The Chickasha High School football team began spring practice this week, and in head coach Tom Cobble’s third season the Chicks will try to finally take that step back to the playoffs after just missing the last few years.
The Fightin’ Chicks have some good examples to follow of programs that have made turnarounds from mediocrity to championships, and Cobble hopes his players will take notice of that.
“Our guys, if they think about it, if they look about 20 miles west to Anadarko and about 10 miles east to Blanchard, they can see two programs that have come from not very good to the pinnacle,” Cobble said. “It took them longer than probably we’re talking about right now. It’s done by a group of coaches and a community and a group of kids to finally decide that they’re going to do whatever it takes, and I think we just kind of turned that corner.”
Anadarko won six, four and seven games between 2007 and 2009, before winning 12 games in 2010, going 15-0 and winning a state title in 2011, and finishing as state runner-up in 2012. Blanchard won the 2012 state championship in class 3A after winning only five games the previous year.
Chickasha is losing some of its best players and leaders to graduation this season, but overall will still be an experienced team next year.
“Finally, I think we’re a pretty mature football team,” Cobble said. “I think we’ve got 14 or 15 seniors right now. That’s what you’ve got to have each year in 5A football, a senior-led team.”
One place Cobble believes that experience will benefit his team is on the offensive and defensive lines, where he says a successful team must have strong, experienced players to really succeed.
“Offensive line play needs to show a big improvement,” Cobble said. “But that, to me, is basically because our offensive line has been young the last couple of years. Very seldom can you send sophomores or juniors in 5A football on the offensive or defensive line positions and really get the job done. It’s a position that has to have some maturity to it.”
Chickasha will have to replace lineman Jacoby Brown, a standout player last season on both sides of the ball, who will be attending NEO for wrestling next season.
Brown led Chickasha in tackles from the defensive tackle position, played on the offensive line, and also scored some rushing touchdowns in red zone situations.
“That may be losing one of the best football players I’ve ever been around,” Cobble said. “That’s a strong statement to say. The way he went about practice and games and wrestling practice, he should be an inspiration to all of the guys. He was an inspiration to me, with his work ethic. We’re going to have a real deal filling that position.”
Cobble said Oron Bowman has a chance to have the same kind of impact as Brown did, and the Chicks will need him to help fill the void of productivity Brown is leaving.
“He’s probably not going to be quite as heavy, but might be a little taller, more rangy, so if he’ll pick up Jacoby’s work ethic and attitude, he’ll be okay,” Cobble said.
Chickasha also took a big hit at the receiver position, losing the top two receivers in Shaq Oliver and Deshawn Young, who will both play football at McPherson College in Kansas next season.
It isn’t the first time Cobble has had to deal with the loss of his key receivers. Last year, the team had to replace leading receivers Jacobi and Olajuwon Davis, and that’s when Oliver and Young stepped up.
“We’ve had a long line of really good receivers, and now we’re going to scramble around and find some,” Cobble said. “We will take a look at working T.J. Filer there, moving him to the offensive side of the ball, he’ll be a really strong force there. Montana Stonecalf is with us now. A big, strong good athlete, we’ll work him at that position now. He’s new at that position, but I think he’s got the work ethic and the want-to to get it done. Lindbergh Carey was kind of our third receiver last year, and he’s moving up on that list as well. Cole Young, Taray Thomas, so we’ve got some guys that can step in and get the job done.”
Oliver and Brown, along with Ryan Mosely have all been helping out with spring practice this week.
Last season, Chickasha quarterbacks were in the midst of a long battle for the No. 1 spot between Cade Morris and Brandon Wright. Morris eventually won the job, but both of them ended up starting multiple games, and Morris was injured for the last few games of the season.
Wright was a senior, and now Morris is clearly the most experienced at the position, and barring some dramatic change, will be Chickasha’s starter once August comes.
“I think you’d have to say that it’s his position to lose,” Cobble said. “He’s obviously got the experience, he’s a senior and he’s done it before, so we’re counting on him big time. We’re working Levi Kell at that position and Corey Evans, and the style of offense we’re running fits us to the T. It’s a strong, quarterback-oriented offense. As hard as Cade has been and will work in the weight room, and his maturity as a senior, if we can keep him healthy he’ll have a great year.”
The combination of experience, improved strength, and another year under Cobble’s offensive system all give Chickasha a chance at improving on last season and accomplishing the goal of returning to the playoffs.
Jerry Don Bray is taking over as defensive coordinator, and Cobble said he will bring a new level of aggressiveness to the squad, which looks to be smaller but quicker than the 2012 unit.
“The next step is to get to the playoffs, and that’s what we talk about every year,” Cobble said. "The last two years, my first two years here, we weren’t strong enough. We hadn’t done a good enough job in the past in the weight training. It takes a high school player about three good years, your ninth, 10th and 11th grade years in a good, strong program to get you strong enough to compete with everyone else. We’re at that point now.”