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Lone Grove football hungry for more as they travel to Kingfisher

Beau Bearden
bbearden@gannett.com

The Long Grove High School football team no longer has to talk about a five-year playoff absence.

The Longhorns not only put that streak in the rearview mirror last week, but they also picked up a win and look to keep it rolling on the road at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 20 against Kingfisher in the second round of the Class 3A State Playoffs.

“Our kids are hungry for success and they’re hungry to keep moving forward,” said Lone Grove head coach Brad O'Steen. “Whenever the kids are motivated to go play and practice, it really helps things. They’re excited about the opportunity and they know what’s at stake. We’ve played two of the better teams in the class – Kingston and Sulphur. We know we can play with those guys. … The kids are up for the challenge. That’s what makes it fun.”

The Longhorns will have their work cut out for them as Kingfisher finished the regular season at 7-3 overall and 4-1 in District 3A-1. Cade Stephenson has played an important role in that success with 948 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns.

However, Lone Grove has faced plenty of talented running backs this season.

“I don’t think he’s as good as Logan Smith from Sulphur, but he’s a good back,” O'Steen said of Stephenson. “Our kids know what they’ve got to do. We just can’t give up the big plays. That’s what got us against Sulphur. If we don’t give up the big plays, we beat them. Moving forward, we have to have a lot of team pursuit, a lot of guys to the football and get him tackled and on the ground.”

The Longhorns will also have to watch out for Kingfisher quarterback Jax Sternberger. The sophomore has passed for 2,177 yards and 24 touchdowns. However, he isn’t always accurate with 11 interceptions.

Nevertheless, both teams will have momentum on their sides after picking up big wins in the play-in round.

“To get a playoff win and get that postseason experience is crucial moving forward,” O'Steen said. “It really helps for the future, since we have a lot of young kids on the team.”

Lone Grove’s youth showed itself at certain points in last week’s 47-7 win over Mount St. Mary. The Longhorns had to overcome a sluggish start before a score helped shift things in the second half.

“That touchdown before halftime gave us a lot of momentum going in, but we just didn’t play well up front on the offensive line,” O'Steen said. “And we didn’t throw and catch the ball really well in the first quarter – we dropped two touchdowns. … We made some adjustments at halftime and the kids came out and handled it and played really well in the third.”

Only time will tell what happens this week, but Lone Grove hopes the momentum carries over to Friday night where the winner advances to the quarterfinals.

“This will be our longest road trip, so we’re looking forward to it,” O'Steen said. “We'll break up the trip. We’re going to stop halfway and feed them. Once we get back on the bus for the second half of the trip, they need to really dial in and understand what’s at stake. And mentally prepare themselves to go to war.”