COALGATE — Jeremy Reed used a grass roots approach to solve a potential numbers crunch heading into his first spring practice and his first fall campaign as Coalgate’s head football coach.

Faced with a shortage of serviceable bodies (one that could have been critical with the Wildcats moving up from Class A to 2A this fall), Reed called his own version of a town meeting.

“When I got here, there were only 16 kids in the weight room and three (potential football players) on the baseball field,” Reed recalled. “I was wondering where everybody was.

“So we got all the boys from grades seven through 12 in the auditorium, and I told them what my plans were (for the football program),” he added. “Almost every day since then, we’ve had kids wanting to come out and play.”

When Reed’s team put on the pads for the first time last week, he had 47 players on the field, and he said virtually all of them will be joining him for a three-day team camp at his old school (Sand Springs) Thursday through Saturday, June 1-3.

“These are pretty good numbers for this size school,” Reed said. “I just hope they’ll all stay out. We want them all here.”

Reed inherited a team coming off a third-place finish in one tough district (A-8) and moving up to another (2A-4) minus one of the state’s top quarterbacks (Daniel Stingley, who signed with ECU after ranking in the top five in all classes in Oklahoma in passing yardage the past three seasons) and hit hard by graduation in other areas. But the Wildcats’ young coach said he was encouraged by the first five days of spring drills (Coalgate will wrap up camp with five more days in pads Monday through Friday) and said outgoing coach Joe McCulley didn’t leave the cupboard bare.

“Just looking at our defense (which returns its two leading tacklers, Matt Mowdy and Kyle Stowe, from a year ago), I think we have a chance to be pretty good, because we have some speed,” Reed said. “The defense we run is built for speed, and looking at our first 11, I’m happy with the athletes we have on the field.

“Offensively, our No. 1 concern is establishing a quarterback,” he added. “Right now, it’s a two-man race between (sophomore) Heath Holliday (last year’s back-up) and Jordan Black (who was a tailback late in the 2005 season after being ineligible for the first six games). I think we’ll be okay. We just have to get one of them established as the No. 1 guy.”

Despite a passing game in flux due to the loss of Stingley, Reed plans to feature a wide open spread offense in 2006. The Wildcats are inexperienced everywhere in the backfield but 7return a pair of outstanding receivers in seniors James Coulter and Shawn Linton, and Reed said he has the talent on hand to man his new attack if Holliday or Black can develop under center the way he hopes.

“We’ll have the personnel to run the offense,” Reed predicted. “(Junior) Curtis John and (sophomore) Dakota Spears are both guys who can get the job done at running back. Dakota picked up the offense from Day One, and Jordan (Black) is like having an extra running back when he’s in there. We don’t have a lot of experience, but we’ll be okay.

“Receiver is a strong point for our front-line guys, but we don’t have a lot of depth,” he added. “Coulter and Linton have unbelievable potential. They’ll do well in this offense.”

Despite the new scheme, Reed said his offense is relatively easy to learn and should be embraced by Coalgate fans who had become accustomed to Stingley’s aerial circus the past three seasons.

“We’ll be fun to watch,” Reed said. “Our offense looks complex to the naked eye, but learning it is pretty simple. I think that’s why we had success at Sand Springs. It allows the kids to succeed without doing a lot of thinking.”

Coalgate’s offensive line was gutted by graduation, but Reed said he could have a couple of diamonds in the rough in juniors Jason Stiles and Lucas Franklin.

“Lucas is the strongest kid I’ve ever coached,” Reed said of Franklin, a 260-pounder. “He’ll play some nose tackle and on the offensive line, and Jason will be our center and will also play on the defensive line. I really feel pretty good about our front six on the offensive line.”

Defensively, Reed is installing a 3-3 defense unique to this area and used by very few schools in the state. He said that should make the Wildcats tough to prepare for each week.

“A lot of people see it as a defense to stop the pass, but it’s a fly-around defense,” Reed said. “We’re moving from somewhere all the time.

“It’s not real common, so it’s kind of like preparing for the wishbone (offense) in one week,” he added. “Teams will see it just once a season, and it’s tough to prepare for in one week.”

Brian Haney — who also applied for the Coalgate job — is the Wildcats’ new defensive coordinator, and Reed said he expects Haney to build on the tradition of defensive excellence McCulley and his staff established.

“I met (Haney) when he applied for a job at Sand Springs last year, and he was a finalist for this job,” Reed said. “When he heard I got it, he gave me a call. I was looking for a defensive coordinator, and he was running the 3-3 (at Wilburton).”

Reed said he expects almost all of his players to take part in team camp at Sand Springs, and he said the three-day session is an invaluable tool for both teaching and evaluating his club.

“You’re in a group with four other teams, and you just rotate around on offense and defense,” he explained. “You get a lot of reps and get a lof kids playing time. It’s a great tool to evaluate what we have, especially with this being my first year.”

Despite installing a new offensive and defensive system, having major holes to fill on both sides of the ball and moving up a classificiation, Reed is optimistic the Wildcats can make a playoff run in his first season.

“I know a lot of people think this is a rebuilding year, but I think we still have a lot of talent left,” Reed said. “We WILL be competitive.”

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