Guy Ellis

It’s the biggest thing going on in our fair city and we’re all counting down the minutes until Saturday’s 3:00 PM kickoff for the 4A quarterfinal football match-up between the Ridgerunners and the Star Spencer Bobcats.

First, a quick geography lesson. Star Spencer High School is located in Spencer, OK which is a suburb of Oklahoma City that sits just east of the downtown area. It’ll be a good three and a half to four hour trek from out west for the Bobcats as they travel to Ridgerunner Stadium.

The Bobcats play in 4A District 2 and finished the season as runners up in the group behind Glenpool. Star has compiled a 9-2 record so far this year and defeated Elk City 35-7 last week to open their post-season account.

Star Head Coach Darrell Hall is in his sixth season at the helm of the Bobcats.

“They’re a very good team,” Hall said of the Ridgerunners. “Their offensive line and defensive line are very solid.

“They’ve got playmakers in #11 (Grove QB Corey Davenport) and #85 (WR Dusty Gehrke),” Hall said.

“And those aren’t the only weapons they have,” added the coach. “#20 (RB Casey Bartley) runs the ball very tough and #2 (WR Braeden Downes) does a good job and #14 (WR Michael Hudgens) blocks well so they’re a good, solid, all-around team, which you’d expect from a group that’s 11-0.”

The Spencer team has some stars of its own, as well. Junior running back Darwin Rideau (6’1”, 205 lbs) leads the Bobcat option attack with 1130 yards on 81 carries with 16 touchdowns so far in ’08. That all works out to a 14.0 yard rushing average.

Meanwhile, senior quarterback Jeremy Harris (5’10”, 178 lbs) has amassed 1012 rushing yards this season on 73 carries with 20 touchdowns.

Junior Terrence Olds (6’0”, 189 lbs) is a third back that could be rotated in on offense. He rushed for 548 yards last year.

Opening holes for the trio is a line that consists of junior Joe Christian (5’10”, 250 lbs), and seniors Montrell Robinson (6’1”, 263 lbs), Marquis Moore (5’10”, 215 lbs), and Adarius Mallory (5’9”, 253 lbs.)

Defensively the Bobcats are led by senior Money Davis (6’0”, 215 lbs) who was the second leading tackler for the unit last season. Quarterback Harris, the ’07 leading tackler, also starts at safety for the defense. It’s possible that Rideau could see time in the defensive backfield as well Saturday afternoon.

“We’re going to need an overall team effort,” Hall said about his team’s date with the Ridgerunners. “We’re definitely a running team so we need to run the ball extremely well. We’ll need to block well and get after people.”

Going up against a Ridgerunner defense that has landed 38 turnovers through 11 games this season Coach Hall also noted, “We’ll need to cut turnovers down.”

For their part, the Ridgerunner coaching staff has shown as much respect for the Star crew as Coach Hall has for the Grove team.

“They’re very solid,” Ridgerunner Head Coach Dennis Millican said of the Bobcats. “You get down to the last eight teams in the playoffs and everybody’s good.”

“We’ve got to contain them and make sure they don’t get the big play. They’re capable of long drives and we have to be patient,” Millican added. “We probably won’t stop them on every down but we have to contain them. They aren’t afraid to run the ball. An advantage for us would be if we could force them to throw the ball.”

The option attack that the Bobcat offense utilizes is a unique approach as compared to what the Ridgerunners have faced in their previous 11 wins.

“They’re kind of a throwback team,” Millican said. “They’re going to line up in the “I” and run right at you. And they run the option pretty well.”

Ridgerunner linebackers coach John Henry Ward has been busy this week preparing his charges for the Bobcat rushing onslaught.

“We’re kicking around some ideas,” Ward said. “It’s not so much about what they do that’s scary, it’s the people doing it. They are very fast and very physical.

“They scare you in the fact that if you miss one tackle, or if one person is out of position, it could be the difference in holding them to a two-yard gain or a 70-yard gain,” Ward added.

“If our kids show up and answer the bell like they have all year then I think we’ll be fine,” said the coach.

Among those answering the bell will be sophomore linebacker Bobby Harris. Harris (6’2”, 235 lbs) is the leading tackler (129) for the Ridgerunner defense this year.

“Bobby was here last year and he played defensive end for us,” Ward said. “We knew right away the guy could run, and had good size and speed, so he was one we thought about moving to linebacker.”

Joining Harris in the linebacker trenches is sophomore Trent Phillips (6’0”, 185 lbs) who is the second leading tackler on the team (90) and transferred in this year from Jay High School.

“When Trent moved in we didn’t really have an idea of where he would fit in,” said Ward, “but he’s done a great job for us at linebacker.”

The move to linebacker for both sophomores was to compensate for the loss of three-year starter and All Conference player R.J. Bartley.

“We had to start, basically, from scratch this year (at linebacker),” said Ward. “It was definitely a process with them having to learn stuff and only being sophomores, and us (coaches) having to be patient with them at times about things we had kind of taken for granted the last few years.”

The young linebackers, backed by a chorus of stout upperclassmen on the line and in the secondary, have helped forge a defensive unit that has posted some impressive numbers this season.

The Ridgerunners have held their opponents to an average of 9.6 points a game this season. The defense has held the opposition to an average of 116 rushing yards and 102 passing yards a game.

Besides those impressive numbers defensive backs Dusty Gehrke (6’0”, 180 lbs) and Braeden Downes (5’10”, 165 lbs) lead Class 4A in interceptions with 8 and 5 picks, respectively.

The stage has been set and the battle promises to be epic. Like Mr. Pepper said in the old John Wayne movie Chisum, “It’s going to be head to head and horn to horn, and one heck of a fight!”