After five days of spring practice, a newspaper article that is posted inside the fieldhouse at Ardmore High School continues to serve as motivation for the Ardmore Tigers.
The article is a recap of Ardmore’s loss to Deer Creek in the first round of last fall’s Class 5A playoffs.
Second-year head coach Josh Newby said Monday that the loss left a bad taste in the mouths of the Tigers’ players and coaches.
Ardmore has been hard at work to try to piece together a deeper run in the playoffs this fall.
“It definitely plays a role,” he said. “It left a sour taste in our mouths. I thought we were just as good, if not better than Deer Creek. It’s definitely a motivator.”
Getting back to the playoffs has been in its preliminary stages.
Ardmore has put on the pads for its annual spring practice workouts and worked on everything from defending to blocking to rushing to passing to installing new plays in its flexbone offense.
It’s all part of the plan to get the Tigers ready for their Sept. 2 season opener against Ada.
“It’s been going good,” senior lineman Sevin Franklin said. “Everyone has getting back to used to playing in football pads again. They’re going hard and getting their technique down.”
The Tigers boast good depth at most positions but have a few major holes to fill.
Lost to graduation are four-year starting quarter back Clay Atwood, elusive running back and kick returner O.J. Walker, defensive back Buddy Johnson, as well as linemen Braden Lyles, Breyden Brookshire and Kodie Harvey.
“They’re pretty good leaders,” senior running back/defensive back Kobe Pickens said. “They showed you where you need to be, how to do your blocks. Those are going to be some big shoes to fill, but I feel like we can do that.”
In spite of those departures, Newby has seen several returners assert themselves as vocal leaders, including senior running back/defensive back Kobe Pickens. Franklin said he has noticed similar leadership qualities in senior offensive lineman Shawn Harvey and junior linebacker Nick Weldon.
Pickens is one of the lead tailbacks for the Tigers who figure to be deep in talent at that position.
Senior Jordan Roberts was one of the primary ball carriers for the Tigers a year ago until he suffered a head injury during the third quarter of the playoff game at Deer Creek, a situation that required him to be transported by helicopter to a nearby hospital.
Roberts said Monday that he is no longer experiencing any symptoms.
Jakwan Anderson, Chantz Scurry, Brandon Sheehy, Cameron Petties, Eean Ross and Michael Bruner have also been getting in reps.
Senior lineman Tyreece Lott has recently gained a lot of attention for his pass-rushing skills – coaches from the University of Oklahoma, Southwestern Oklahoma State University and Missouri State University coaching staffs have come to Ardmore to watch the explosive edge rusher and offensive lineman put his skills to the test.
“Tyreece is looking very good,” Newby said. “He is very experienced. And he does have a lot of punch in his hips.”
Franklin, Lott and Harvey are amongst the top returners on the line, while fellow returners Joseph Clark, Dyontre Dixon and Diondre Scott have helped to lead the secondary during spring practice.
“The thing that I’m most proud about is that we’ve got chemistry in the locker room,” Newby said. “We don’t have any issues, per say. These kids to seem to really like each other.”
One question mark for Ardmore is at quarterback where it has to replace Atwood’s leadership and experience.
“That’s something that we’re looking for right now, someone to step up and be the vocal leader,” Newby said. “We have a lot of kids that lead by example in this group, which I really like. But we’re looking for that vocal leader.”
The Ardmore coach has liked the potential that he has seen from the sophomore class.
“We have a great group of sophomores,” Newby said. “I’m very excited about their development. A bunch of those kids are going to get throw into the fire. They’re going to have to be ready. Right now, we’re working on fundamentals and getting them ready.”
Ardmore has two days of spring practice and will then turn its attention will turn to summer pride workouts.