GARBER, Okla. — Koy Hughes couldn't be more excited as the new head coach of the Garber Wolverines.
After a team camp at Pond-Creek Hunter, Hughes and his Wolverines were back in competition during the 2019 McDonalds 5-on-5 Shootout at the Stride Bank Center on Saturday night before the Oklahoma Flying Aces home game.
"This is my Yankees job," Hughes said. "This is where I wanted to be."
It's not as though he dreaded his job as Waukomis' head coach. He loved his years with the Chiefs, Hughes said.
"I never envisioned leaving Waukomis for any other job," he said. "The only job I would ever leave Waukomis for is my hometown."
The Wolverines put their passing might on full display in the 5-on-5 Shootout. Junior quarterback T.J. Bennett threw touchdown after touchdown against the Waukomis Chiefs.
Hughes said it was an odd feeling seeing Waukomis from the other side.
"It's definitely bittersweet," he said.
Hughes, a former computer programmer, had coached junior and senior Chiefs, including tight end and defensive end Cooper Wieden; a sizable weapon for Hughes that is now a large threat.
"You can't really put a body on him," Hughes said of Wieden. "He's a monster and a great kid. He's definitely going to be playing on Saturdays in a couple of years."
Wieden caught several touchdowns for the Chiefs. But Garber's defense was able to contain Wieden and the Chiefs offense in the Wolverines' 62-32 win. Garber tied, 12-12, with Covington-Douglas in overtime of the championship round of the shootout.
Hughes will be Garber's fourth head coach in as many years. Initially, he was coming to Garber as the defensive coordinator, but the departure of Blake Lamle gave Hughes the opportunity to step in as head coach.
His introduction to his new team wasn't too long as Hughes already knew roughly three-quarters of the team. He had known some players all their lives, and the Wolverines knew their new head coach was a hometown boy just like them.
"I think they know where my heart's at," Hughes said. "It's here."
Seniors Will Curl and Koda Oller said when Hughes promised to return the traditions of Garber football, it brought a "big excitement" to the program.
"It feels like the last couple of years, we lost that with all these new coaches," Curl said. "Here at Garber, we have our own traditions and want to stick to (them). When Coach Hughes came in and said we're going to stick with (them), I think that got the guys on his side."
Those Garber traditions include holding up the football helmets during kickoffs and Thursday night dinners on game week. Oller said those traditions were done away with in their sophomore year. Even long-standing traditions, like painting the field before every home game, were nixed.
"That was something we'd done for 20-plus years," Oller said.
The promise of restored traditions, in turn, restored the Wolverines' faith in the future.
"It made us feel better about the season," Oller said. "We can have a successful season with the traditions we grew up having."
Though Hughes is installing his new system, Oller said some of the offensive plays in the new playbook are similar to what the Wolverines ran in his freshman year. Garber has always been more of a passing team, an uncharacteristic trait in the world of eight-man football. But in the last few seasons, opposing defenses forced Garber's offense to revert back to relying on the run-game.
Now, Oller and Curl feel like the passing identity of Garber football has also returned with Hughes' arrival.
Hughes said his Wolverines played "outstanding" and the 5-on-5 Shootout was an "awesome" opportunity to get their routes and formations down.
"They did everything I wanted them to do," he said.
It's just a small sample of what the Wolverines will be bringing to the football field and what they will return to Garber this fall.
"I think this can be our bounce-back year," Curl said. "We're known for football and it used to be a football town … We just want to bring that back. We want to bring the tradition and the culture back to Garber.
"We're glad to know we have a solid coach, a solid fan base and we're ready to get ourselves back on the map."
Flying Aces roll over Savages
The Oklahoma Flying Aces (2-7) routed the North-Texas Savages, 56-8, in an exhibition game Saturday night at the Stride Bank Center. The Flying Aces will play the Duke City Gladiators Saturday at Stride Bank Center.