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Whether the Ada Cougars are lining up to play a 1-4 Santa Fe South squads — which they are this Friday at Norris Field — or have a team like No. 3 Clinton in their sights, head coach Matt Weber says the preparation is mostly the same.
The hope is that after any contest against — whomever the opponent might be —Ada (No. 5 in Class 4A, 4-1) will be a better team than it was before the game started.
“We talk to them about becoming a better team each day and every week. So far each week our kids have approached it the right way. They’ve handled it right up to this point, and I hope we’re mature enough to continue that the rest of the year,” Weber said.
“That really is, believe it or not, how we approach every game. We get our basic game plan ... but after that we do very little worrying about our opponent because we’re going to do what we do on both sides of the ball,” he explained “We’re not going to come up with a whole new offense or a whole new defense to stop a team. We’re going to do what we do. That’s our approach all the time ... ever since I’ve been a head coach.”
Sante Fe South has a Week 3 win over Seeworth Academy (a team that is 0-3 and has been outscore 124-0). But the Saint Bernards have endured four lopsided losses.
Little Axe blanked SFS 44-0 in Week 1 before Cache crushed the Saint Bernards 39-6 in Week 2. In District 4A-2 play Harrah blitzed SFS 69-0 while McLoud handed the relatively new football team a 40-6 setback.
Last year, Ada went on the road and demolished the Saint Bernards 55-6 (after piling up a 48-0 halftime lead).
SFS head coach James Whitley had a positive outlook about his team before the season.
“This is our first year with a full coaching staff, and we feel like the kids are responding well to what we’re doing,” Whitley said.
Weber said don’t expect the inexperienced Saint Bernards to roll over and play dead.
“Sometimes when you think you’re better than a team, coaches are unrealistic. We feel like we should score every time we have the ball, and they should never gain a yard on us and that’s just not realistic. Other teams are going to have good players too and they’re going to make some plays,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a team where you’re going to just roll your helmet out there and get a win. We’re going to have to show up and play.”
Santa Fe South’s roster is 33 players long and includes 18 freshmen and sophomores. There are four seniors, including lineman Eddie Hogan. Weber said he has been impressed with the SFS defensive line.
“Their kids are really playing hard. They try to bring a lot of pressure on defense. Their four defensive linemen are really up field type players. They try to gain yardage in your backfield,” Weber said.
Santa Fe’s best player is do-it-all junior quarterback Darrel Lovelace.
“Offensively, I’m really impressed with their quarterback. He’s not very big but he’s one of those guys that when the play breaks down, he’s really good. He runs really well and he looks to run with it,” Weber said.
Another returner from Santa Fe South Cougar faithful may recall is senior defender Damon Paez, who returned a fumble 69 yards for a touchdown against Ada in 2012.
Quick Work at Tecumseh
Tecumseh kicked the ball to Ada just a few minutes past 7:30 last Friday night and both teams were headed to the locker room at 8:15 p.m. after what had to be one of the shortest first two quarters in the history of Oklahoma high school football. There were no penalties during the first half. Ada had the ball just twice and scored on both possessions. Tecumseh had three time-consuming first-half drives than ended in a field goal, a turnover on downs and a missed field goal.
“That was probably the shortest game I’ve ever been a part of. It was under two hours long,” Weber said. “Give Tecumseh credit. They used every second of the play clock to really slow the game down and shorten it.”
Ada scored on three of five second-half drives with the others ending on an interception and an ugly penalty.
“Other that we were pretty sharp on offense and we played a lot better on defense in the second half,” Weber said.
Levi Grimes, normally No. 20 on the Ada roster, will be wearing No. 1 against Santa Fe South as the Special Teams Player of the Week.
That’s one unit that has probably made the most improvement for the Cougars since Week 1
“Our special teams in Game 1 was such a disaster,” Weber recalled. “Our kickoff coverage team has probably made the biggest improvement. We gave up a touchdown on a kickoff during the first game, and that’s something we hadn’t done in two years here.”
Other special teams areas are also making strides.
“It’s slowly gotten better. We’re making our extra points, which is really big, and we’re punting the ball well when we have to punt it,” Weber said.
Bad Bug Bites
The infamous injury bug started bothering Ada players before the season every began. Standout senior running back and defender Chase Lott was lost for the year with a knee injury during the preseason.
Since then, junior Dayton Morgan and sophomore Jake Bailey (the latest victim), have suffered season-ending injuries. Junior quarterback-defensive back Tryce Prince suffered a broken collarbone two weeks ago and is expected to miss at least the rest of the regular season.
“That’s another thing I want to brag on our kids about. We’ve been bit by the injury bug this year — losing Chase Lott who is such a leader and a great player for us on both sides of the bal. We’ve also lost Bailey and Dayton Morgan to knee injuries and we had Tryce go down,” Weber said. “Those guys have all played important roles on Friday night’s for us. It would have been easy for our kids to throw in the towel, but they understand we have to have 11 to play and we have to adapt and keep going and we’ve done that. It’s all part of this game.”