As the Enid Plainsmen football team prepares for its final game of a long season, it also marks the final game for Enid's 10 seniors.
With the Plainsmen (0-9, 0-6) welcoming defending Class 6A1 champion Broken Arrow (7-2, 5-1) to D. Bruce Selby Stadium for a Friday 7 p.m. kickoff on Senior Night, it will be a chance to recognize the small, but dedicated, senior class that stuck it out during a very difficult season.
"I definitely am appreciative of those guys' hard work and hanging in there and showing they're not quitters," said Plainsmen head coach Rashaun Woods. "It says something that they will see it to the end. They're playing hard."
While only half or so of the seniors on the roster have been regular contributors – as Enid grooms its younger players – those who stuck it out have made an impression.
The team's leading rusher, Trent Mitchell (548 yards on the season), had his best game of the season leading up to Senior Night.
Mitchell rushed for a season-best 144 yards in last week's loss at Yukon, including a 51-yard touchdown run, his third TD of the season. Fellow senior Nickey Chinoska has Enid's only other rushing touchdown this season.
Woods said it's the culmination of Mitchell turning it around during the offseason and dedicating himself to being better.
"He really worked hard this summer and this year," Woods said. "He’s one of the guys that bought in and did everything he could to be the best he could. The only thing that pains me is just not having more years with him with that kind of work ethic. Yeah, he’s had some ups and downs, but I’ve been really proud of how hard he’s worked. It’s one of those deals where, man, if you could have gotten that kind of effort for four years, you imagine what could have been. But you’re still thankful that you got this last year that he was able to perform and do some things."
But Mitchell isn't the only senior to have impressed Woods, who has made no secret that only those who showed commitment to "doing things the right way," were going to get playing time, regardless of class. Perhaps no other player has exemplified that more than Jadon Dimarucut, who, despite his size, has been a defensive leader all season.
"Jadon has always been a pretty good player," Woods said. "He's a good leader and he loves to play. Again, he's a guy that's done some good things for us on the defensive side of the ball this year."
One of the bigger senior surprises turned out to be Jadon's brother, Sebastian, who made his presence known later in the season, particularly on special teams return duties.
"He came on late," Woods said. "He was kind of on the fence about even coming out. Didn't really see him much of the year and then he decided all of a sudden he was going to do it. Once he decided, he was all in."
Undoubtedly the biggest disappointment was the loss of senior linebacker and team co-captain Dylan Gau, who went down with a knee injury in the second game of the season and never saw the field again.
"To lose him in the second game was flat-out devastating," Woods said. "We've had some injuries, but that one probably has to be one of the bigger ones."
Woods hopes when the seniors, including contributors like lineman Kaleb Stanley and Chinoska, walk off the field Friday night they will have the satisfaction of being part of the start of the hoped-for turnaround for Enid.
"To know they had a stake in what came down the road for those guys (that followed)," Woods said. "Competing and doing the things they needed to do. The seniors that are still playing are doing so because they showed up every day and are doing what we asked them to do. So we give them respect."
The odds of the Plainsmen walking off the field tonight with a win tonight though are fairly insurmountable.
Broken Arrow comes in tied at the top of District 6A1-1 with Edmond Santa Fe at 5-1. However, the Wolves hold the tiebreaker over the Tigers by virtue of their 23-21 win over Broken Arrow. It means the Tigers are coming to Enid with first place still in their sights. A win by Broken Arrow and a loss by Edmond Santa Fe to Norman would clinch first place for Broken Arrow.
The Tigers roster, which totals around 125 players, is dotted with a half-dozen or Division 1 commits and playmakers. Junior running back Sanchez Banks rushed for 155 yards and two touchdowns in Broken Arrow's 45-8 win over Edmond Memorial last week and needs 136 yards to reach 1,000 yards for the season.
Woods is upfront about the task at hand Friday night.
"We're looking for guys to be playing hard," Woods said. "I talk to them all the time about that. You hate being in a situation where you can't compete, but you have to enjoy competing. Not enjoying the losing part of it, but competing at a high level."
Series: This will be the 11th all-time meeting between Enid and Broken Arrow. The Tigers, who lead the series 8-2, routed Enid 76-0 in last season's finale at Broken Arrow. Hours later, Enid head coach Steve Hayes announced he was stepping down after four years at the helm. Enid's last win over Broken Arrow was a 40-13 victory in the quarterfinals of the 1991 playoffs.