They were like gladiators on top of a mountain, defending their turf with their bare hands.

There were grunts with each push and shove. The grappling was intense. Their comrades cheered loudly with every big moment.

It was the last of four days of practice in pads for the Ada High football team and players were going through the final drill, accurately named King of the Board.

The drill was simple. You had two players on either end of the “board” (not an actual piece of wood) and they most of the time got down in a 3-point stance and when a whistle blew they’d do their best to push their opponent off said board.

Everybody got involved.

“The King of the Board drill is basically a 1-on-1 competition. We make the big guys and the little guys do it. If you can’t get in there and fight right there how are you going to fight on Friday nights?,” new Ada head coach Brad O’Steen said following following the Thursday morning practice session.

“It’s a competition and sometimes competition makes you or breaks you,” he continued. “If you don’t get out there and compete they’re going to break you. They’re going to drive your butt back off the board.”

It’s a fierce workout that’s also low risk for major injury.

“They’re in their close and they can really get after each other and nobody gets hurt. Everything’s in close quarters but we really get after it,” O’Steen said.

No one was exempt from the King of the Board competition. Even junior quarterback Carter Freeland got in on the action and he grappled with his opponent hard until the whistle blew. He was also one of the biggest cheerleaders in the competition, encouraging and yelling for teammates throughout the drill.

“We let him go one time. That’s on me. I don’t like our quarterback in there doing that stuff. And It’s not because of Carter, it’s because of coach O’Steen. I have to keep him healthy,” O’Steen said. “I had to pull him out and make him get out of the way.”

“They competed out there,” he added.

It was a fitting end to a four-day span where the Ada Cougars got a little stronger and a little tougher.

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Jeff Cali has been covering sports in the Ada area since the mid-90s. He graduated from Byng High School and earned a bachelor’s degree from East Central University.

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