Defenses ready to pounce in Oil Bowl

Stephen C. Smith, Sr.
Posted:  June 12, 2009

A quick glance at the rosters for the 72nd Oil Bowl indicates that offensive sparks should fly today at Memorial Stadium but the array of defensive talent on display may tell a different story.

Pre-game festivities begin at 6:30 p.m., with kickoff to follow at 7:30 p.m.

“With the short time we have together, we’re trying to keep things as simple as we can and take care of the football,” Texas coach Mike Chaney of Alvord said.  “I know you hear that all the time.  But, in All-Star games, offenses are going to be behind and you don’t need to give the other team field position with turnovers.”

Oklahoma, a 17-16 winner in last year’s game, has a powerful offense keyed by Mustang’s Kyle Webster (6-2, 210) and Keaton Collins (6-0, 195) of Guthrie, who combined for more than 4,000 yards passing and 49 touchdowns this past season.

“I think these games are really geared more toward offensive output with the way the game itself is evolving based on the spread attack,” Oklahoma coach Greg Gothard of Velma-Alma said.  “It shouldn’t make too much difference to the players because that’s what a log of them see day in and day out at their schools.”

Oklahoma Offensive Player of the Year Jeremy Smith (5-11, 195) of Tulsa Union, who ran for 736 yards and 13 TDs in four playoff games during the Redskins’ run to the 6A state title, and Sallisaw’s Matt Mitchell key the ground game.

Webster and Collins also have all-state selection Tracy Moore of Tulsa Union (Oklahoma State), Lawton’s Marcus Kennard (Kansas State) and Guthrie’s Donte’ Foster outside to move the ball through the air.

“We’ve got some guys who can do it all on the football field,” Gothard said.  “And if we can get them in some one-on-one situations, hopefully we can have some success.  And I’m sure the same thing goes for the Texas team.”

It does.

Mesqujite’s Luke Halpin (1,993 yds., 16 TDs) and Lehi Tonga of Hurst L.D. Bell will operate under center for the Texas squad with Red River 22 Offensive Player of the Year Jay Gould (6-0, 195) of Burkburnett, Paradise’s Nick Pike and Adam Hirtz of Katy Cinco Ranch behind them.

Dakarai Pecikonis (5-11, 170) of Class 5A state champion Allen leads the receiving corps along with South Garland’s Darnell Smith and TAPPS all-state quaterback Kenneth Cluley (U.S. Naval Academy), who’ll be seeing the game from a different point of view.

“Offensively, we feel like our players out on the perimeter can make a lot of plays in space,” Chaney said. “But we also feel like we have a great offensive line that can pass protect and allow us to run the ball too.

“We haven’t limited ourselves offensively based on the players we have we feel we can do whatever we want to right now.”

Defensively, Chaney has two Defensive Players of the Year to throw against the Oklahoma offense Wylie’s Nikita Whitlock (5A) and Archer City’s Sam Smith (1A) along with Rider’s Tyler Tackett, Demetrion Cooper of Hirschi and Harker Heights’ Grant Uland (U.S. Military Academy).

“Our front seven may be the fastest I’ve ever seen,” Chaney said.  “They’re physical, mean, pursue all over the field and are a whole lot of fun to watch.  That’s what’s going to be fun sitting back and watching them play.”

Oklahoma counters with two all-state linebackers Glenpool’s B. J. Herring (6-1, 210) and Colton Richardson (6-4, 220) to patrol the middle of a defense that’s every bit as formidable as the one on the other side of the field.

“Very rarely in All-Star games do you end up with a shootout,” Gothard said.  “That’s just because of the short time they get to work together, but we just hope the kids enjoy it.”

Chaney feels special teams could be an edge for Texas squad, which has all-state punter/kicker Joey Neale of Rider to rely upon.

“We feel like we can take advantage of that area because we’ve got some kids who like to do that kind of stuff,” Chaney said. “If we can win that battle, we’ve definitely got a chance.”

Gothard is making his second appearance at the Oil Bowl after serving as an assistant in the 1995 game while tonight’s game will be Chaney’s first.

“It’s just a matter of managing and making sure people get what they need,” Chaney said.  “We’ve been here for four days, and it’s just flown by.  The kids and coaches have all enjoyed it immensely.  This has been more fun than I ever imagined.”

And both coaches are also cognizant of the tradition involved with being a part of this grand old game.

“We talked among ourselves and talked to our kids several times about what a tremendous honor it is to represent the entire state of Oklahoma,” Gothard said.  “I can’t think of a greater honor.  Along with that, I’ve been able to work with and build friendships with some great coaches and players.”

“That’s the real positive for us in all this.”

Texas owns a 44-18-1 advantage in the 63-game Texas-Oklahoma format.