COMMERCE - The “real” season starts tonight for Commerce.
The Tigers, winners of seven straight games, entertain Warner in a first round Class A game here.
“We told the kids there's three parts, the non-district games, the district games and now this one here,” Commerce head coach Mitchell Crittenden said. “We're starting over. We're all 0-0.”
Commerce (7-2) is working on another, more impressive - or dubious - streak. The Tigers have reached the semifinal round of the playoffs the past six years and seven of the last eight, but have no wins to show for it.
The Tigers hopes this will finally be the year.
“It's always there - until it happens (the streak ends), it always will be there,” said Crittenden, who is in his first season at the CHS helm. “Everybody talks about it in hushed whispers, but that is part of what we're going to try to do.”.
While Warner is coming off a 31-6 loss to Gore in a game that decided third place in District A-8, the Tigers were idle.
“The real thing I am concerned about right now as a coach is rust,” Crittenden said. “I told them we need to get out there that first series and knock the rust off and get going. Our kids are excited and are ready to go.”
Junior tight end-defensive end-kicker Matt Denton is a key player for the Eagles (5-5). He was responsible for all nine points in a 9-0 victory over Talihina two weeks ago that locked Warner into the playoffs.
“They (Talihina) have a big, strong physical team and they were a big favorite - we needed to shut them out,” Curt Denton said. “They took Panama and Pocola to overtime. We just manned up on them.”
The Eagles lost to district frontrunners Pocola, Panama and Gore as well as Sallisaw Central, a playoff team last year.
“There's a lot of parity in our district,” Denton said. “When you look at who beat who, that is why it ended up the way it did - we keep beating each other. It's one of the most balanced districts in the state.”
The shutout was the Eagles fourth of the season, a school record.
Others who have played key roles are Andrew Mealer, Jed Baker, Jack Reece and Baylen Fowler.
“I hate to single out any one kid,” Curt Denton said. “We have quite a few kids chipping in. It's been a team effort. You look at tackles, points scored and all that and its spread across the board.”
“Warner is not a bad football team,” Crittenden said. “They run to the ball hard on defense. They're not just real big and I don't know how physical they are.
“They throw the ball a lot and run a bit to keep you honest,” he said. “Sometimes you get big-played against a team like that. We have to make sure that doesn't happen.”
Tonight's winner draws either Luther or Hominy next Friday.