Joe Tillman has one eye on the present but the rest of him is focused on the future for Pawhuska High School football.
“I’ve got high standards and high expectations,” the second-year Huskie head coach said last week.
The good news — or disturbing reality, depending on how one looks at it — is Tillman has plenty of opportunity to leave his mark.
A year ago, Tillman welcomed out 13 athletes to spring football practice — which would be a solid number for Class B Copan but not an exactly impressive turnout for Class 2A Pawhuska.
At the same time, Hominy — which is 15 miles down the road — had 53 candidates in its spring workouts.
This year, 24 young men came out for the first day of spring practice while school was still in session — but the following week, after school had let out, only nine or 10 kids showed up, the coach noted.
However, Tillman is determined to work to turn the Pawhuska program back around to one of the respected powers in 2A.
The first step begins in the weightroom.
“It’s not a good thing when your 56-year-old coach can outbench every kid on the team,” noted Coker. “We’re not a strong football team.”
That observation was supported by plenty of evidence last fall, when Pawhuska lost nine players to concussions and suffered other depletions for medical reasons.
“Injuries tend to happen to us more than any team I’ve ever been around,” Tillman summarized.
One major push forward would be to increase the roster size by August camp. In the preseason workouts last year, Pawhuska had 23 players show up on the first day.
After Tillman spoke at a student assembly, nine more young men joined the team.
There’s plenty of ancillary excitement surrounding the Huskie grid program due to the construction of a new weightroom.
“It’s going to have a ‘wow’ factor,” said Tillman. “It’s going to be a recruiting factor. We cannot wait until we open that facility. … We have to be strong in the weightroom. … It doesn’t happen overnight.”
A quality athlete — whose development didn’t happen overnight, but as a result of years of hard work — that Tillman is relying upon heavily is Brian Jeffers (6-2, 180).
“He’s going to have to be our leader, not only on the football field, but in the hallways, in the locker room and in the community,” said Tillman. “He’s got a good frame on him. He’s a workaholic but he’s going to have to learn how to lead.”
Jeffers will have to touch the ball 20 or 25 times a game, the coach added.
Another returning stalwart is senior-to-be lineman Rocky Murray (5-9, 225), Tillman said.