TAHLEQUAH-After almost two weeks of hitting each other, the Grove Ridgerunners finally took the field against guys with other helmets when they traveled to Tahlequah Friday night for the first of two of the elaborate dress rehearsals known as preseason scrimmages.
Taking their turns against the Stigler Panthers, Sallisaw Black Diamonds and the host Tahlequah Sequoyah Indians, the Ridgerunners ran 32 plays each on offense and defense with the expected mix of the good and the bad.
“The first scrimmage is a glorified practice,” GHS head coach Dennis Millican said. “We don’t get too excited about it.”
On the plus side the Ridgerunner running game looked strong for the offense, with Buck Maples getting several big gains in the opening possession against Sallisaw, which resulted in a touchdown on a quarterback sneak by Adam Steffenson. The offense also had a nice drive against Sequoyah, moving the ball close to the Indian goal line before running out of plays.
Another plus for the Ridgerunners was the play of the defensive front seven. Anchored by senior linebackers Bobby Harris and Trent Phillips, the Grove defense proved to be as advertised in shutting down the running games of all three opponents.
Unfortunately the GHS defense was burned several times through the air. The Indians were the first to test the Ridgerunners, and while Grove stopped the vaunted Sequoyah wing-t on the ground, it was sophomore quarterback Brayden Scott who burned the Ridgerunners repeatedly, with the drive ending with an eight-yard touchdown pass by Scott.
The Panthers also scored through the air on their possession against Grove. Even without standout QB Jarret Radford, who threw for over 3,000 yards and 32 touchdowns last season but missed the scrimmage due to a toe injury, the Panthers struck on a 28-yard touchdown pass.
“We did pretty well up front with our defensive line,” Millican said. “But we can’t give up the big plays. We’d look good for about four plays and then give one up deep. We can’t do that.”
Overall though, Millican and his team were happy with how things went.
“We try to get good film so the coaches can evaluate what we need to do technique-wise, look at personnel, who’s fitting in where. The main thing was we stayed healthy.
“We’ve go to do some things in practice to get better this week. I’m pleased but we’re not at the point that I feel like we need to be.”
The Ridgerunners will travel to Bishop Kelley next Friday for their second and final scrimmage before opening the season at Miami on September 3.
“We’ll kick it up a notch next week at Bishop Kelley,” Millican said. “That’ll be more of a game-like situation.”