Guy Ellis

After a home appearance last Friday the Grove Ridgerunners football team will be on the road again this week traveling to Tulsa to open 4A District-3 play against the McLain Titans.

Grove enters tonight’s contest with a 2-1 record. Last week the Ridgerunners opened the home portion of their ’09 campaign with a 39-7 win over archrival the Miami Wardogs.

McLain returns to the field tonight after an open date last week. The Titans stand at 1-1 with a 13-7 win over Edison to open the season and a 29-0 loss at Hale in week two.

New head coach Dan Bitson leads the Titans this season. Bitson is a ’91 graduate of the University of Tulsa and was a two-time All American wide receiver for the Golden Hurricane.

Bitson arrived at McLain in May after coaching tours at his alma mater, the University of Kentucky, and the Oakland Raiders, among other stops. His last position before returning to Tulsa was with Auburn University.

With the late start to his duties at McLain the new head coach had to, as he put it, “hit the ground running” but is pleased with the progress that he and his staff have made with the team so far.

“We’re starting to play better as a team,” Bitson said. “We have some nice athletes and we’ve been working on improving techniques.

“We’ve also been working on improving our discipline, trying to cut down on penalties and working on off the field things as well,” Bitson added. “The team has put in a lot of work and I’m very proud of that.”

Last season senior Shawn Jackson led the Titans both offensively and defensively. With Jackson now playing college football Bitson and his staff have tried to shift the focus of their team.

“We don’t want our team to be about one guy,” Bitson explained. “We want to develop as many players as possible. We have to put our kids in situations where they can gain experience so that everybody can make plays for us.”

Tonight’s game should provide the opportunity that Bitson and his staff is seeking for their charges.

“Grove is a really good team,” the head coach said. “Dennis (GHS head coach Dennis Millican) has his team playing at a really high level.

“Grove is kind of a measuring stick,” Bitson added. “They’re doing what I’d like to do with our program.”

WHAT HAPPENED LAST YEAR

GHS took a 21-6 win at Ridgerunner Stadium in week three as both squads opened their district account.

Each team went into the game with 3-0 records and 4A top-ten rankings.

Turnovers were a key in last season’s contest.

A Titan fumble deep in their own territory late in the first half led to Grove’s first score of the night on a fourth and goal QB sneak from the one yard line.

Grove opened the second half with a touchdown drive of over six minutes that placed them up 14-0.

McLain nabbed an early fourth quarter interception that was returned to the GHS four-yard line. The Titan offense drove in for a rushing TD but the Ridgerunners blocked the extra point attempt.

The Titans attempt at a late comeback was thwarted by a GHS interception and a MHS fumble.