Pawhuska High School football coach Joe Tillman had 23 players on the field as football practice began all over Oklahoma earlier this week.

Tillman, who is starting his second year at the helm of the Huskies, said he hopes the team’s numbers will increase once he scours the PHS hallways for recruits once school starts.

The team’s numbers increased by about a dozen after school started last season. The Huskies coach said he hopes it will happen again.

“If it happens like it did last year, we could have upward of 30-33 players on the roster,” Tillman said.

Still, the numbers mean many of Huskies will be lining up on offense and defense, he said. Conditioning will be one of the keys to victory. PHS players will need to be in shape to be on the field for 120-130 plays a game, Tillman said.

Conditioning will be one of the focuses of fall drills, but Tillman said his staff also has to “coach ‘em up.” The squad will be learning new offensive and defensive schemes this year.

Pawhuska is switching to the I-formation after spending last season in a spread offense. The defense is moving from a 5-2 scheme to a 4-3, Tillman said.

The Huskies will emphasize the rushing game, especially running up the middle of the field. The idea is to methodically move the ball downfield and use as much time between plays as possible.

Pawhuska wants to slow the pace of the game, limiting the number of plays run. It’s the best way to keep the players fresh throughout the game and the 10-game regular season.

“We are going to have to be in shape, and I want to slow the game down as much as we can,” Tillman said. “I want to take as much time as we can when we are on offense to let our kids breathe because we are going to be going both ways, and that’s just tough.”

The Huskies should have three practices in the books by this Wednesday, and 13 practices before PHS hosts Barnsdall at 6 p.m. Aug. 18 for a scrimmage. PHS starts the season with a 7 p.m. home game against Kellyville on Aug. 25.