State pride on the line in tonight’s 66th Oil Bowl game
Michael Wright, Times Record News
The state flag flies proudly in the bed of a pickup truck as Texas’ Oil Bowl players pile in following a blistery workout.
Texans are notorious for overt gestures of state pride.
Problem is, Oklahoma’s Oil Bowl players are fuming, having seen the blatant display.
It all comes to a head tonight at Memorial Stadium, as state pride takes precedence over anything football-related in the Maskat Temple’s 66th Annual Oil Bowl Classic set to kick off at 7:30.
“We’ve noticed the flag,” Oklahoma coach Jim Frazier said.
“The kids have a lot of state pride and we’re trying to get them to come together and play as a team from Oklahoma and not as individuals. There is a lot of prestige and pride to go south of the Red River or north of the Red River to play in something like this.”
Tonight’s contest should be interesting, given the type of offenses executed by both teams.
Traditionally, defense dominates all-star games because timing aspects of an offense are difficult to work out in just a few short days. But both teams come into tonight’s game running shotgun offenses with talented gunslingers under center.
Texas has a pair of the state’s top quarterbacks in Southlake Carroll’s Chase Wasson and Denton Ryan’s James Battle. Wasson passed for 4,822 yards while leading his team to a perfect 16-0 record and the Class 5A Division II state championship, as well as Class 5A player of the year honors.
Battle led Denton Ryan to a second straight Class 4A title, while earning Class 4A player of the year.
Both are accurate passers that are just as deadly on the run.
“There’s so many of these guys that are so impressive,” Texas coach Glen West said. “But we’ve got the 5A and 4A player of the year, and both of those guys are awesome. They’re awesome. Besides that, they’re great, great kids.
“All of these guys are good things and that has been a refreshing thing.”
Texas also has an impressive group of receivers, headlined by Southlake Carroll’s Andrew Hansen and 6-foot-7 Scott Chandler. Hansen will play collegiately at the University of Oklahoma, while former Dragon Chandler heads to Iowa.
Wylie’s Derrick Jones (Baylor) should also see plenty of balls thrown his way along with Wichita Falls High’s Kip McCarthy (Air Force) and Hirschi’s Mark Crowe (Midwestern).
Garland’s Taurence Rawls (Texas Tech), Abilene Cooper’s Brandon Diles (Tulsa), Weatherford’s Joseph Hankins (undecided) and Petrolia’s Ross Harrison (Midwestern) will share the ball carrying duties.
Defensively, Texas is anchored by speedy group of linebackers in Forney’s Jordan Case (Texas Tech, Clear Creek’s Chase Ortiz (TCU), Galena Park North Shore’s Eddie Simpson (Northwestern) and A&M Consolidated’s David Nixon (BYU).
“Every one of those guys can just flat out fly,” West said. “They’re so good.”
Frazier said his Oklahoma team should benefit from plenty of beef on the offensive and defensive lines.
Four of the team’s offensive linemen weigh 270 pounds or more, and three of them have inked scholarships to the University of Oklahoma.
Sooner signees Bryan Zimpel of Broken Arrow, Brandon Keith of McAlester and Tahlequah’s William Combs average 305 pounds, with Combs being the shortest at 6-foot-4.
Tulsa Union’s Jeff Huntzinge (Illinois State) is another imposing offensive lineman that should be key in protecting quarterbacks Donavan Woods, Paul Smith.
Owassa’s Smith (Tulsa) was the state’s leading passer last season, while Millwood’s Woods (Oklahoma St.) is “a man among boys,” according to Frazier.
Oklahoma’s quarterbacks have a pair of deadly targets in Sooner signees Shane Richardson of Hugo and Aaron Ivey of Putnam City North. Guthrie’s DeMarko Jones (Pittsburg State) and Kennan Webb (NEO) along with Chickasha’s A.J. Burdex (Northwestern) and Edmond’s Roland Garrett (Tulsa) figure to be contributors in the team’s spread offense.
Brandon Whittaker (Baylor), Travis West (Oklahoma), Mick Majors (Missouri Southern) and Spencer McIllwain (New Mexico State) will lead the team’s ground attack. Majors of Broken Arrow should also see some time at quarterback.
“Typically in all-star games, defenses seem to be able to jump and get on top,” Frazier said. “But I do know our quarterbacks and receivers can make things happen.”
Defensively, like Texas, Oklahoma has a group of fast and aggressive linebackers that should provide plenty of pressure.
Frazier was especially pleased with this group led by Oklahoma signee Dan Townsend of Sulphur. Chickasha’s Kody Impson (Army), along with NEO signees Logan Brosky of Pryor and Michael Clark of Moore round out the linebacking corps for Oklahoma.
Both coaches expect tonight’s contest to be a wide-open affair with the potency of the shotgun offenses.
But state pride is still the bottom line. Texas is searching for its third straight victory over Oklahoma.
“This is a neat all-star game compared to others,” West said. “Usually there’s north against south and east against west. There’s not a lot of rivalry in those games.
“But here, you’re talking about your state versus another state, Texas versus Oklahoma. That makes for a natural rivalry. I think our kids are very proud of their state and I know Oklahoma’s very proud of their state.
“Put those two together and it makes for an intense ballgame, probably more so than any other all-star game.”
Staff sportswriter Michael Wright may be reached by calling (940) 763-7571 or (800) 627-1646, Ext. 571. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org