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Cougars Prepare For District Opener vs Coweta
09/27/19 -

The Ada High football team traveled to Duncan for a Week 3 matchup with the host Demons Friday night, but neither team could win the battle with Mother Nature.

Rains soaked the area early and lightning strikes began later. After an hour delay before the game even started, officials from both schools didn’t like what they saw still tracking toward Duncan via weather radar and decided the best thing was to cancel the game.

So while not exactly like a bye week, the Cougars didn’t have to go through the rigors of a game under the Friday night lights and immediately started preparations for a District 5A-3 clash with Coweta. That matchup is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday inside Koi Ishto Stadium.

Weather watching

Ada head coach Chris Berus said he and his coaching staff had been tracking the weather forecast for Stephens County in the days before making the trip.

“We had been paying attention to the weather for a couple of days. It seemed like that changed by the minute,” he said.

The Cougars arrived at the Duncan High School football stadium at approximately 4:45 p.m. and started getting into uniform. However, about 10-15 minutes before the first players would take the field, things started getting ugly.

“That first lightning strike flashed about 5:40. We knew it was going to be a waiting game then. Probably at that point, looking at the projections, you knew then there was a possibility we weren’t going to play,” Berus recalled.

“You live in Oklahoma long enough, you know some of that dissipates and sometimes it moves. You want to be positive ... but there were just enough storm cells spaced apart from each other that it was going to be a stop and start at best,” he continued. “We probably could have started (the game) at around 8:15, but there was another cell about an hour behind. The last thing we wanted to do was start and stop and restart.”

One priority of the Ada coaching staff was to keep the Cougars focused while playing the waiting game.

“It was really about them staying loose. Obviously, there is a focus you want them to keep. When you’re not in your home locker room, those things are cramped. You just don’t want them to be tight in a situation like that. You can get exhausted by anxiety if you let that stuff carry on too deeply,” Berus said. “Kids are smart. They have the same apps we do and they’re looking at the same stuff we’re looking at.”

The game was officially nixed just after 7 p.m.

“Non-district games are very crucial in your development, but at that point, we knew it was best to pack up and head on back home and start getting prepared for Coweta,” Berus said.

 Here come the Tigers

Coweta is off to a tough 1-2 start, but both of their losses have come against talented foes.

The Tigers opened the season with a narrow 9-7 loss to Class 5A No. 4 Tahlequah. In Week 2, Class 4A No. 3 Wagoner turned back Coweta 36-27. The Tigers defeated an 0-3 Catoosa Club 27-16 last week.

“They’re a good football team with some nice weapons on offense and have good team speed on defense. They have some tough kids. It’s going to be a great ballgame,” Berus said. “Coweta has some young talent mixed in with some seniors that have some experience.”

Leading a spread offense with multiple formations is sophomore quarterback Gage Hamm. He has completed 36-of-53 passes for 466 yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions. Although he will take off and run with the ball, he hasn’t had great success with 42 rushes for just 24 yards.

“He’s about 6-3 and throws the ball very well. He runs very adequately,” Berus said.

Coweta’s top receivers are senior Blake Lair (11 catches, 143 yards, two touchdowns), junior Gunnar McCollough (eight catches, 102 yards) and running back Wesley Spohn out of the backfield, who has six catches for 102 yards and a score.

Senior Piper Pennington is the team’s leading rusher with 173 yards on 27 carries.

“They have a lot of explosiveness on the outside. They have an H-back (McCollough) who is about 6-3, 205, and they do a good job of using him in the perimeter blocking game. He does a great job of setting edges for them to run the football outside. He’s also a weapon to throw the football to with his range,” Berus said.

“They also have two running backs that are very solid in the scheme they’re doing,” he continued.

The Tigers have alternated between 4-2 and 4-3 defensive schemes so Berus said the Ada offense has to prepare to face both.

“They play their safeties tight to the line of scrimmage, daring you to throw over the top. They want to have eight or nine in the box versus the run,” Berus said. “Their linebackers are fast and physical and cover a lot of ground from sideline to sideline.”

Leading the Coweta defense has been senior Jesse McDermott with 19 tackles, and seniors Jonathan Fadevev and Blake Garman with 18 stops each.

Hamm and junior Jaxson Stidham both have two interceptions apiece. The Tigers have seven picks total and four fumble recoveries through three games.

Coweta is under the direction of first-year head coach Tim Harper, who had been the head coach of four different Arkansas high school football teams over the previous 19 years.

“They have a new head coach that has had a lot of success in Arkansas. I’m sure he wants to bring that success to Coweta,” Berus said.

Both teams can forget about the first three weeks now. All that remains are key 5A-2 district games.

“As disappointing as it was not to play in a ballgame from a competitor’s standpoint — especially for our seniors, because that’s one competition that’s taken away from a season for those guys — we know the task ahead. It’s disappointing from that aspect, but to dwell on it would be futile,” Berus said. “You learn how to make the most out of it and move forward. We have a huge (game) coming up Friday.”

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