Huskies to open grid season

Mike ErwinJournal-Capital
Huskies to open grid season

The Pawhuska Huskies will face the Verdigris Cardinals in their high school football season opener Friday, renewing a rivalry that has been dormant since 2008.

Verdigris is entering the contest as the No. 14-ranked team in Class 3A, while the Huskies are seeking to establish themselves as a contender at the 2A level. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. on the artificial turf at Cardinals Stadium.

When the two teams last met in the gridiron, both were 2A schools. As the Claremore-area community has grown, the athletic programs of the Cardinals have experienced considerable success — claiming one boys’ basketball state championship and four straight titles (and counting) in both girls’ soccer and baseball.

The Lady Cardinal soccer squad would be the current five-time champs had they not been forced to give back a title for a eligibility-rule violation.

Pawhuska Head Coach Bob Craig believes last year’s 2-8 football record for Verdigris was an anomaly. In this Friday’s season opener, he expects to go against a Cardinal team more like the ones that compiled 10-2 finishes in three previous campaigns (2010-12).

“We know what kind of program they are and we know they will present us with a lot of challenges,” the veteran coach said. “That’s exactly the reason they’re on our schedule.”

The Cardinals compete in the 3A-5 district that includes Berryhill, Lincoln Christian and Sperry as well as the Huskies’ Week 2 opponent, the Dewey Bulldoggers. Dewey will visit Ormand Beach Stadium on Friday, Sept. 12, following an opening-week home contest with the Nowata Ironmen — one of Pawhuska’s foes in District 2A-8.

“If we are going to be successful, we’ve got to compete against other successful programs,” said Craig, adding that the Huskies will learn a lot about themselves Friday night.

As always, turnovers — or lack of them — will play a big role for team success. Craig also believes the kicking games could be a factor — especially because it’s so early in the season.

“We hope to create opportunities,” the coach of the Huskies said.

The 29 players on Pawhuska roster include six seniors, six juniors, nine sophomores and eight freshmen.

Third-year senior starters Tyler Reece (6-1, 235 pounds) and Marshall Tolson (6-4, 225) are two-way titans who lead the Huskies by example. Considered one of Class 2A’s top defensive players, Tolson should also become a major weapon as tight end. Reece, who has been a defensive mainstay throughout his career, will now solidify the offensive line.

The only four-year member of the varsity squad, Hayden Javellas (5-9, 160), has proven himself to be scoring threat any time he touches the ball. After being limited by injury last year as a junior, Trey Red Eagle (6-1, 160) looks to be a key receiver and will also start at defensive back.

Another pair of seniors, Trey Powell (6-2, 235) and Dakota Jester (6-0, 290) will be helping to anchor the Pawhuska lines. Jester’s return to the gridiron for his final season has given the team a significant boost, as he will be in the middle of the Huskie defensive front and is to handle the regular snapping duties on offense.

Last Thursday evening at Ormand Beach Memorial Stadium, the home squad continued its preseason preparations with a three-way scrimmage including the Tonkawa Bucanneers and the Pawnee Black Bears. The Huskies showed flashes of brilliance — although they struggled to find consistency.

“A lot of that is because of our youthfulness,” said Craig, who added that PHS will start at least one freshman lineman (“and maybe two”) in the season opener.

The PHS offensive unit converted several long pass plays. Sophomore quarterback Colton Hindman spread the ball around to assorted Huskie receivers, including Red Eagle, Tolson, Javellas and sophomore slotback Caleb Bruce.

Javellas narrowly missed a touchdown on an early series against the Bucanneers. The elusive Mr. J was knocked out of bounds at the Tonkawa 5-yard line after taking a short pass on a dash of 40-plus yards.

As the receiver of numerous Hindman aerials, Tolson made several catches in traffic and broke loose for a determined, 30-yard run-after-catch versus Pawnee.

Red Eagle, who exhibited good hands and a knack for getting open, was the receptions leader for the night. Bruce went high to snag a 20-yard throw over the middle against the Bucs.

Hindman also showed some running ability as he slipped several tackles on one 30-yard scramble (which, unfortunately, was negated by a penalty). A few ill-advised throws clouded the performance of the sophomore QB, who is progressing rapidly after only taking a handful of snaps a year ago.

Junior running back Mathew Taft of the Huskies got loose on a 40-yard sweep against the Tonkawa defense. After getting a majority of the carries in Pawhuska’s initial scrimmage last week at Cleveland, straight-ahead sophomore runner John Bighorse was used sparingly in the backfield Thursday.

A couple of younger Huskies who have shown big-play potential are sophomore speed-burner Walter Graves and freshman back Brian Jeffers.

PHS’s defense showed tenacity, despite suffering a few breakdowns. The overall effort was hampered by the absence of standout junior lineman Hayden Henley (6-1, 190), who was unavailable due to an ankle injury. Injuries caused Powell to miss both the pre-season scrimmages.

“We’re hoping they’ll be back by Friday,” the coach said.

Huskie defensive highlights last week included the recording of a safety against Tonkawa. On the first snap after the Huskies failed to score on a fourth-down-and-short play, the Buc QB managed to recover a loose ball in the end zone — but he was immediately swarmed by a Pawhuska contingent that included Bighorse, sophomore Daniel Nightengale and freshman Keinen Cheves.

Later, Bighorse and Cheves combined to sack the Pawnee quarterback. Bighorse also was a primary pursuer of the Bears’ QB when the ball was dislodged by Javellas and taken away by Tolson, who pressured the opposing signal-callers consistently throughout the scrimmage sessions.

PAWHUSKA HUSKIES

2014 FOOTBALL ROSTER

# Player Position Grade

4 Levi Youngwolfe WR So.

5 Bradley Moreland QB Jr.

6 Brycen Swan WR-DB So.

7 Hayden Javellas WR-CB Sr.

10 Daniel Nightengale WR-DB So.

11 Caleb Bruce RB-DB-K So.

12 Gage Dagenais QB-DB Jr.

16 Dalton Lough WR Fr.

19 Colton Hindman QB So.

21 Warren Graves RB-DB So.

24 Trey Red Eagle WR-DB Sr.

30 Isiah Fortney WR Fr.

33 Brian Jeffers RB-DB Fr.

44 Mathew Taft FB-CB Jr.

51 Keinen Cheves OL-DL Fr.

55 Tyler Reece OT-DT Sr.

57 Blue Starr C Fr.

58 Dakota Jester C-DL Sr.

60 Jet Thomas OL Fr.

62 Trey Powell OT-DL Sr.

63 Dayton Kilpatrick OL-DL Jr.

65 Rhett Strahm OL Fr.

67 Raydon Starr OL Fr.

68 Hayden Henley OG-DT Jr.

80 Eli Red Eagle WR So.

82 John Bighorse RB-LB So.

85 William Merrill WR So.

87 Chanler Collins WR Jr.

88 Marshall Tolson DE-TE Sr.

Head coach: Bob Craig

Assistant coaches: Mark Frye, Brian Edwards, Duke Atterberry. Special assistant: James Manns