ENID, Okla. — Oftentimes a questionable on-field officiating call is magnified when it impacts a potential game-winning or game-losing moment at the end of a football game. But there can be many other calls along the way that impact the game.
Take Enid's game last week against Lawton MacArthur.
Down 14-7, but seeming to have moment, the Plainsmen came up with a critical fourth-quarter play on defense when cornerback John White delivered a solid hit on the Mac receiver that was ruled helmet-to-helmet. Not only did the penalty give the Highlanders a big first down, it meant White, one of Enid's playmakers, was ejected and would therefore have been unavailable for Enid's game this week against Jenks.
On the next play, and given fresh life, the Highlanders' Nasir Kemper scored on a 42-yard run for a touchdown that provided the final margin of victory for MacArthur in a classic momentum-changing moment that never should have been.
After last week's game, Enid head coach Rashaun Woods was none too pleased with the call. The good news is the team filed an appeal with Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association, including providing game film, which MacArthur also sent in. The film showed it was a clear shoulder hit and White did not lead with his helmet.
OSSAA granted Enid's appeal and White will be back in the lineup.
While pleased to have White available for this week's tough matchup against Jenks (2-1) in the District 6A1-1 opener for both teams, it didn't undo the damage from last week.
"It was not the call it should have been and we knew it wasn't," Woods said on Wednesday. "That's why it was such a difficult one to deal with. We wished we had that opportunity back, but you can't. There's no use crying over spoiled milk."
Having White back is a bonus Friday night at 7 p.m. at D. Bruce Selby Stadium when Enid faces the powerhouse Trojans. However, the Plainsmen were nearly able to overcome miscues, mistakes, penalties and missed opportunities, the Trojans won't be as forgiving of an opponent.
The Plainsmen committed 16 penalties for 142 yards — many of which killed their own momentum — and failed to connect on several offensive opportunities, including missing some catches.
"That's definitely been our focal point in practice, along with execution," Woods said. "When we do execute, we are playing a lot better brand of football. The penalties continue to be addressed by the coaching staff and we're really working on them in practice to improve on these."
Woods said it won't result in lineup changes.
"No, not at all," he said. "It's just accountability situations. So, if a kid jumps offside, or the ball goes to the ground, he pays in the form of running ... or anything that helps him focus in on eliminating mistakes."
A definite bright spot last week was the play in the defensive secondary by Daigen Gibbens, who had two critical interceptions. Woods said the team is working this week on getting him more involved also as a receiver.
"Him playing both ways is really the only guy that's playing significant snaps both ways," Woods said of Gibbens. "We've got to figure out how to get him the ball on offense more. We're definitely calling his number number to get the ball, it just hasn't worked out yet."
Enid's loss last week though shouldn't take the shine off a 2-1 non-district campaign.
"We've definitely improved and that's the goal of out team is to continue to improve, win games and I think we're passing that test right now," Woods said. "We want to continue to do that going into district play, which is going to continue to be even more difficult."
Enid's defense has been fairly stout this season, allowing only 38 points over the past three games, including an opening 63-0 shutout of Madill. But that hasn't surprised Woods.
"Those guys have been working hard," he said. "They've increased their physicality significantly from last year ... and you are seeing some of that improvement on game day.
"C.J. Adams is really playing well upfront, as well as Donovan Rieman at defensive end, Savian Vasquez, Luis Vega and Carlos Avlarado at linebacker. Of course we've already mentioned Gibbens and White."
The ground game has been productive this year as well with Johnny Villa rushing for 275 yards and four touchdowns this season, and the passing game has improved.
"I'm happy with his progression as well as the offensive line," Woods said. "Just the offense as a whole. We've done a lot of good things. We can move the football."
Quarterback Blake Priest has shown steady improvement. His stat line from last week (10-26 for 159 yards and one interception) was a bit deceptive with several potential catches instead falling to the ground.
Woods noted the team's responding well.
"Our morale and demeanor is a 180 complete turnaround (from last year)," he said. "We're getting a lot done everyday. That's just part of the improvement. The locker room as a whole is a positive place."
Enid now focuses on an opponent this week that has, over the past several years, been the most dominant program in 6A. But Woods said the team, while knowing what Jenks has to offer, is not feeling intimidated.
"It's something these guys are not afraid of," Woods said. "All of the guys were in the game last year (a 62-10 loss at Jenks). We know the caliber of team we're playing. ... They understand the challenge they're facing, but that doesn't mean they're not going to be ready to play."
Jenks is coming off a bye week after shutting out rival Tulsa Union 28-0. The (ranking here) Trojans opened the season with a 31-15 win over Springdale (Ark.) Har-Ber, but fell 42-35 to Bixby the next week.
The Trojans, as always, are deep and talented and every player will demand Enid's attention, maybe none more so than senior wide receiver / cornerback Jayden Patrick, who caught a touchdown pass, threw a touchdown pass and intercepted a pass in Jenks' win over Union.
"They're the measuring stick not only for Enid, but probably for everybody in Oklahoma," Woods said of Jenks. "There's only a couple of teams that can compete with them for four quarters in the state. That's the monster that's been built over there.
"Jenks is going to come in here and bring the environment of being the top program in 6A1. They've got the numbers, they've got the financial backing. Whatever it is high school teams to be a dominant program, they've got it. But that's all right."
Senior Night: Enid will be celebrating Senior Night on Friday as well making its home debut. With the constant potential threat of games being canceled in the age of COVID-19, most teams are opting for early Senior Night celebrations. Just this week, Hennessey and Enid's fellow district member, Westmoore, have shut down their football programs for the next two weeks due to positive coronavirus tests.
"I'm thankful, and I know the guys are, the seniors in particular, that they've gotten to play three games," Woods said. He added he felt it was important the community got to see the improvement of the team and would have been disappointed for the players if they had not been able to show that.
"I think there's a sense of happiness that people have gotten a chance to see (the improvement)," Woods said. "The last game could be Friday or could be three weeks or we could possibly finish the season, who knows. But, having a chance to play as many as we have so far, the guys are definitely happy about that."
Friday night's game can be heard on KCRC (1390 AM) and viewed on Suddenlink Channel 19.