For Ardmore, it will be a vast difference tonight from last year's “Battle of the Cats.”
For Ardmore, it will be a vast difference tonight from last year's "Battle of the Cats."
The tables have turned. Now, it's Ada with the experienced players, while Ardmore will trot out close to 20 first-time starters against its longtime rival.
New helmets. New starters. New season.
"We feel confident with what our coaches have taught us, but we're all a little nervous since this is our first game as a starting varsity player," Ardmore linebacker Kaine McCullough said Thursday. "But we'll get our job done."
Ada returns multiple starters (nine on offense, six on defense) from a team that qualified for the postseason in its final season in Class 5A last season. The Cougars are in 4A this year, but return quality on offense in Wyatt Robson, a three-year starter at quarterback, and receiver Easton Pingleton.
Last season, the Tigers were able to go to Ada and shut out the Cougars 28-0, winning the Battle of the Cats for the second consecutive year. In that game, current starting quarterback Jeff Surrell ran for two touchdowns, and starting safety Carter Swanson came up with an interception, so the Tigers do have returning contributors despite an almost entirely new lineup.
Ardmore coach Douglas Wendel said he's concerned with his team, not the Ada experience advantage.
"I haven't spent a lot of time thinking about what concerns me about them," he said. "I think they've got better skill players than they've had in the past, and they're gonna do some things that we haven't seen, but that happens every year whoever you're playing first game of the season."
On Thursday, the Tigers went through the rare padded walkthrough, with the defense looking particularly sharp. Junior defensive lineman Darius Lawson said the Tigers will be ready, regardless of who's on the field tonight.
"We've been applying ourselves, paying attention to detail," Lawson said. "We're ready to show what we can do tomorrow."