The ninth-ranked Tecumseh Savages open the Class 4A state football playoffs tonight at seventh-ranked Cache with a broken heart.
The Tecumseh community, including the high school and football team, was hit hard by the death of sophomore football player Ryder Kinsey in a vehicle accident on Tuesday.
“There have been a lot of heavy hearts in the locker room,” said Tecumseh head coach Ty Bullock. “Ryder had a smile that could light up the room and a heart as big as a giant. We know it won't be easy Friday night without him. Tecumseh kids are resilient and I know our kids will play for him.”
Tonight's kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
The Savages returned to practice on Wednesday.
“Our kids are resilient. They went out to practice as a way to get through this and take their minds off things for a little while,” Bullock said.
The Cache Bulldogs have mirrored the Savages in many ways, according to Bullock. Like Bullock at Tecumseh, coach Faron Griffin is in his third season as the braintrust and the program, like the Savages, has been steadily on the upswing.
Cache is 7-3 on the season and ended up 6-1 in District 4A-1, good enough for the runner-up spot. Tecumseh brings in a 7-3 mark into tonight's game after finishing 5-2 in District 4A-2, which resulted in a third-place finish
“Cache is a lot like us...big up front,” said Bullock. “They have a great defense. They swarm to the ball and are physical. We're excited about the challenge and the opportunity.”
In preparing for the Bulldogs, it's hard to put your focus on certain individuals or areas, according to Bullock.
“They're multi-talented with a lot of guys who will touch the ball, so you can't focus on one individual,” Bullock said. “Defensively, they've got guys coming at you from everywhere.”
The Savages have come at people behind the 1,000-yard plus rushing of senior Jaylen Walker and the 1,000-yard plus passing of senior Will Hilton.
Walker has netted 1,027 yards on 164 carries for a 6.3 yards-per-carry average and 20 touchdowns while Hilton has completed 55.4 percent of his passes (67-of-121) for 1,126 yards and nine TDs with only four interceptions.
Junior Kane Ainesworth has run for 371 yards on only 54 carries (6.9 yards-per-carry) and scored seven times this season.
In the receiving department, junior Jake Trice has 26 catches for 443 yards and two touchdowns. Senior Graham Dickson has 13 grabs for 243 yards and a TD and sophomore Dylan Graham has seven receptions for 118 yards and three scores.
Defensively for Tecumseh, senior linebacker Gage Boatman tops the team's tackle chart with 118, including 21 solo-stops, 12 tackles for lost yards and 4.5 quarterback sacks. Senior defensive back Clayton Rackley is next with 84 tackles, 26 of which were solo-efforts, one quarterback sack and a team-leading three interceptions.
Senior Seth Haggard has totaled 57 tackles (nine solo) with three sacks and three caused fumbles. Graham has collected 51 tackles (13 solo) with 10 stops for lost yardage and junior J.B. McIntosh has 50 total tackles (12 unassisted) with six for lost yards, including four quarterback sacks. Senior Jaxon Day tops the team with 14 passes defensed.
Oklahoma Christian School (5-5) and Meeker (7-3)
The Bulldogs begin their quest for a Class 2A state title as they entertain the Oklahoma Christian School Saints in the opening round of the playoffs tonight at 7 o'clock.
Meeker earned the runner-up spot in District 2A-2 after hammering Henryetta at home last week by a 59-8 count. Meanwhile, OCS saw its three-game winning streak stopped in a 41-0 loss at Luther and settled for third place in 2A-1.
“They're a talented football team. They're pretty big and pretty athletic,” said Bulldog head coach D.J. Howell about the Saints. “Their No. 23 is a nice running back and they can throw the football. Defensively, they use a 3-3 stack look and they're going to move around. You've got to be prepared for that and you've got to be sound in your blocking schemes.”
In throttling the Knights last week, Meeker put on a defensive clinic. The Bulldogs limited Henryetta to 44 total offensive yards, including just 11 in the rushing department. The Knights totaled just four first downs as two came by way of penalty.
Senior Jacob Martin ran for a touchdown and passed for two more, junior Caden Wolford ran for three scores and senior Dakota Gabbert scored twice off an interception return and punt return in enabling the Bulldogs to close out the regular season with a thumping.
“Our defense has been playing pretty well the last 5-6 weeks. We had some movement (in positions) at the beginning of the season and it has paid off.,” Howell said. “We're flying around with a lot of energy. I think that win (last week) gives us a lot of momentum going in.”
Wolford has run for 1,471 yards on 184 carries this season for an 8.0 yards-per-carry average and has scored 20 touchdowns while Martin had netted 953 yards on 187 attempts for a 5.1 yards-per-carry average and 11 TDs. Martin has also passed for 1,128 yards and seven scores while completing 48 percent of his passes (94-of-196).
Gabbert has 29 catches for 175 yards and three touchdowns. Sophomore Zach Cook has 14 receptions for 235 yards and a pair of scores. Junior Kobe Norton has 16 catches for 154 yards and a TD and senior Jarrett Marks has compiled 10 receptions for 136 yards and a touchdown this year.
Martin tops the team in intercepted passes with three to go with a fumble recovery. Junior Jordan Hart and sophomore Cam Holt each have two interceptions and two fumble recoveries and Gabbert has two pick-offs on the season as well.
Junior JJ Bloomer tops the squad in tackles for loss with nine. Holt has three stops lost yardage.
Chandler (6-4) at Luther (9-1)
In a battle of the Lions, coach Jack Gray's Chandler squad hits the road to face Luther in the opening round of the Class 2A playoffs at 7 p.m..
Chandler wrapped up the 2019 regular season last week, crushing Holdenville by a 71-18 score as freshman Casmen Hill and senior Dylan McKinney each gained over 100 yards and combined for five touchdowns.
Hill netted 153 yards on 12 carries and scored twice off sprints of 2 and 32 yards while McKinney ended up with 133 yards on nine attempts and scored off runs of 24, 35 and 35 yards.
Sophomore quarterback Kaden Jones threw TD passes of 45 and 30 yards to junior Darian Mahan as Mahan also returned a punt 60 yards for a score.
Luther and Chandler met earlier this season with Luther escaping for a 15-14 victory in week two of the season. Three lost fumbles proved to be costly for Chandler in that contest.
Chandler's two scores came off a 54-yard strike from Jones to senior Caedon Parris and an 8-yard run and two-point conversion from McKinney. Chandler gained more yards on the ground, 182-60.
Hill has 912 yards on 140 carries (6.5 yards-per-carry) and nine touchdowns this season while McKinney has 809 yards (8.3 yards-per-carry) and 10 TDs. Jones has passed for 580 yards and seven scores with only two interceptions. Senior Dylan Mahan and junior Darian Mahan top Chandler's receiving corps. Dylan has 13 catches for 224 yards and two touchdowns while Darian has 15 grabs for 197 yards and four scores.
Senior Taylor Clagg is at the top of the Chandler tackle chart with 125, including 58 solo and 16 for lost yards. Darian Mahan is next with 50 tackles, including 22 solo and two for lost yards, to go with a team-leading five interceptions.
Sophomore Drake Rodriguez has racked up 40 tackles, including three for lost yards, and 11 pass breakups. Junior Spencer Clagg and senior Javon Frazier have 35 tackles apiece as Spencer Clagg, who has collected eight tackles for lost yardage, leads the team with four quarterback sacks while Frazier tops the squad in passes defensed with 15. Parris has broken up 13 passes to go with his 31 total tackles and two stops for lost yards.