PRAGUE — Old-school football.
In coaching parlance, that equates to physical, dominating effort at the point of attack.
“You have to be able to run the football and stop the run,” second-year Prague coach John Graham said. “I think we can do that.”
Coming off an 8-4 Red Devil debut in 2017, Graham welcomes back four returning starters on both sides of the ball.
Jake Schultz, who posted a banner junior campaign at tight end — 46 receptions for 1,107 yards and 12 touchdowns — and 56 tackles, four sacks and four interceptions as a linebacker – made a big summer statement. Schultz added almost 40 pounds to pack a 220 punch.
“Jake is very, very long,” Graham said. “Defensively, he is very hard to block because he can shed blockers and he has a lot of range. Offensively, he is a willing blocker with deceiving speed — every bit a 4.6 kid who is very smooth.”
Schultz has already experienced a lot of interest from smaller Div. 1 schools like Central Arkansas, Abilene Christian and Stephen F. Austin.
Two-way senior tackle Dalton Cooper, who weighed 250 last season, is tipping the scales at 285 on a massive 6-6 frame. “Dalton is a big kid who is a very good player. He will stay after you and play right through the whistle,” Graham said.
Senior Seth Cooper, a center, and Isaiah Camren, a senior tackle, are also returning offensive starters. Seth Cooper was a guard in 2017.
Joining Dalton Cooper and Schultz as returning defensive starters are juniors Branom Bailey at cornerback and Elijah Ramos at linebacker. Ramos is making the switch from cornerback.
Graham became the recipient of a vital move-in, Shawnee’s Brayden McGinnis, who will be featured at H-back and linebacker.
“At 245-250, Brayden is a very physical kid who will blow kids up,” Graham said. “And he has great, phenomenal hands.”
Isaac Bloomer, a Red Devils basketball standout, should enhance the secondary corps and also contribute as a wide receiver.
The quarterback chores will be handled by junior Trevor Mills. “Trevor will manage the game well. He stands in there and delivers the ball,” Graham said.
“Defensively, we have a chance to have a dominant line. We have good linebackers and we are better in the secondary,” Graham said. “Offensively, we can’t have penalties and afford to get behind the chains. We must be consistent play-in and play-out. You can’t take plays off.”
• After serving as an undergraduate coach under Houston Nutt (2 years) and Bobby Petrino (2 years) at Arkansas, Graham spent two years at Northeastern State at Tahlequah as a tight ends coach (2010) and a receivers coach (2011). He then spent five years as a Muskogee High School assistant, the last three coming under Rafe Watkins. “Rafe is a heck of a coach. I learned a lot from him," Graham said.
• Prague moved to District 2A-2, joining Lincoln County entrants Meeker and Chandler. In a 2A-2 coaches poll, Prague was picked to finish third in the eight-team field behind Jones (13-1 last year) and Okemah (7-4). Meeker (4-7) was selected fourth, followed by Holdenville (4-7), Chandler (3-8), Kellyville (4-6) and Henryetta (1-9).
• The 2017 Red Devils were 5-1 in district play, losing only to Jones. Prague scored with eight seconds left to defeat Perkins-Tryon in the opening round of the playoffs before being ousted by Sulphur in the second weekend.
• Graham’s assistant coaches are AJ Woodall, Dalton Julian and Jimmy Goodnight.