The last time Holdenville hosted a postseason game, the Wolverines were thumped in the quarterfinals by a Sulphur team on its way to the Class 2A title back in 2004. Even though his team needed a minor miracle to finish second in District 2A-5, head coach Butch Rawls has good reason to expect a different result Friday night.
Rawls, who was fired in 2005 (following another trip to the playoffs) and returned this season to lead Holdenville back to the postseason for the first time since 2006, will send his 8-2 club against a Hartshorne squad the Wolverines manhandled, 33-7, back in Week 2.
“It’s big to get a home game,” Rawls said. “We’ll pack the place, and it will be noisy. It should be a plus for us. It’s good to have a home game again.”
Holdenville is one of four area teams to earn a trip to the postseason and one of two to host a playoff game for the first time in six seasons. Coalgate (6-4, 6-1), runner-up to No. 2 Davis in District 2A-4, figures to face a stiff test in the first round when Frederick — 8-2 and the highest-scoring team in 2A this fall with 509 points in the regular season (including 90 last week) — invades Donald Mike Mayer Field for the Wildcats’ first opening-round contest at home since the 2004 team finished second in District A-8.
Elsewhere, Ada, which wound up fourth in District 5A-1 after a tough 31-28 loss at Deer Creek to close out the regular season, will visit No. 6 Lawton MacArthur Friday, and Stratford — third in District A-5 — will travel to Quinton.
Hartshorne at Holdenville
Holdenville’s win at Hartshorne (5-5) earlier this season was part of a six-game winning streak to open the season, but the Wolverines needed some help to finish second in 2A-5. First, they scored 28 unanswered points in the second half of a 56-28 victory at Meeker in last week’s regular-season finale to earn the maximum 15 district points, then Morris (a team that had beaten Holdenville with ease in Week 8) had to lose (13-6) to an Okemah squad the Wolverines blasted, 46-14, in Week 6.
Rawls said his team needs to take advantage of the opportunity it was presented on the final week of the regular season.
“It’s a real good draw,” he noted. “"These kids have never been in the playoffs, and that could be a plus for us,” Rawls said. “They’re excited about making the playoffs, but we have to be sure they’re not satisfied with just making it. We have to win playoff games.”
Despite a .500 overall record, Hartshorne finished 4-2 in District 2A-6 and snapped a two-game losing streak with 14-0 victory at Wilburton last week. Rawls said Friday’s rematch will feature different teams than the two that squared off nine weeks ago.
“I think both teams have improved, so it ought to be a battle,” he predicted. “They’re doing the same thing they did against us last time, but they’re running more empty (backfield) sets and spreading the field a lot.
“We’ll show the kids on film how much (the Miners) have improved since the last time we played them,” Rawls said. “It should come down to who plays the best and makes the least mistakes.”
Holdenville quarterback Collin Meadors continued a breakout junior season last week, throwing for a career-high 279 yards and four touchdowns and running for another. Three of his scoring tosses went to senior wideout Denzel Hughes, who also returned an interception for a touchdown as part of a 21-0 run in the final period.
“Collin was on the other night and played an outstanding game at quarterback,” Rawls recalled. “He had a couple of high passes, but most of them were right on the money. He hit Denzel right in stride, and he hit Landon Stallings on the run (on a 61-yard scoring strike). If you hit those guys in stride, you’re not going to catch them.
“The offense played lights-out,” he said. “(Meeker) kept hitting big plays on us, and we kept staying in the ball game. It was a great fourth-quarter effort.”
Meadors also threw four touchdown passes in the early-season win over Hartshorne, and Rawls said he expects to have success throwing the ball again this week.
“If we can throw again, that should open up the running game,” he noted. “The last time we played them, they loaded the box on us. We’re going to try to change some things around this time, and that should help.”
Stratford at Quinton
Stratford (8-2) hasn’t played Quinton (8-2) since 2005, when they were both members of District A-8. While the Bulldogs were third behind Wayne and Elmore City-Pernell in A-5 this fall, Quinton wound up in a three-way tie with two other 8-2 teams — Central-Sallisaw and Gore — in A-6 and earned the runner-up spot by five points over Gore after all three teams finished their league schedules at 6-1.
“They’re pretty good,” Stratford coach Michael Blackburn said of the Savages, whose only two losses this season were to Central-Sallisaw (21-7) in Week 8 and to (10-0) Community Christian (34-19) in the season opener. “They’re 8-2 for a reason. Their quarterback (senior A. J. Maguffee) is fast and strong.
“It’s going to be a challenge, but it’s about as good a draw as we could hope for,” he added. “Anybody you play now is going to be good, especially on the road.”
Stratford bounced back from a sluggish first quarter to bounce Maysville, 48-25, last week, but the Bulldogs could be without senior Clay Rindal this week. Rindal, a starter at tailback and linebacker, suffered a shoulder injury on his second carry against Maysville and didn’t return.
“We have people who can fill in, but (if Rindal is out) that hurts your depth,” Blackburn said. “We’re waiting on an MRI, but it doesn’t sound too good.”
If Rindal isn’t available, seniors Regand Ardery and John Sinnett figure to share time at tailback. The 5-5, 140-pound Ardery posted his third 100-yard rushing effort of the season last week, and Blackburn said the speedy, elusive Ardery and the bruising Sinnett complement each other.
“I don’t know if Regand can take the beating for 20-plus carries — he probably can, but we’d like to give John some carries, too,” Blackburn said. “It’s good to have Regand’s quickness in there.”
Although Rindal is a question mark, several other Stratford players figure to be back after sitting out a game or two with injuries. Blackburn said that should enable him to mix and match on both sides of the ball, depending on the situation.
“It depends on what we end up doing the most,” he explained. “John Sinnett has been out and he could be back, and Alix Vanlandingham (who missed the last two games) could be back in the safety spot, so that will help. Dakota Miller was hurt at defensive end, and that’s where Chase (Chamberlain) has been playing.”
Chamberlain, Stratford’s senior quarterback, has passed for almost 900 yards this season, and Blackburn said the Bulldogs will probably have to throw the ball effectively if they are going to win an opening-round playoff game for a second straight season.
“We feel like we can have some success — we’re going to do what we do,” he noted. “(The Savages) run a 3-4 (defense), and we don’t see that a lot.
“We feel like we can throw it a little bit, but when it will probably come down to how we play up front compared to how well they play up front,” Blackburn added. “Quinton is big and they’ve got some speed. We’ll try to run right at them, but we’ll try to out-quick them, too.”
Blackburn said his club — which has 12 seniors on its 24-man roster — is definitely feeling a sense or urgency where Friday’s game is concerned.
“I think they realize that they’re about done,” he said. “Most of them won’t play again after the season is over.
“We feel like we have as good an opportunity as anybody, and we’re excited about it,” Blackburn added. “Everybody is 0-0 right now, and we feel like we can play with anybody if we’re playing well.”