WAUKOMIS, Okla. — When Mark Timberlake steps onto the field Friday, it will mark the first time he has done so as a head coach at the high school level. The last time Timberlake was the head coach of a football team was with the Enid Enforcers, a semi-pro football team, in June 2018.
"The difference that you find whenever you're coaching a high school team verses a semi-pro is the community," Timberlake, Waukomis' first-year head coach, said. "There's a little bit more energy."
For Timberlake and the Chiefs, their first test is a trip to Wetumka for the season-opener Friday at 7 p.m.
After spending the past four seasons as Waukomis' defensive coordinator, Timberlake was essentially promoted to head coach in July after his predecessor and long-time friend Koy Hughes left for Garber.
On Wednesday, Waukomis held its annual Meet the Chiefs Night where the community comes out to support the football team. Timberlake sensed the public is enthusiastic for the new era of Waukomis football.
"There's a new excitement out anytime there's a new coach and they're implementing something a little bit different," he said. "There's always a buzz and the community wants to know what's new and what to expect."
The Chiefs are hoping for a better start to the 2019 season after stumbling out of the gates last year. Waukomis started 0-4 last fall before winning four of its final seven games to finish 4-7.
Timberlake said the key to picking up wins in non-district play is to not get complacent.
"Whenever we're doing something successful we kind of need to stick with it until it breaks," he said.
Waukomis had several weaknesses revealed a week ago at a scrimmage with Pond Creek-Hunter, Davenport and Coyle. Timberlake said the overall speed the Chiefs went up against last Friday was a test for his defense.
"For us it was an eye-opener on a lot of things I think Wetumka brings to the table," he said. "I think we're going to match up pretty well."
Waukomis and Wetumka met in Week 3 of last season. The Chieftains, who reached the Class B State semifinals in 2018, shutout the Chiefs in the first half on their way to a comfortable 50-14 win. Wetumka out-gained Waukomis in yardage 575 to 232.
It was the first season-opener loss in five years for Waukomis.
Wetumka's starting quarterback and leading rusher from a year ago, Trever Mcgirt, has since graduated, opening a bigger role for Colten Hickerson. Now a senior, Hickerson rushed for a game-high 118 yards on seven carries against Waukomis last season for an average of 16.9 yards per attempt.
Hickerson is now the quarterback for Wetumka.
"He's an athlete for sure," Timberlake said. "We just have to be consistent on our responsibilities. Our guys have to make sure they're reading and running the correct gap play. And that they do their job and trust the guys on the inside and the outside."
As far as Waukomis starting quarterback, senior Cooper Wieden and sophomore Dominic Doersom have competed for the role since the spring. Timberlake wasn't willing to say which one would get the start or majority of snaps Friday.
Wieden is listed at 6-7 and 335 pounds, a mere opposite of Doersom at 5-7 inches and 125 pounds.
Timberlake did say a need at other positions has played a factor in his final decision. Waukomis' roster size is smaller than it's been, but the Chiefs aren't letting it affect them.
"Our kids are eager to get the season going," Timberlake said. "We're low on numbers, but big on heart."