scandal, the matchup between longtime rivals, No. 1 Kingfisher (11-0) and No. 4 Tuttle (10-1), including the next installment 7:30 p.m. Friday in a second-round 3A State Playoff in Kingfisher, isn’t forgotten.
“He obviously follows us and keeps up on us,” Myers said.
It’s understandable why.
From 1990-2010, the two teams played every year, a streak that ended last season. Tuttle laughed most in the rivalry’s history, winning 15 of 22 tilts since 1990, and 20 of 30 overall, but Kingfisher laughed last, winning the most recent game, 14-8, in the second round of the 2010 playoffs, when the Yellowjackets finished state runner-ups.
“The last time we met, we beat them on their turf,” Myers said. “I’m sure they haven’t forgotten that. These kids … they were sophomores, the ones that are seniors now, and have played against us. There’s probably a little bit of dislike there.”
“Through seventh-, eighth-, ninth-grade, my senior group has always played them,” said senior Kingfisher quarterback Grant Newton. “They beat us seventh-, eighth- and ninth-grade, so we have a little bit of hatred for them. Always have.”
Even junior linebacker Triston Ransom, who lost his only chance to play the Tigers with a broken foot during his freshman season, understands the weight of the matchup.
“I think we’re going to man-up to the challenge,” said the leading tackler and a key cog in the Yellowjackets’ rock-solid defense, the performance of which likely will be one of, if not the determining factor of the rivalry’s 2012 chapter.
Kingfisher’s defensive squad has allowed a meager 4.1 points per contest, pitching seven shutouts, including a mid-season run of five straight against Star Spencer, Marshall, Oklahoma Centennial, Bethel and Newcastle.
While Myers admitted the Yellowjackets’ schedule wasn’t stocked with 3A’s most powerful offensive units, Ransom didn’t see any reason to expect significant scoring for the Tigers.
“We know what they’re going to do,” he said. “We’re bigger, stronger, faster.”
Which might be the only key to defensive success.
The Tigers’ double-wing, single-back offense isn’t flashy, and it’s not a riddle. It’s a fitness test, but for defenses, it hasn’t been an easy one. The Tigers have punished their way to a10-1 mark behind a ground game that contributed the lion’s share of Tuttle’s 41.5 points per contest.
“They’re not anything fancy,” Myers said. “They’re not what you see everybody doing — spread out gun, pistol-type stuff. You know what’s coming, it’s just a matter of whether you can stop it or not.”
So the rivalry perhaps best expressed as a donnybrook may well be determined by one on Friday, with the winner advancing to the 3A state quarterfinals, the smaller prize to some.
“There’s going to be a lot of people here Friday night, and it’ll be something we’ll remember,” Newton said. “If we lose Friday night, it’ll be the last game that I have in my memory, so it’ll definitely be important for us to go out and give it all we’ve got.”