Ada — Ada High football fans may see a familiar big ol’ guy roaming the Ardmore sidelines tonight.
No, I’m not talking about longtime Ardmore assistant and former Cougar Grant Naylor, although he fits the bill.
It’s the new big ol’ guy that you need to keep an eye on. Former Ada High School All-American lineman Craig Roark, who spent last year as the head coach of the Holdenville Wolverines, is now an assistant football coach and the head wrestling guy at Ardmore. Another Cougar who has joined the ‘enemy.’
So what did all his Ada buddies think of his latest career move?
“To be honest, most of my friends as you can expect gave me a hard time and joked around with me,” Roark said. “But all of my good friends were very excited for me, and understood how much of a blessing it was for me to have this opportunity to work for such a tradition-rich program with such great coaches and people. I thank God for this opportunity every day.”
Roark also spent a couple of years with the East Central University football program so he will definitely be coming ‘home’ when he walks into Norris Field for tonight’s Week 1 matchup between the two old rivals.
“I'm not really sure what the feeling will be like to be honest,” when asked about his first return trip to Ada with the opposition. “I’m sure it will be surreal.”
You really can’t take the Cougar out of any former Ada football player. He’ll still cheer for the Cougs most of the time.
“I was talking to coach Naylor last week, and he made a comment I completely agree with. I will cheer for the Cougars every game of the season except for one, and that one game we are going to do everything that we can to come away with a victory. I probably won't have time to even think about what it's like to be at Norris Field as an opponent, because I will be too busy trying to do whatever I can to help the team win. That is my goal going into this game.”
Roark will have his game face on around 7 p.m. tonight. And he will be roaring like a Tiger.
“Although we are playing my alma mater and a program that did a lot for me, I have to do my best to treat this just like any other game. We are there to take care of business,” he said.
Roark said he’s enjoyed working with the Tiger football program during the preseason and No. 9 Ardmore could be a sleeper in Class 5A.
“ My expectations for this seasons are very high. Just like I was taught as a Cougar — to play for the gold ball every year — I feel that I have that same expectation as a coach. My expectations are that we will be in a position to have a chance to win the gold ball.,” he said. “Does that mean I'm saying we are going to be state champs? That's a bold statement, and no we are not there yet. But if we continue to grow as a team, can stay healthy, and have a few things fall our way — just like every champ needs — I feel like we can put ourselves in a position to be right in the mix of things. I feel that this should be our expectation on a yearly basis.”
Roark said he feels like both Ardmore and Ada have respect for one another, even though the two schools are considered rivals.
“I feel like the Ardmore-Ada rivalry has always been more of a respect rivalry than a hatred rivalry,” he explained. “The best example I can think of is the OU-Nebraska rivalry back in the day was a respect rivalry where the OU-Texas rivalry would be a hatred rivalry . Or Ada-McAlester for that matter. I think this rivalry has always been and continues to be one in which both teams respect each other and expect the best from each other.”
So who’s going to win tonight?
“Fans are in for a treat. We will be ready just like Ada will ,and I expect this to be a great game. I am very excited for (tonight),” Roark said.
I’m sure I can speak for most Ada fans. We wish the best for Roark during his continued coaching career. But we hope he’s really disappointed around 10 p.m. tonight.