Head coach Matt Weber said one of the best things about the 2013 high school football season’s rapid approach is getting back into a routine. And for over two decades, that routine has always included Week 1 preparation for the rival Ardmore Tigers.
Ardmore visits Norris Field on Friday for a matchup pitting the 5A No. 9 Tigers versus the 4A No. 4 Cougars, according to the first Associated Press Oklahoma high school football poll of the year. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
“It’s exciting that we’re going to start keeping score now. The tough thing is, we’re playing a very good Ardmore team, a team that has most of their kids back from last year. They’re a year older and bigger and stronger and faster,” Weber said from his office inside the Craig McBroom Football Complex on Wednesday. “We’re excited to be back in game week preparation. Being very routine-oriented, it’s nice to get back where our kids know what’s going to happen every day even before they get here.”
During last year’s trip to Ardmore, the Cougars found themselves involved in a 7-7 tie at halftime before taking advantage of the turnover-plagued Tigers over the final two quarters. The Cougars pulled away for a 35-14 victory.
“They’re a better football team than they were at this time last year, so we’ll have our hands full,” Weber said.
Weber said turnovers and kicking game performance will likely decide the outcome again this year.
“It’s the same thing we would have said last year at this time — winning the kicking game and not turning the ball over. That’s probably the same thing (Ardmore) coach (Doug) Wendel would say,” he said.
“Last year, it came down to turnovers. To me, that was the difference in the game,” Weber recalled. “It was nip-and-tuck. They had a couple promising drives, and we ended up taking the football away from them.”
The Tigers will again bring a triple option attack designed to get a wealth of talented running backs — including seniors Devron Roberts and Jamarcus Mills and sophomore O.J. Walker — alone in the open field.
“They’re still running that triple option out of the flex-bone that is really, really difficult to prepare for in one week, mainly just because it’s so unorthodox,” Weber said. “Not many people run the triple option any more. Most people are spreading it out and throwing it around. Luckily, we’ve seen two option teams in scrimmages so that’s helped a little bit, but Ardmore doesn’t run it exactly like those teams do.”
Weber and company aren't exactly strangers to the option attack. Weber and several members of his family played or coached at Davis High School, which is well known for its vaunted option offenses throughout the years.
“Coming from an option background in high school, we understand why people do it. It forces you to play good assignment football, and if a kid does the wrong assignment, they’re typically going to make a big run. You don’t want to let any of the Ardmore kids get free because they can take it the distance on any mental error,” he said.
Back to run the option show for Ardmore is sophomore quarterback Clay Atwood, who played much of the second half as a freshman during last year’s clash with Ada.
“His dad is a former coach, he’s a really good wrestler and he’s a really good operator of their offense. Plus he throws the ball a little better than the kid they had last year,” Weber said. “They have some kids out there on the flank they’re not scared to throw it to. Just like the running backs, they also have a chance to take it the distance at any time. You have to be sound all the way around on defense.”
The Cougars will have to deal with speed and experience from the Ardmore defense.
“They’re outstanding on that side of the football. Coach (Josh) Newby, their defensive coordinator, does a great job. He tries to keep it simple for his kids and lets all those athletes go play,” Weber said.
Ada’s Preseason Camp
Weber said, despite a shaky outing during a scrimmage at Plainview, that he is pleased with Ada’s work heading into Friday night’s season opener.
“The most important thing is that our kids’ attitudes have been really good. We had kind of a downer scrimmage over at Plainview, and our kids came back the next day and even on Labor Day and were really hustling around. They are seeing the areas we have to get better in, and that’s all you can ask,” he said.
The Ada offense suffered a blow by losing starting running back Chase Lott to a season-ending knee injury, but everyone else in camp should be available against Ardmore.
“Lott’s a huge loss obviously, but other than that I don’t think anybody will be held out of a game,” Weber said.
There will be a number of new faces on the field for Ada, and the coaching staff is excited to see how they will perform in their first varsity game.
“A lot of these kids are young, and we have some new kids that will have to play significant roles,” he said.
Weber pointed to senior cornerback-wide receiver Bryson Albert as an example.
“This is the first time he’s played since junior high. The athletic ability is there, but this will be his first time under the lights on Friday night,” he said
Cougar Notes: Even junior quarterback Tryce Prince, who was a defensive standout by the end of last season for the Cougars, hasn’t had much game time as Ada’s signal caller. He completed 13-of-19 passes for 130 yards as Wyatt Robson’s backup in 2012. ... Ada leads the series with Ardmore 49-39-2. ... Friday’s game will be the first ever on the brand-new turf at Norris Field. ... The annual Cougann hamburger fry will take place before kickoff in front of East Central’s Kerr Activities Center.