With a new coach and a new look, the Pawhuska High School Huskies are getting ready to tangle with a veteran Kellyville squad at 7 p.m. Friday at home.
Speaking of a new look, Pawhuska will play its first game Friday on a brand-new artificial turf field at Ormond Beach Memorial Stadium. First-year PHS Head Coach Matt Hennesy, formerly of Locust Grove and Muskogee high schools, said the Kellyville game has been themed “Black Out Kellyville.” So, fans are encouraged to dress entirely in black for the game.
Hennesy will have a relatively small group, consisting of fewer than 30 players. He said Monday that key lineman Gabe Letzkus is likely to miss four to six weeks with a torn meniscus.
Pawhuska will be young this year, since it is returning zero seniors. Kellyville will have more than 20 seniors and will try to play a power football offense, Hennesy said.
“They’re going to load the box and try to pound you,” Hennesy said, adding Kellyville won’t be flashy, but will line up and try to hit you hard. “They are going to have a good football team.”
Hennesy said the Huskies will be playing a spread offense and an aggressive, swarming defense.
“We’re going to try to run around you,” he said.
Pawhuska’s new coach took heart from what he saw during a scrimmage last Friday at Nowata. The Huskies’ last matchup of the evening, against a talented group of Union High School sophomores, saw Pawhuska manage a last-minute touchdown drive. The Huskies added a two-point conversion to win that portion of the scrimmage, 14-13, Hennesy said.
“We came back,” Hennesy said. “We didn’t give up. We didn’t quit. We just kept battling.”
In an interview last week, the coach said Pawhuska was still rotating quarterbacks and giving equal reps to both. Hennesy had also moved the team’s best tailback to offensive guard to meet an immediate need.
“We didn’t have a lineman,” Hennesy said, adding that the player didn’t mind; he was more interested in winning than in playing a particular position.
As Hennesy and his first Pawhuska team enter the season, they are working to bring the PHS football program back from the bottom. Last year’s Huskies were 0-10. The coach said he’s been through it before and understands the process.
“It’s still a process,” Hennesy said. “Mr. Cash, our new superintendent, is the one that hired me in Locust Grove, so he and I have been through this battle before.
“It’s just up and down. We have flashes of brilliance, and we have other days when its like the first time we ever played football,” Hennesy said. Still, he praised his new team’s desire to play the game, and his players’ willingness to accept instruction.
“This is the best group, in 27 years, that I’ve been around in terms of being excited to play football,” he said. “They take coaching well. They understand that we’re going to be on them hard, but we love them.”