NORTH ENID, Okla. — No more preseason practices. No more scrimmages.
“The pressure is definitely on now,” Chisholm senior quarterback Kaleb Dent said Thursday afternoon at the start of walkthrough practice. “Everybody’s expecting us to be completely ready.
“And we’re ready.”
From here on out wins and losses count, and the Longhorns will do their best to make their record 1-0 when they host Weatherford at 7 p.m.
“It’s going to be huge,” Dent said of the Longhorns home opener.
When these two teams opened the 2018 football season, Weatherford christened its home-opener with a 35-14 win over Chisholm. The Longhorns' three-touchdown loss was the result of a slow start and “soft” play from the offense and defense.
“They’re a really good team,” head coach Joey Reinart said of Weatherford. “I just feel like from our standpoint we were kind of playing on our heels and playing pretty soft … If we can fix that, we can hang around in the game and give them a run for their money.”
Chisholm didn’t score until the third quarter last season. Playing at home this time around could boost the Longhorns’ starting momentum, Reinart said. But what will really help is Chisholm's depth.
“We can keep people a little more fresh this year rather than just run them into the ground for four quarters,” he said. “Hopefully, we got enough guys to rotate, barring injury, we should be OK in that area.”
Reinart said he was pleased with what he saw from Chisholm in last week’s scrimmages against Cushing and Jones. Dent echoed his coach’s sentiment, adding he felt good in the Longhorns offense and embraced the change of scenery from the intra-squad practices.
“It was really nice to see some guys coming at me,” he said, adding the scrimmages helped him prepare to make good reads against live competition, as well as practice his ball placement on passes.
The defense was not to be outdone by Chisholm’s offense.
“The defense came out and (went) lights out,” said senior linebacker Hudson Fields.
The Longhorns' defensive front was able to secure tackles-for-loss out of the gate.
Since last season, Fields said the Chisholm defense’s tenacity has gotten much better.
“Hungrier for sure,” he said. “It’s more than just one guy making the tackle. It’s a swarm.”
Chisholm’s defense isn’t filled with Longhorns but rather “some bad dudes.”
“This defense is special to be a part of and I’m lucky to be able to kind of lead them in the right direction,” Fields said.
Like Chisholm, Weatherford will be returning plenty of talent on both sides of the ball, like junior tight end and defensive end Ethan Downs, a Division I recruit with attention from Oklahoma, Texas and Texas A&M. Downs also has experience as a running back.
Reinart said based on the Eagles’ scrimmage film, he expects Weatherford will try and spread the Chisholm defense. But that’s just his guess.
“They may show up and run heavy back two-back sets,” he said. "Right now you just have a limited amount of stuff to look at. But they did run a little bit more spread formations than they did last year in their scrimmage.”
Dent, who played backup to Braden Meek, said last year’s season-opener was “pretty nerve-wracking” for a junior-laden Chisholm team.
“But this year has just changed and we’re hungry,” he said. “A whole bunch of hungry seniors.”
That hunger is what drives Chisholm’s tenacious defense.
“We kind of got kicked in a couple of games,” Fields said. “Just teams trying to run straight down our throat.”
Preparation and trust in the game plan “takes care of it all,” Dent said. Fields and the defense, however, had a different plan: just smack people around.
“The faster you start and the faster you hit them in the mouth,” Fields said. “You’re just going to bury a team.
Chisholm to honor military
The Longhorns’ home-opener will also be Military Appreciation Night. The Longhorns will wear commemorative jerseys with red, white and blue colors to honor military veterans.
Reinart said the idea was something he happened upon “several years ago” and everything came together this year to make the idea a reality. Reinart said committees comprised of Chisholm mothers were formed to help organize the event.
“They just took it and ran with it,” he said.
Chisholm will recognize military veterans before the start of the game and the Longhorns will have honorary military captains as well. Veterans will also be honored at halftime.
The Military Appreciation Night will raise money for Warriors for Freedom, an organization that helps service members, veterans and their families reconnect with their community, as well as provide support. Replica jerseys, T-shirts, and other items will be sold at the game.