Ruthenberg: Early bye timely for Plainsmen

Enid's Tyese Neal (25) and Dylan Baker (28) combine to stop Ponca City's Ray Longoria Friday, Sept. 6 at D. Bruce Selby Stadium. (Billy Hefton / Enid News & Eagle)

One of the positives of Zero Week is that it provides a bye week for prep football teams that take advantage of the early season-opening date. One of the quirks though is the bye week comes in pretty early in the season. That is the case with the Enid Plainsmen, but the early break, coming after just two games, may not be all that bad of a deal for Enid.

The 0-2 Plainsmen may be able to take advantage of the early respite to get some players healthy and work to tweak a few things ahead of the final non-district game Sept. 20 at Bishop McGuinness and prior to the start of district play on Sept. 26 at Westmoore. There also are some definite positives as well.

The early slate though hasn't been overly kind to some of the Plainsmen's health.

Already injuries have seen some key players temporarily sidelined. In the opener against Guthrie, junior Johnny Villa sprained his knee early in the game and senior Trent Mitchell carried the rushing load.

The following week saw Villa healthy but Mitchell sat with a strained knee suffered at the end of the Guthrie game. Also injured in the opener was junior linebacker Hunter Filarski with a knee strain.

The home opener against Ponca City saw senior linebacker Dylan Gau leave the game with an apparent knee injury, a blow that head coach Rashaun Woods acknowledged after the 6-3 loss to the Wildcats was a tough one as Gau is one of the captains and a team leader.

Hopefully the week off between games will see the Plainsmen back to full health.

Trending: While indeed early, there are trends (some good, some bad) that have emerged and some playmakers too.

The Plainsmen defense has been, at times, nearly lights out. The Plainsmen have allowed only one touchdown over the past seven quarters.

Last week against Ponca City, the Plainsmen not only kept the Wildcats out of the end zone, but limited them to 257 yards of offense and only 34 yards passing. Jonathan White tallied his second pick of the season. The downside was Ponca did have a pair of 100-yard rushers.

One week earlier, Enid's defense limited Guthrie to a miserly 222 yards in their 23-21 loss. The defense though was put in a tough spot on Guthrie's first score, set up by an Enid turnover deep in Plainsmen territory. The Bluejays added a safety on a bad snap on a punt and scored again in the first quarter after setting up at midfield following a kickoff return.

Enid's offense has had some shining moments as well. Mitchell put up 73 yards rushing in the opener and Villa, pressed into a starting role, responding with 90 yards on the ground against Ponca City. Sophomore Daigen Gibbens, through two games, has 10 receptions for 179 yards, an average of 17.9 yards per catch to go along with two touchdowns.

First-year starter, junior quarterback Maddux Mayberry, has thrown for two touchdowns and only one interception.

But if you are looking for a good indication of the Plainsmen's offensive struggles, one place to focus potentially is on third down conversions. The Plainsmen only converted on 2 of 11 third downs last week against Ponca City. It's hard to get offensive traction without converting on third down opportunities. Enid's offense was limited to 223 yards by Ponca City after putting up only 241 yards at Guthrie.

Looking ahead: The task doesn't get easier for the Plainsmen after their bye.

Next week's opponent, Bishop McGuinness is ranked No. 4 in Class 5A and has had Enid's number. The Irish lead the series 3-0. McGuinness is coming off a tough 20-17 loss to a good Class 6A-II Del City team. ... The Plainsmen then continue on the road with a Thursday trip to Westmoore, which opened the season with a 44-35 win over Moore in the annual "Moore War" game. Last season, Enid hung with the Jaguars before falling 50-35.

Break up Bixby? After nearly a month between home games, the Plainsmen return home Oct. 4 to face Jenks. While the 16-time state champion Trojans will be prohibitive favorites, one has to admit to a certain sense of Schadenfreude in seeing Jenks on the wrong end of a 50-point loss. Class 6A-II power Bixby downed Jenks in blowout fashion, 57-7 last week. Bixby is the four-time 6A-II champion and has been in the championship game all five years since 6A-II was formed. Maybe everybody has been focusing on breaking up the wrong Tulsa area school?

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Ruthenberg is sports editor for the Enid News & Eagle.

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