SALINA - Winning out is the No. 1 goal for the Afton Eagles as they head down the stretch.
They take the first step in that quest Friday night when they tackle unbeaten Salina on the road for a key District A-8 game
“Our goal is to win out - we want to host a playoff game,” Afton head coach Zach Gardner said. “It's a big deal to play at home, especially with that cross-district we have. It's unbelievable. They go about six deep over there.”
The top four teams from A-8 will be paired against the top four from District A-7. That includes half of the AP's Top 10 in Class A - No. 2 Tonkawa (5-0), No. 4 Woodland (3-2), No. 5 Morrison (5-0), No. 7 Hominy (3-2) and No. 9 Pawnee (3-2).
The Wildcats are off to a 5-0 start under first-year head coach Matt Williams
Their first-team defense has yielded only three touchdowns, and two of those came in the first half of the season opener against Locust Grove.
“He (Williams) has done a good job with them,” Gardner said. “Salina has had (good athletes) in the past, but they haven't been very disciplined. They have always had numbers. They suit up 45 or 46 kids.”
“You've got to attribute it to the kids,” said Williams, who played for his dad, L.P. Williams, before graduating in 1991 at Vinita. “They showed up all spring when I came down and we averaged 38 per day in the weight room this summer. From Day 1, they bought into the program and have done what we've asked of them. When you do things right, good things happen.”
The Wildcats pinned the first loss of the season on Ketchum, coasting to a 21-6 victory.
However, Williams wasn't pleased.
“Defensively, we really played well, but offensively, we were disappointing,” Williams said. “We had to punt nine times, three in the fourth quarter when we were trying to run clock out. They knew we won't throw the ball and they brought the house.”
Junior running back Darin Pettit heads up Salina's ground attack. He's gained 580 yards while being featured in the Cats' I formation.
“It's what I was raised on,” Williams said. “We're going to run the inside veer and the old triple option. We probably don't live and die by it like we did as a Hornet back in the day, but we will run the power sweep, iso and things like that with our tailback. A lot of ours back then was quarterback and fullback stuff.”
Afton bounced back from its crushing loss to Commerce with a 47-0 romp over Afton.
T.J. Korb rushed for 186 yards and a record-tying five touchdowns to lead the way.
“He's been getting it done, but it starts up front with the offensive line,” Gardner said. “They've been creating the holes for him to run through.”
The Eagles' line includes Brooks Victor at left tackle, Weston Andrews at left guard, Spencer Johnston at center, Tyler Blount at right guard and Tyler Kahler at right tackle.
“Hopefully, we can avoid the turnovers we've been having,” Gardner said. “That's been killing us. Penalties have been an Achilles' heel, too. We had 15 last week. Even with the teams we've been beating, the competition level hasn't nearly been what we will see this week.”
Games remaining on the schedule for the Eagles are at Fairland (Oct. 17), Foyil (Oct. 24), Oklahoma Union (Oct. 31) and at Ketchum (Nov. 7).