Coming off a winless season, the goals for the Enid Plainsmen football team would have been expected to be fairly modest, especially considering the struggles of the program since it last had a winning season, going 6-4 in 2010.
But six games into the 2020 season, the Plainsmen were a surprising 3-3 with a chance to go over .500 that late in the season for the first time since the 2010 campaign. For Enid's head coach, the Plainsmen were right on track for one of his preseason objectives.
"My goal this year was to break .500," said Rashaun Woods on Wednesday. "I felt like that was being optimistic for sure considering the struggles the team has had the past 3-4 years or so. Looking at it now with two games left, we had a real opportunity to do that."
Leading 14-0 early last week at Norman the Plainsmen (3-4, 1-3) did appear to be on track to go above .500 and against a decent Tigers team before falling 35-20. The Plainsmen were done-in by a 21-point Norman third quarter but still battled back. Down 28-20, Enid had the ball but came up short on fourth down before Norman added a late touchdown.
"I feel like our defense, with the exception of the third quarter, was really, really good," Woods said. "They did an excellent job of keeping them at bay, but just didn't do it enough. ... Down toward the end we had a chance to tie, but didn't make enough plays."
It was a far cry from last year's 55-7 drubbing at the hands of Norman.
But maybe that should not have surprised anybody. As Woods points out, the Plainsmen have been in every game this season.
"We have played seven games and we were in all seven," he said. But don't take that to mean Woods is satisfied.
"I think offensively and defensively we are light years ahead of where we have been the last 2-3 years," he said. "That's promising from a coaching standpoint, but at the same time, you always want more. It gets frustrating because now you are competing, but you get a little more frustrated because you work so hard at it and just miss the mark.
"As disappointing as it is, you can't beat yourself up about it and just look at the next week and prepare to have a good showing next week."
The task gets more imposing this week as the Plainsmen welcome one of the top teams in 6A1 Friday at 7 p.m. when Edmond Santa Fe comes to D. Bruce Selby Stadium. To make it a little more challenging, the weather earlier in the week did not help matters with an usual pre-Halloween ice storm blanketing Enid causing numerous power outages and closings, crimping preparations.
"We still don't have power in the locker room," said Woods whose own household was into Day 2 of no electricity. "We didn't have practice (Tuesday) and practiced in the gym the day before."
Not the best situation when preparing for a team that defeated fellow 6A1 powerhouse Broken Arrow 35-28 last week to improve to 5-2 overall and 4-0 in district.
Woods said the Wolves are the best team Enid will face this year. "No question, I think they're easily in the top 3 in all of 6A1," he said. "They beat a big time opponent last week in Broken Arrow."
The Wolves can attack from several angles as Broken Arrow discovered last week. Edmond Santa Fe's Ethane Hyche rushed for 162 yards, Angelo Rankin returned a kick 85 yards and if that's not enough, recent University of Oklahoma commit, wide receiver Talyn Shettron, hauled in a Scott Pfeiffer pass for a 47-yard score.
The Wolves are averaging 460.6 yards per game on offense.
"They are one of the top talent teams in the state, no question about it," Woods said. "They've got three or four Division 1, maybe even five Division 1 athletes. But so did Norman last week. They have a couple as well."
Woods' point is well taken. The Plainsmen have frequently gone toe-to-toe this season with teams that, mostly due to numbers superiority, have more top tier athletes.
Enid though is developing its own playmakers, especially over the past few weeks with sophomore Luke Rauh at running back and sophomore Tykie Andrews at wide receiver developing into legit 6A1 threats themselves.
Woods has previously praised Andrews, who leads the team with 28 receptions for 515 yards, and Wednesday offered a similar assessment of Rauh.
"He's going to be a big time player, he is right now," Woods said. Rauh rushed for team-high 80 yards on 23 carries last week and is averaging a team-best 6.8 yards per carry this season. "The other guys are still doing well too. He was going to give us a different look and he had a good game against Edmond Memorial. We gave him the call last week and he showed why and he gave us more confidence to call his number along with a lot of the younger guys.
"We'll still struggle with numbers, but seeing those young guys like that make plays right now is promising. We feel good about where we're at as a program."
The Plainsmen will again be without the services of left tackle Aiden Crawford. Left guard Eric Ford and safety Tyler Chorleton are out for the year.
Edmond Santa Fe leads the series 3-1 and won 69-14 last year.
Friday night's game can be heard on KCRC (1390) AM and viewed on Suddenlink Channel 19.