The clock has hit zero.
El Reno High School’s football team will open up the 2019 season Friday at Memorial Stadium with only one scrimmage under its belt.
“It’s here and we’ve got to get four good days of practice in this week before we open the season,” said El Reno head coach Chuck Atchison.
Friday’s game completes a two-game contract with Poteau in which the schools play in what the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association deems as Zero Week.
Schools with an odd number in district play or having trouble with schedules during the 10-game regular season can opt to use this period to fill a complete schedule.
El Reno was forced to seek out an opponent last year when Cache dropped the Indians from its schedule despite having agreed to the two-year deal for months.
Poteau faced a similar situation and the two schools agreed to the deal. El Reno made the five and a half hour trip to southeastern Oklahoma last season.
Atchison says this will more than likely be the last year he agrees to the early-game format.
“If we started a week earlier and had that extra time to practice it might work out. I like having the week off before the Chickasha game. But Oklahoma will not let us start any earlier and I don’t like being rushed trying to get everything through,” said Atchison.
El Reno started fall two-a-day drills Aug. 12 but had only three days of multiple workouts because classes started three days later. The Indians will have a road game next week at Piedmont before getting a week off (Sept. 13) before hosting the Fighting Chicks in the U.S. 81 Battle on Sept. 20.
“It sure has been a quick 18 days since we started,” said Atchison.
The Indians had a somewhat rocky scrimmage last week against Clinton and Lawton MacArthur. Junior quarterback Dorian Plumley completed 2-of-5 passes in the set against the Red Tornadoes for 30 yards, but did have one pass intercepted.
Kord LaFoe caught a swing pass for 15 yards and a first down, while tight end Kolton Hunt blasted through a tackler for a 15-yard catch-and-run play to move the chains.
The EHS run game was not as successful with seven carries for a yard, hampered by three fumbles.
The offense had more success in the series with the Eagles, with Plumley completing passes of 6 and 13 yards to Cash Crawford, both going for first downs. LaFoe added a 6-yard carry.
“We were so vanilla and we just frustrated ourselves with the fumbles. We had five bad snaps and seven dropped passes. We didn’t run 80 percent of our offense and we purposely held Dorian back from running the football.
“We’re going to let him and the offense loose this week, so we will be fine,” said Atchison.
El Reno’s defense had success in stopping both opponents but still gave up the home run plays. Lawton Ike rushed eight times for 110 yards but 65 of those yards and a touchdown came on the seventh rushing attempt.
The Eagles were 0-for-3 passing.
Clinton popped off two big runs on the Indians, one a 65-yard gain, while the other 58-yard went for a score. The Red Tornadoes were 2-of-4 passing for 28 yards including a 15-yard catch-and-run touchdown.
“You never dwell much on the scrimmages and going back and looking at it on film, we did a lot of good things that were overlooked by the mistakes. You are never as good or bad as you think you are,” said Atchison.
Atchison admits his staff has been scheming for close to two weeks for the Poteau game as the Pirates bring to El Reno a team that went 12-1 last season and made the state semifinals before losing to 21-11 to Tuttle.
The Pirates were 10-0 in the regular season including a 38-19 win over the Indians. Atchison says his players may have some revenge thoughts on their minds.
“Maybe they do but you know I have three goals at the start of every year. I want to win the first game, win a district championship and win in week 11. If you can do all three of those things, then you have had a pretty good year. We want to be ready to play no matter who we are lining up against and I think our players will be ready,” said Atchison.
“I don’t think we underestimated them last year because we knew they were a good team. We just came in there not ready to play when the game started and we got into a hole.
“We dug ourselves out of it but then ended up losing the game,” said LaFoe.
LaFoe said the players are aware of how much a quick start can build momentum.
“Not being ready to play will not happen this year. We want to have that momentum going into the Piedmont game. These first three games won’t make or break us as far as winning a district championship, but it will sure help with momentum,” said LaFoe.
Poteau greets Greg Werner back to the sidelines as head coach and will also be running a new offense in El Reno.
Atchison said the Pirates ventured across the Red River in the offseason to Mount Pleasant, Texas, to learn the Tigers version of the Wing-T offense.
“It’s old school and that offense will be a challenge for us. I’m not sure why they went to Mount Pleasant to learn that offense, but we are going to have to play hard to win,” said Atchison.