By Jonathan Hull
Saturday, June 14, 2014
It’s hard for anyone to gauge exactly how much the teams at high school football all-star games can or cannot do during the game.
In most cases, playbooks are kept fairly simple and terminology is, for lack of a better term, dumbed down. It’s the nature of a situation placing together young players and coaches who aren’t familiar with one another.
Such is the case for the 77th annual Oil Bowl. When the East Texas squad faces off against the West Texas squad at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium, fans probably shouldn’t expect to see highly complex game plans.
“It’s more like we’re telling them to line up and go get after it,” East Texas head coach Doug Stephens said. “That’s probably the best way to do this.”
Not that the teams haven’t tried to add their fair share of wrinkles to the playbook in what has amounted to less than a week of practices.
West Texas head coach Weldon Nelms said he’s been pleased with how much the team has been able to get down in the past few days.
“We’ve actually put a lot more of the playbook on than we originally expected,” Nelms said. “That’s all credit to the kids. They’ve come out here focused on working this week.”
The West will run their offense out of a spread, but is going to be in a 3-3-5 or 3-3 stacked defensive scheme. While he wasn’t willing to single out any certain player, Nelms believes both schemes fit the versatility of his roster.
“We have some great skill guys who can play both running back and receiver and we’ve got some guys in our defensive front that can play multiple positions, too,” Nelms said. “That’s something we feel like we can use to our advantage. We’ve got some really good athletes on this team.”
The West’s offense is being set by current Benbrook coach and former Hirschi coach Cody Slater, meaning area fans might see some familiar sets and plays Friday night. The defense is being put on by Bart Helsley of Keller Central, while Nelms, who coaches at Weatherford, has been handling the special teams aspect.
The East coaches are breaking down their schemes in a similar fashion. Stephens, who coaches at Rowlett, is managing the special teams, while Bonham’s Cody Bounds is handling the defense and Muenster’s Brady Carney the offense.
Defensively, the East is going to base out of a 4-3 scheme.
“We just want them to get to the ball,” Stephens said. “We have a lot of guys in the front seven that can really get after it.”
Some of the players Stephens mentioned include North Mesquite outside linebacker Daelin Young and Christian Willis, who Stephens knows better as “Biscuit” after coaching him at Rowlett the last few seasons.
“I actually have to think about his name a little bit because all I’ve every known him as is Biscuit,” Stephens said.
Offensively, the East isn’t limiting itself to a certain formation with Stephens calling the offense “a multiple set.”
“We’re not going to just line up the same way on every play,” Stephens said. “We might be in shotgun on one play and under center the next. We’ve got some different things to show.”
There’s only one quarterback listed on the East’s roster and it does appear Bonham’s Dravion Smith will take a majority of the snaps. But don’t be surprised to see another player line up behind center as well although Stephens didn’t allude to who that might be.
Stephens is very high on the team’s running backs, though, praising the play of North Mesquite’s TaVarious Luke, Mesquite’s Shadavian Reed and Nicholas Gabriel of Ennis.
The one advantage the West does seem to have is more depth at quarterback.
Bowie’s Garland McCoy has been taking a lot of snaps in the practice, but the West also boasts Derek Kiser of Burnet and Caden Coots of Midland Lee. There are several other players on the team with experience at quarterback as well.
But the one thing the two coaching staffs have in common this week is how much they’ve enjoyed interacting with their players.
“It’s been a great week,” Nelms said. “The chemistry has been better between these kids than any of us could have been expected. It’s been a great experience and I think all of us feel very fortunate to be a part of it.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Dravion Smith, QB, Bonham — Considering Smith is the only quarterback listed on the roster, chances are he’s going to be touching the ball a lot giving him plenty of chances to impact the game.
Nicholas Gabriel, RB, Ennis — Gabriel played behind Baylor signee Terence Williams during his senior year at Ennis, but showed he was a more than capable back as well. Gabriel rushed for 160 yards and four TDs in a playoff win against Lovejoy.
Charlie Bray, OL, Pottsboro — At 6-6, 325 pounds, it’s hard to miss Bray. The East Central signee certainly passes the eye test as an imposing figure. He’ll be tested against some talented defensive linemen on the West Texas squad.
Darron Harris, DE/LB, Arlington — Harris is a true Division I prospect after signing with Sam Houston State. Harris displays a lot of speed off the edge.
Logan Allen, FB/LB, Holliday — It’s going to be interesting to see how Allen might be used by the West coaches. He’s seen his fair share of reps at fullback during practice, but should figure in defensively as well.
Davon Allison, WR, Rider — Many Wichitans are already familiar with Allison’s skill set on the football field. For those who aren’t, Saturday could be a nice preview of what he’s capable of providing Midwestern State over the next four years.