BLUEJACKET - Ronnie Simmons is trying to make sure his Bluejacket Chieftains understand that Friday’s opener with arch rival Welch is just another game.
“This is a big game for both of us,” Simmons said. “We both start district next week against the team that is favored to win their district. We both might have to pull back and reconsider on that.”
The Chieftains return everyone from a team that went 6-4 but just missed out on qualifying for the playoffs.
Welch leads the battle for the Bell Trophy by a 17-5 margin. The Wildcats rolled to a 59-14 decision last year.
Welch suffered heavy graduation losses after a 2011 season that saw it post its first opening-round playoff victory in 10 years.
Alex Smith, Jacob Mount, Buchanan and Mike Schultz represented Welch in the Oklahoma Eight Man Football Coaches Association all-star game in Miami.
Smith accounted for 2,357 of the Wildcats’ 4,191 total yards last season. He rushed for 2,142 yards and 31 touchdowns and added 215 yards and four TDs on 14 pass receptions.
Buchanan was Welch’s leading receiver with 27 catches for 510 yards and eight scores.
Bluejacket's last win in the rivalry was a 58-22 decision in 1999. Bluejacket suspended football for the 2000 and '01 seasons, and the teams didn't meet again until 2010 – when Welch notched a 48-0 victory.
“We want to go out and execute our plays, move the ball on them and not get any kids hurt,” Simmons said. “If we get into a situation where we get a kid here hurt and there hurt, have to pull them and we lose the game, it's just what it is. But we want to win this game. There is no doubt in our kids' mind they want to win the game and they think they have a great chance of doing it.”
Simmons has switched up the offense to take advantage of a wealth of skill players.
“We’re stacked on the skill side of the ball,” he said. “We’re a little weak on the line with younger kids. Our whole backfield is back.”
T.K. Francis returns at quarterback while Dylan Anderson is back at tailback.
Francis completed 56 of 83 passes for 917 yards and 14 touchdowns. He also rushed for 143 yards and two scores.
Anderson had 1,581 yards on 134 carries. He scored 17 times. Anderson also had 17 receptions for 305 yards and three scores.
“We can go with either quarterback (Francis or Charlie Reeves) and I feel comfortable with them,” Simmons said. “Both quarterbacks can run and throw very well. We can go with two different tailbacks. All of our receivers catch the ball well.”
Chalin Rogers has been moved to fullback, allowing the Chieftains to run some pistol formations.
“We’ll stretch the field and see if they can match up with our skill kids,” Simmons said. “I think we can hurt them with our skill kids.”
Anderson and Chase Tharp head up the Chieftains' 3-2 defense.
Anderson had a team-high 108 stops, including 53 tackles. He also had four interceptions.
Tharp logged 33 tackles and 70 assists. He caused three fumbles and recovered three.