The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving practice tradition for Kingfisher

By Bruce Campbell, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Something was missing from Thanksgiving in Kingfisher last season.

Football practice.

For the first time since 2005, the Yellowjackets weren’t preparing for a semifinal or quarterfinal playoff game after losing to eventual champion Anadarko 44-7 in the second round.

“It’s kind of an addiction,’’ Kingfisher head football coach Jeff Myers said of holiday practices. “Once you don’t get there, you wonder what you do with the time that you have.’’

The Yellowjackets, ranked No. 1 in Class 3A, righted the ship this year by reaching the quarterfinals with wins over Lone Grove, 56-6 and No. 4 Tuttle, 35-14.

They will host Stigler (10-2) at 7:30 tonight, but not before celebrating Thanksgiving with a morning practice.

“It’s a treat and an honor,’’ Myers said. “Our goal is to always be practicing on Thanksgiving. The coaches are in the same boat as the kids. It’s just something we enjoy.’’

The Yellowjackets have won their last four holiday week games. Myers said Kingfisher has been “blessed.’’

“It’s not like we haven’t been here before,’’ he said. “We approach it like we do Week 3 or 4. With the great weather we have been having, it’s even nicer.’’

The Yellowjackets defense, which has posted seven shutouts this season, might have had its best performance of the season against Tuttle.

The Tigers managed only 13 yards rushing, the ninth time an opponent has been held to under 100 yards. Four have been held to less than 25 yards rushing.

“If the kids play at the same level that they played against Tuttle, I would feel good about our chances against anybody,’’ Myers said. “To hold a team like Tuttle, which lives and dies by the run, to 13 yards, that’s huge.’’

The defensive line of Mitch Henderson, Kayden Jackson, Cole Cameron, Chris Ludwig, Tristan Ransom and Cole Lack “owned the line of scrimmage’’ against Tuttle with both physical play and quickness. Gavin Squires has been a contributor in the line as well.

“They took it personally,’’ Myers said. “They played as well as they could play. They played with a chip on their shoulder. When they play like that, we give people fits.’’

Kingfisher has given up only three rushing touchdowns. They have given up only four touchdown passes. Tuttle had 121 yards passing, including a 37-yard touchdown pass. The Tigers’ other score came on a pass interception.

“We may give up a pass here and there, but we don’t give up the home run ball,’’ Myers said. “On the touchdown pass, the Tuttle quarterback threw a great ball. We were right on the receiver, but he made a great catch.’’

Ransom, normally a linebacker, leads the team in tackles with 67, followed by Dylan Blundell with 66 and Tyler Shepard with 60.

“Our kids fly to the football,’’ Myers said. “They tackle well. That’s a big part of our success.’’

Stigler, which has beaten Jay 55-28 and Berryhill 42-21 in the playoffs so far, is led by quarterback Cade Shearwood, who has passed for 1,896 yards and 19 touchdowns and has ran for another 1,679 and 20 scores.

Seth Sandlin has rushed for 1,147 yards and 12 scores. Colton Shearwood has caught 46 passes for 770 yards and eight scores.

“They are a little bit of an unknown for us,’’ Myers said. “Everybody feels good about themselves the way we won it last week. The challenge is to keep the same kind of intensity and keep the kids’ focus. We had a lot of competition in the past with Tuttle that we don’t with Stigler.’’

The Panthers will have to travel some three-and-a-half hours to Kingfisher, while the Yellowjackets will be able to relax at home.

“That’s pretty big,’’ Myers said. “Nobody likes traveling for a long time because it pretty much drains your day.’’

Kingfisher’s players will come in for breakfast and a film session on Friday morning and then will be let go until game time.

“We just want them to stay off their feet,’’ Myers said. “They can play video games and hang out. This is a fun week. Not many people have the opportunity to do this on a regular basis.’’

Kingfisher’s offense showed its usual balance against Tuttle with 283 yards rushing and another 126 passing.

Quarterback Grant Newton has thrown for 1,249 yards and 14 touchdowns and has rushed for another 795 and 16 touchdowns. Landon Nault has rushed for 1,564 yards and 27 touchdowns.

Jake Blair has 35 receptions for 530 yards and eight touchdowns. Nault has 33 catches for 367 yards and two touchdowns.

“Our offensive coaches did a great job scheming against Tuttle,’’ Myers said. “We kept them off-balance, which is usually the recipe for success. We were able to burn the clock which makes it easier on the defensive side of the ball.’’

The Kingfisher-Stigler winner plays the Metro Christian-Seminole winner next week in the semifinals at a neutral site to be announced by the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association.