Guy Ellis

It’s all change for the Fairland Fighting Owls football program this season.

The Owls welcome new head coach Jimmy Dushane and a rejuvenated roster of over 30 players. Fighting Owl fans are hoping the changes will translate into on-field success.

“I love it here,” Dushane said of his new post. “I’m glad to be here and the community has been great. We had a Saturday night practice (in the pre-season) and had close to 100 people show up. It was a good thing.”

Dushane arrived at Fairland after three years at Fox HS, in southeastern Oklahoma. Dushane’s teams there posted a 28-5 record during his stint.

Besides the warm welcome from the community the new coach has received a nice welcome from the student body.

“They told me at the end of last year we had 15 players suited up,” Dushane said. “We have 32 right now. I love that.

“You have to have numbers to make good practices, to get reps. It helps the upperclassmen stay sharp and brings the underclassmen along,” he explained.

Another benefit of having increased numbers is competition for positions.

“You can do that when you have numbers,” Dushane said. “I’m trying to put a sense of urgency in everyone, seniors included, that they have to compete for playing time.”

The Fighting Owls kick off their new season tonight at 7:30 p.m. when the Kansas Comets come calling.

“We’ll run multiple sets on offense,” Dushane said. “Hopefully we’ll be balanced. I really like to run the ball but we have some good receivers we can utilize.

“On defense we’ll have a 4-4 and 4-3 type of scheme,” Dushane added. “We’ll be aggressive on defense.”

The Owls face the new season with a limited number of seniors but they have a core group of juniors suited up.

“The juniors that are back have a lot of good playing experience, so that will help,” Dushane said. “We’re not a veteran team but we have some guys with some playing time.”

The balanced approach that the team is hoping for offensively also carries out to the group as a whole.

“We’re not going to line up and play power football,” Dushane said. “But we’re not going to be a push-over finesse team, either. Hopefully we can have a little bit of both- physical play and finesse play- and have a combination that works in our favor.”

Dushane sees the district race as a wide-open affair.

“Well, its Commerce and everybody else,” he said of the Class A District 8 race. “They’ve done a good job. People in the district look at Commerce as the point to where they want to be.”

 Part of any program is the rival game and the Fighting Owls are looking to this year’s contest with the Afton Eagles with anticipation.

“We take the games one at a time but that one (Afton) was one I looked at when I came here,” Dushane said. “The last five or six years we haven’t beat Afton. One of the goals that I’ve tried to set, and have the team set, is to be in the playoffs and beat Afton.”