Lone Grove football controls own destiny in district matchup at Sulphur

Beau Bearden
The Daily Ardmoreite
Caden Gilmore and the Longhorns control their own destiny Friday night as a win over Sulphur would give them a district title.

The scenario is simple for the Lone Grove High School football team — beat Sulphur on Friday night and a district title is on the mantle. That’s easier said than done, but the Longhorns have remained focused on winning during the most important part of the season.

“We’ve had that mentality for the last three to four weeks — we control our own destiny,” said Lone Grove head coach Curtis Cole. “For us, it’s just about getting wins. No other stat matters. At the end of the night, it’s about walking away 1-0 each and every week from here on out. That’s just what we’re trying to get the kids to buy into. I think they’ve done a pretty good job of it so far. Just finding ways to win football games.”

That mentality has paid dividends as the Longhorns haven’t lost since Oct. 1 in a 29-17 setback at Kingston. Since then, Lone Grove has won four straight games, highlighted by a 42-34 victory over rival Plainview.

“It gave the kids confidence, but the biggest thing is it just validated everything that we’re preaching from the coaching staff down to the kids,” Cole said of the win over the Indians. “If we take care and do all these things, it’s amazing how it can all work out. How we can find a way to win games. That’s just the big deal for us. That win kind of validated everything we were saying. Now there’s just been the whole, ‘Hey, we can really do this, but we all have to do our jobs.’”

The Longhorns will need to carry that focus over, especially since the season finale won’t be a cakewalk. Sulphur was on a six-game winning streak before seeing it end last week in a 28-12 loss to Plainview.

That will obviously have the Bulldogs fired up for a bounce-back game, but Lone Grove believes it has a shot.

“Anybody can really beat anybody in our district this year,” Cole said. “It’s been really balanced, for the most part. Each game comes down to a team making a play or two here or there. That’s kind of been the difference in some of the ballgames in the district."

If that continues to be the case, it won’t be surprising to see Braxton Sparks and Caden Gilmore be the ones who make an impact as the running back-quarterback duo has put up a lot of points this season.

“Braxton has done a good job this year of taking on that running back spot and really going with it,” Cole said. “The offensive line has done a really good job growing because we replaced four out of five of those guys from the year before. Caden has done a great job and led the whole group. And our young receivers have come in and they’re able to do some things and help out.

“Offensively, it’s just been a really big team effort of everybody working together,” Cole continued. “And that’s what we need to continue to do and continue to still strive to get there.”

It’s safe to say that continual improvement has displayed itself throughout Cole’s inaugural season. And a lot of that has to do with the close-knit bond they’ve created over the years.

“I can’t say I’m surprised in the situation that we’re in,” Cole said. “I’ve been around these guys since they were 10 years old, so I’ve watched them grow up and develop into young men. We’ve had high expectations for them, and we’ve had high expectations for this football team. Just seeing them actually go out there and do everything that we know that they can do has been really good to see.”