Jay stepped onto the field at Verdigris to the astro turf field in the suburbs of Tulsa on Friday, Aug. 25, facing one of the toughest teams in the Class 3A play.
But the Bulldogs walked to crowded stadium and made the home team’s field their own in a 40-13 domination of highly regarded Cardinals.
“It was a big win Friday night and a great start to our season,” said Jay Head Football Coach Warren Kirk. “Hopefully this will kick us into a winning type of culture and jump starts us to a successful season.”
Jay set the tone early with their defense. After giving up yardage on the opening kick off, Verdigris ended up Jay territory moving down into scoring territory.
But Hunter King and Zach Carroll got free from the Verdigris offensive line to sack the quarterback and end their possession.
The defensive stand sparked the Bulldogs and they drove down the field to score their first touchdown. The drive was capped off with a three-yard touchdown run from lineman John Culver who was inserted into the backfield.
“I scored my first touchdown tonight and it feels great,” said Culver.
Adam Beccera nailed the PAT and Jay led 7-0 with 5:59 left in the first quarter.
The Cardinals once again returned the kick off deep in Bulldog territory but once again the Jay defense stepped up once again with Culver sacking the quarterback to stop the second Verdigris drive.
That early success is what set the tone for the game. It is a new personality for this team that Kirk believes will help them throughout the season.
“We have been telling the kids they needed start walking with some confidence," Kirk said. "I tell them go out with a little swag. Go out there and know that they belong and could beat anyone. That has been our problem the past is I don’t think they believed themselves.
"But I think we do now and the kids are going out and practicing and now playing with confidence."
Jay once again marched down the field to set themselves up for their second touchdown, a three-yard Keng Vang run. Beccera nailed the PAT and Jay led 14-0.
“Just across the board it is one of the best games Jay Bulldogs has played in the five years I have been here,” Kirk said.
Jay put another touchdown on the scoreboard when quarterback Gabe Simpson hit found fellow senior 6-6 Brenden Ryan in the end zone. Ryan went up high out jumping the Verdigris defender and getting the score. The PAT failed the Bulldogs were up 20-0.
“Offensively a lot of guys touched the football. Gabe probably had his best game at quarterback since he has been at Jay. He did a good job taking care of the football. Our wide receivers those guys contributed catching the ball and running with it,” said Kirk.
Simpson completed 16-22 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 94 yards on the night.
“The offensive line played great we rushed for over 200 yards. That is a good game there,” said Kirk.
The Bulldogs finished with 420 total yards with 219 coming on the ground.
Verdigris added their first touchdown late in the first half but Culver came in for the blocked extra point and once again gave Jay a spark. Culver made plays all night in a variety of way.
“[It] feels good knowing I got my team backing me up," Culver said. "I just go out and make plays for these guys, this team.
"I am not a selfish person I will do anything to help this team get better. They help me each day to get better. I just want to come out each game and bring the heat. I will just whatever I need to do help my team get better.”
Jay added another touchdown just before half time when Simpson threw a short pass to senior Dalton Tanner. He broke a couple of tackles and sped into the end zone from 35 yards out.
Verdgris cut the lead in half following a Bulldog fumble on a seven-yard pass.
The Bulldogs got on the scoreboard early in the fourth quarter when Vang took the football up the middle from 28 yards out. The PAT made the score 33-13.
The Bulldogs sealed the win late in the fourth quarter on a Vang 45-yard pick six and the scoring was final for both teams.
“[This] feels great," Vang said. "I have to give the shout out to all my teammates. Without each other we are nothing. We just come out support each other.”
The Verdigris quarterback passed for 169 yards in the game but Jay held the Cardinals offense to 85 total rushing yards.
“Defensively we had more sacks Friday night than we did all of last year. That quarterback is probably as good as we will play all year as far as passing and running the football," Kirk said. "I don’t think he really ever had time to set up and throw the football. Always on the run or being chased."
Kirk believes the win will boost his team as they head into the season.
“That one of our slogans this year is just being tough. Lets go fight no matter who you are mentality," Kirk said. "I think the kids are getting that attitude and playing with a little chip on their shoulder. I think it is a good thing."
This week’s opponent: Vinita Hornets:
This week’s game with Jay will be the Hornets season opener.
“Vinita they have some players," Kirk said. "Offensively and defensively they can hurt you. They have broke the wing T they have used for so long and now throw the ball down the field a little bit from sideline to sideline.
"Defensively they run the three-four and will be bringing some people and coming after you. We are going to have to hook up and come out and play football like we do every week. We are 1-0 but we have done anything yet. We still have to come out and play football each week."
After such a big win Kirk said he will need to work to keep his team on track for Vinita.
“We got to keep our focus. We still got go prove it each and every week. I gave them their handout last week and told them to go prove it," Kirk said. "We are going to go prove it everyday in practice and every Friday night. We just got keep that edge and go earn it each week."
Kirk said not expects things to be much different than what fans saw against Verdigris.
“Offensively and defensively we will change a few things. But we have to protect the football," Kirk said. "Last week we lost one turnover and got four. We will a lot of football games with that."
Kirk was pleased with Bulldog crowd who followed the team to Verdigris. He hopes it will lead to a good home opening crowd Friday night.
“We had a pretty good crowd and were glad we were able to give them the victory," Kirk said. "I just want to encourage all Bulldogs fans to come out and support us in our home opener and we will out and work our hardest to give them another win."
Game time is 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 1 at J.B. Earp Stadium, Jay.