Full-scale football practices are due to begin Thursday afternoon for the Pawhuska High School Huskies, who started preseason preparations for 2014 prep football campaign with restricted workouts on Monday.
Equipment checkouts were conducted earlier this week for Pawhuska varsity and junior high football players.
A home scrimmage versus the Pawnee Black Bears is set at Ormand Beach Stadium for Thursday, Aug. 28. A week before that, the Huskies are to scrimmage with Cleveland.
The 2014 schedule shows several new opponents for Pawhuska, which will be competing in Oklahoma’s reorganized District 2A-8.
Season predictions released by VYPE Football Magazine recently picked the Huskies fourth among the seven teams of District 2A-8. A pair of stout PHS seniors — Tyler Reese and Marshall Tolson — were given pre-season accolades.
Reese, a 6-1, 235-pounder who is tabbed for double-duty on the lines, was chosen as the featured player for the district. Tolson, at 6-4 and 225, is one of four 2A linebackers named to the VYPE All-Star team.
Seth Glasscock of the district favorite Nowata Ironmen earned another of the pre-season All-Star linebacker spots, while kicker/punter Nate Rogers of new district foe Commerce and defensive back Dalton Rogers from returning rival Oklahoma Union also received All-VYPE honors.
Defending champion Davis Wolves held the No. 1 ranking for 2A, followed by two returning powerhouses — the Hennessey Eagles and Vian Wolverines.
The departing powerhouse of Pawhuska’s former district, the Adair Warriors, received a No. 5 ranking.
Nowata earned the role as district favorite as well as a No.8 overall ranking. Commerce was put in the No. 13 spot and the Salina Wildcats, who knocked the Huskies out of last years playoffs, are rated as the No.18 team.
Matchups against larger-class foes will get the regular season going for the Huskies, who begin the 2014 campaign at Verdigris against Class 3A’s No. 14-ranked Cardinals. After going 2-8 a year ago, Verdigris is expected to return to the form that brought them three 10-2 seasons in a row from 2010-12.
Dewey’s Bulldoggers will open the PHS home season with a visit Ormand Beach Memorial Stadium on Sept. 12. The Huskies and Doggers renewed their longtime rivalry two years ago. Last season at Dewey, Pawhuska battled to the wire before losing by five.
In the 2013 meeting, the now-graduated quarterback of the Huskies — Zalin Edwards — broke loose on a 90-plus yard run to score the first-ever touchdown on Dewey’s new artificial turf field.
The Doggers will no doubt be looking to put the first points ever on PHS’s recently-installed new scoreboard.
Following another home game Sept. 19 against the Hominy Bucks, Pawhuska will go back on the road in week 4 to launch its District 2A-8 schedule versus one of the returning team’s from last year’s district slate — the Caney Valley Trojans. It will be the second straight year for the game to be played at Ramona, where the Huskies notched a 27-13 victory in ‘13.
Latest revisions of the state’s high school football districts will have PHS replacing one 2A powerhouse, the Adair Warriors (ranked No. 5 in 2A following 33 wins in the past three seasons) with another top squad, the Commerce Tigers, who are seeking their sixth straight trip to the playoffs following consecutive 11-win seasons.
At the other end of the spectrum for the new 2A-8 district features a substitution of perennial also-rans, with the Chouteau-Mazie Wildcats dropping off the PHS schedule in favor of a district newcomer, the Wyandotte Bears.
Pawhuska will host the Bears in its first game of October. Wyandotte struggled through back-to-back winless seasons in 2010-11 before breaking out to 9-3 the following year. Although the Bears backslid to five wins per season in 2012 and ‘13, the return of 18 seniors give them experience that could make them dangerous.
Another new addition to the PHS schedule brings a week six trip eastward for a non-district clash at Kansas, Okla.
With the Arkansas state line a mere 25 miles away, the hard-running Comets are expected to be led by their junior quarterback with a Razorback-unfriendly name — Jared Hogshooter. Eight starters return on both sides of the ball for the Little Kansas squad, which finished 6-5 a year ago.
A tough addition to the Huskies’ 2A district will be the Commerce Tigers, who are coming off back-to-back, 11-victory campaigns.
Pawhuska’s 2012 season ended with a first-round playoff loss to the homestanding Tigers, who also will be host for this year’s matchup — which is slated for Thursday night, Oct. 16.
Commerce continues to carry clout up front with a pair of senior linemen measuring 6-2, 260 and 5-11, 280, plus a sophomore nose guard who goes 5-10, 275.
Returning home to Ormand Beach Memorial Stadium for week number eight, the Huskies meet their third-year district foes from nearby South Coffeyville, the Oklahoma Union Cougars.
While still rated the smallest school in the district, OK Union has strong junior and senior classes that could boost the Cougars into contention for a postseason spot. The Cougars’ road trip to "The Beach" is set for Oct. 24.
On Halloween night, Oct. 31, the Pawhuska’s players will don masks of dragonslayers when they travel for a district showdown with the Chelsea Green Dragons.
Eight offensive and seven defensive starters are back for Chelsea, which sneaked into last year’s playoffs despite a 3-8 mark, thanks to a pair of in-district triumphs.
Longtime rival Nowata visits Pawhuska a second straight district season for the regular-season finale Nov. 7.
Nowata finished a close second to Adair for last year’s district championship before losing in the second round of the playoffs for the second time in a row. The postseason setback was just the second of the 2014 campaign for the Ironmen — whose offense will be directed for a fourth consecutive year by senior Wyatt Steigerwald.
PHS is coming off its second consecutive 4-7 finish with strong hopes of making the state playoffs for a sixth straight year. Last season was the first for the Huskies under veteran head coach Bob Craig, who has worked since the day he arrived to instill his old-school work ethic and hard-nosed attitude in the local program.
According to Craig, building a football program is like chopping wood. The Huskies managed to chop their way through to last year’s playoffs, but there’s a lot more wood to be split and stacked before a return trip will become possible.