A much-anticipated scrimmage Friday evening at Cleveland will give Pawhuska football coaches their first true opportunity to see this year’s Huskie squads in action.
"Because of the low numbers we have out, we can’t run our plays against a real high school defense," according to Pawhuska High School head coach Bob Craig, who said the PHS team currently consists of 26 to 28 players. "That’s why these scrimmages are so important."
Seventh-graders are to get Friday’s scrimmage rolling at 5:30 p.m. on the turf at CHS Billy Vessels’ Stadium. Eighth-grade units will square off around 6 p.m., with the freshmen/junior varsity squads to go at 6:30 p.m. The Huskie and Tiger varsity players will be taking the field at approximately 7 p.m., school officials said.
"We’ll probably only be using two running plays and about three pass-action plays," said Craig, the second-year coach of the Huskies who started his high school coaching career — at Cleveland — nearly 40 years ago. "There’s no reason to add any more to our play book until we know we’re running those properly."
Next Thursday at PHS’s Ormand Beach Stadium, a second scrimmage against squads from Pawnee and Tonawa will conclude the pre-season live testing.
"We can’t evaluate things until we get a better look at them under game-like conditions," Craig said. "This Friday night and the following Thursday will be crucial to us — the NFL does the same thing for six weeks that we squeeze into three."
Pawhuska’s regular-season opener is set for Friday, Sept. 5, at Verdigris. In the past decade, the Huskies and Cardinals have played six high school football games and Verdigris has won five of those. At the initial meeting in 2004, the Cards took a 39-13 victory. Pawhuska posted a 44-6 triumph in 2005., however. Later scores were 19-0 in 2006, 23-6 in 2007 and 44-13 in 2008.
Last time the Huskies met Verdigris on the gridiron was Oct. 30, 2009, when the Cardinals escaped with a 10-7 decision.
One of the holes needing to be filled for PHS this year is at quarterback, where a successor must be found for graduated All-District signal-caller Zalin Edwards. Among the prospects vying for that spot are last year’s backup QB, sophomore Colton Hindman, and Brad Moreland, a junior basketball player who is a newcomer on the football field.
Gage Dagenais, another possible quarterback, recently sustained a fractured ankle in practice and probably will miss at least half of the season. A junior, Dagenais saw considerable varsity action last season — primarily as a defensive back — and he was being looked at for a variety of positions this year.
"I really hate it for (Gage)," Craig said. "We definitely had some plans for him."
The coach added that the loss, although significant, opens an opportunity "for somebody else to step up and take his place."
Craig added that the overall inexperience of this year’s varsity will make upper-class leadership even more important until the younger players have some time to develop their skills. He said rapid improvement is needed from some key members of the under classes if the PHS season is to get off to a positive start.
The Huskies’ coach said he is especially pleased with the player turnout for the Pawhuska program’s seventh- and eighth-grade squads.
"We have as many kids out from those two junior high classes as we do for the four high-school grades," Craig said.
The Huskies have been conducting a majority of their football practices on what had formerly been called the soccer practice field at 21st Street and Mackenzie Avenue. Craig said he believes the field is a significant improvement over the previous practice field across the street from the tennis courts/softball field.
"It still has a few rough spots, but it’s getting better ," said Craig.
The PHS coach added that he believes the milder-than-usual weather should be appreciated by the players.
"They have got to be the luckiest bunch I’ve ever seen," Craig said.
Sept. 23……..at Perry
Oct. 14……….at Blackwell
Nov. 4………..at Tonkawa
Games start at 5:30 p.m.