Owls look to turn in best game against No. 9 Pocola

POCOLA - Choo Thomas has been waiting for his Fairland Owls to play their best game of the season.

Friday they get that chance when they tackle No. 9 Pocola in a first-round Class A playoff game.

“We're glad to be there,” Thomas said. “Hopefully, we're going to play our best game. This is the time of year you need to do that. We'll see what happens.”

This marks the second straight year the Owls have qualified for post-season play. They were 4-7 a year ago, but lost to Panama in the first round.

Fairland improved its bottom line to 5-5 this season and wound up fourth in District A-7 with a 3-3 record.

“Our offensive line (tight end Robert Bluejacket, tackle Tom Pharris, guard Spencer Anderson, center Cody Taylor, weak guard Zach Needham and weak tackle Tyler Vincent) is playing well,” Thomas said. “That is allowing our running backs to have a chance to get to the open field. We will continue to do that and see what happens.”

“We know them from weightlifting,” Pocola head coach Rick Lang said. “The tailback (Chuck Cassinelli) is a real strong kid. He's won a lot of weight meets and is a state champ in his weight class. The quarterback (Casey Robertson) is a very solid kid. They put him in the shotgun and do a lot of stuff with him. They are pretty good sized up front.”

Cassinelli rushed for 296 yards and seven touchdowns in the Owls' 48-14 victory over Copan in the regular-season finale last Friday.

He scored on a 58 yard run on the first play of the game, then added TD runs of 45, 34, 34, 23, 34 and 39 yards.

Cassinelli also had a conversion run.

Pocola rocked Panama 43-15 last Friday to win the District A-8 championship.

Tailback R.J. Hershel, a 5-11, 215-pound senior who also excels at the state lifting meets, led the way for the Indians, rushing for 293 yards with touchdown runs of 5, 39, 1, 7 and 52 yards.

He had four of his five TDs in the first half as Pocola opened up a 29-7 advantage.

“It's hard to compare them (with a previous opponent), but they have a pretty good team. They will be handful, I know that.”

The Indians' other weapons include quarterback Maverick Lang (6-2, 175) and slotback John Bowen (6-1, 170). Bowen had 157 yards and a touchdown in the win over Panama.

“They are pretty balanced,” Thomas said. “They look like they probably run more than throw. He (Maverick Lang) is not bad but they have a couple kids who run the ball well. They can do both.”

The Indians were 6-4 a year ago, just missing out on the playoffs.

“We lost some close games,” Rick Lang said. “The core is back with us and they learned from their mistakes. We've been getting better.”

Just like Thomas has heaped praise on his guys in the trenches, the elder Lang felt the same way with his offensive linemen.

“Our line (left tackle Nick Swift, left guard Jeffery Fountain, center Chris Conrad, right guard Dusty Kent, right tackle Dusty Steele and tight end Chris Bourne) is experienced,” Rick Lang said. “They (seniors Swift, Conrad and Steele) have been pretty steady for us since they were sophomores.”

The Fairland-Pocola winner moves on to face either No. 6 Pawnee or No. 12 Tonkawa in the second round next Friday.