ENID, Okla. — The new era of Plainsmen football under first-year head coach Rashaun Woods begins Friday when Enid travels to face a familiar non-district foe.
It will be the 36th all-time meeting between Guthrie and Enid when the teams meet Friday at 7 p.m. Enid holds a significant edge in the series, but Guthrie has held the upper hand recently.
Coming out of last week's scrimmage at Bixby, Woods has seen progress heading into the season-opener, but stresses the team remains "a work in progress."
"We played hard, but still have a ways to go," he said. "We have the ability to compete, we just have to continue to pound home the fundamentals. Keep working on those things and continue to improve."
Certainly a positive sign was the Plainsmen (1-9 in 2018), who had seven turnovers in last year's 57-19 opening night loss to Guthrie, committed only one turnover last week at Bixby.
"We turned the ball over one time in the scrimmage, but overall the ball security was there," Woods said. "The only interception was a ball that went through the receiver's hands. The DB was right there and it went to him."
Woods said the current Plainsmen are "aware of how bad" last year's game against Guthrie turned out. "Nobody wants to get in a situation where you turn the ball over that many times," Woods said. Five of the Plainsmen's seven turnovers went directly for defensive scores. The Plainsmen otherwise dominated the game, outgaining the Bluejays, who finished 9-3 last year, by over 300 yards.
But nobody is dwelling on it. It's not only a fresh start head coaching wise, but for many of the players as well, with no more than a dozen or so seniors on the squad and the team focused on the immediate task at hand.
The team's focus on Guthrie (AP ranked No. 10 in Class 5A) this week included getting some work in on the grass behind the west end zone at D. Bruce Selby Stadium to get the players familiar with how the grass field at Guthrie may react differently to the turf surface at Selby.
Coming into the season-opener, junior quarterback Maddux Mayberry has established himself as the clear-cut starter.
"He's (Mayberry) doing really well," Woods said. "He's executing and understands the offense well."
Woods sees the run game as crucial to offensive success in making life easier for the signal-caller.
"You can see from any game you watch that no matter how good the quarterback is, if your running game is a positive one it helps the (quarterback) get even better."
Woods said Enid's running game offers a "1-2 punch" between senior Trent Mitchell and junior Johnny Villa with senior Nickey Chinoska getting an occasional carry. "Trent runs the ball hard and so does Villa," he said. " Those guys do a good job of finishing going forward."
Woods likes too what he has seen from junior Savion Vasquez catching the ball out of the backfield and his blocking ability. Likewise, junior tight end Tyler Holland has shown ability not just for catching the ball, but asa proficient blocker. Woods plans to make use of the tight end in the Plainsmen's offense.
Sophomore Daigen Gibbens, slated to start at the slot, will get his first live action against Guthrie after recovering from a hip flexor injury that kept him out of the Bixby scrimmage.
Enid's receivers have plenty of size this season such as 6-4 sophomore Cam Mathis and 6-3 junior Blake Priest.
"They're still progressing," said Woods, who also serves as the receivers coach. "I really enjoy coaching them. They're doing everything I'm asking them to do. ... They're really first-year guys at receiver. That's an interesting dynamic with that group with the developing talent and skill."
Woods also said he was "happy with most things" he has seen from the offensive line.
The Enid offense will be facing a Bluejays defense that only yielded 14.3 points per game last season and returns seven starters.
However, similar to Enid, the Bluejays will have several new starters on offense but will still pose a challenge to Enid's 3-4 defense.
"We have to be firm against the run," Woods said. "Coach (Weston) McGill (defensive coordinator) and company have done a good job of trying to make sure we're going to be ready for the first game. I am very interested to see how our defense is going to do this first game because we definitely need them to be doing well."
The Plainsmen defense allowed an average of 48.9 points per game last season.
A boost for the defense should be senior linebacker Dylan Gau, who is back to 100 percent and will be on the field for the Plainsmen Friday night after missing the scrimmage.
In order to defend Guthrie's offense, Woods points to fundamentals. "Do their job and run to the football to minimize what they do offensively is really the best thing."
As for opening game expectations?
"From a head coach perspective, it's all about doing things the right way, regardless of a win or a loss," Woods said. "Fans will always have an opinion, but as a coach, you know if things are going right. If we lose an individual battle here and there maybe because we're young or a guy is better than we are, to me that is something I can accept.
"But we can't accept bad football or bad plays (or) not knowing our assignment. Those are things we have to make sure that we correct. That way, if there's an opportunity to win a game we are doing everything possible to maximize the chance of going in there and winning."
Woods said the team is anxious to get the season started.
"They're (the players) excited," he said. "As we move forward we have to gain confidence in ourselves and I think with success, that happens. I'm excited and I know the coaches are as well. I feel like they're doing what they can to make sure the guys are coached up. There's a sense of urgency and just overall it's what I want to see out of the assistant coaches as a whole."
Friday's game can be heard on KCRC (1390 AM).
The series: Enid leads the overall series against Guthrie 23-10-2. The Plainsmen's most recent win over the Bluejays came in the 2017 opener 34-23 in a game that saw the Plainsmen jump out to a 28-3 halftime lead but may be best remembered for the opening series when Plainsmen junior running back Will Phillips was lost for the season, suffering a broken leg after being pulled down from behind. The win was Enid's first against Guthrie since 2010. ... The last time Enid visited Guthrie in 2016, the Plainsmen fell 22-19 in a game that featured a 58-minute weather delay. Friday's forecast calls for possible thunderstorms.