Ada head coach Chris Berus agrees with Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz.” There’s no place like home.
The Cougars make their Norris Field debut Friday night against 10th-ranked and undefeated Duncan. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
“We love this place. Friday nights in Ada, Oklahoma, are special times,” Berus said. “It’s the home opener, so it’s going to be exciting for our kids. There’s nothing better than playing in front of our home crowd.”
The Cougars opened the season with road trips to Ardmore (a 33-7 loss) and Noble (a 45-21 win).
“We have to walk through what that looks like. It changes our routine a little bit, compared to what we’ve had to do the past couple of weeks,” Berus said.
Duncan whipped Class 6A Putnam City West 31-7 to start the season before blowing out Elgin 42-0 in Week 2.
It will be the first meeting between the two schools since the Demons defeated Ada 45-7 in a 2011 playoff game. The last regular, season matchup was in 1985.
Duncan hired J.T. Cobble as its new head football coach last April.
“They’re 2-0 with a new coach, and there’s a lot of excitement going on in that community and that school,” Berus said. “J.T. is coach Tom Cobble’s son, who is a Hall of Fame guy here in Oklahoma. He’s from a great lineage.”
Berus said he was impressed with the Duncan offensive line, which is anchored by senior Sam McGough (6-1, 260).
“Duncan’s real athletic up front. These guys aren’t as big, but it looks like they’re a bunch of wrestlers up there. They understand leverage and play with their hands really well,” he said.
Duncan’s ground game is led by seniors tailbacks Johnathan Babineaux and J.J. Harris.
“They play with a two-headed monster at tailback,” Berus said.
One of the biggest playmakers on the DHS team so far is wide receiver Javion Dangerfield. Last week against Elgin, the speedy junior had two long put returns for touchdowns, and a 64-yard scoring reception and added an interception on defense.
Junior Roderick Standokes is another weapon in the Duncan receiving corps. He won a Class 5A state championship in the 100-Meter dash last May.
“At the receiver spot, they have two speedy guys. One of them is a 100-meter champion from last spring, and the other one is on their 4x4 relay team,” Berus said.
Junior quarterback Jackson Gregston runs the show. He completed 8-of-16 passes for 242 yards and two touchdowns in the win over the Owls.
“Their quarterback distributes the ball well. They’ll get in some Wildcat (formation) and bring in a guy to run a speed sweep. They’ll give us a little different look there to try and take advantage of their athleticism,” Berus said.
Defensively, the Demons have allowed just seven points in two games.
“They play an odd stack defense and are very sound in what they do. It doesn’t seem like they do a lot of blitzing or play a lot of games. They’re just very fundamental and get off blocks really well. They’re very disciplined,” Berus said.
Berus said his team will again have its hands full.
“They’re doing some really good things,” he said. (Coach Cobb) generated some excitement there in Duncan. “It’s going to be a great matchup rolling into district play.”
Berus said it was nice to win the turnover battle — and boy, did the Cougars ever do that, 7-2 — in their 45-21 win over Noble last week.
“Getting seven turnovers versus turning it over five times (like the Cougars did against Ardmore) makes a big difference,” Berus said.
Big plays on both sides of the ball were another key to Ada’s success against the Bears.
“It took a little while for our offense to get rolling. We got the ball in the hands of our playmakers and had quite a few explosive plays,” Berus said.
Berus said it was a hard-hitting contest on both sides of the ball.
“I think our physicality was a huge advantage for us. A lot of times when you win the hitting game, you’re going to win the ballgame,” he said.
The Cougars still had way too many turnovers — 12 for 120 yards — and had a pair of turnovers themselves.
“We were a little better with penalties but not as good as we need to be,” Berus said. “And we can’t turn the ball over. Those are some things we have to get better at.”
Senior Tanner Gilliam had what was arguably the game-clinching play when he returned an interception 84 yards to paydirt late in the fourth quarter.
“Tanner’s always going to be in the right spot. He plays hard and plays smart. He was in the right place at the right time,” Berus said.
Gilliam got a little unexpected help on the play.
“The referee made a nice little pick for us on their receiver. He ran his route into the zebra,” Berus said.
Gilliam then got by the first wave of Noble players and raced down the sideline for the score.
“What was great about that return, though, was his convoy of blockers that led it down the sideline,” Berus said. “He got some nice blocks downfield. That’s how you get those 80-plus-yard touchdown returns.”