This years Ridgerunner football team is hard at work practicing for their upcoming season.
Last year the boys went 1-9 after winning their game against Miami 55-28, who also finished their season 1-9.
Coach Ron Culwell will be starting his third season at the Ridgerunners head coach and he will have some additional support this year in the form of a quarterback coach.
Rick Trimble who recently retired as the head coach of Owasso will be joining the team coaching the quarterbacks up in the box.
“He’s a good guy,” said Culwell.
Currently the players have been practicing with no pads, starting at 9 a.m. and wrapping up around noon, and will host their first practice in padsm Friday, August 10.
According to Culwell, the players are doing, “Good so far and have good energy and attitude.”
Typically, in preseason practice as with the rest of the years 9-12 graders will practice together ensuring freshmen get the same attention as seniors.
“We are currently working on conditioning and temp,” said Culwell.
“We are going to play more people this year. Sophomores who get 3-6 plays a game will retain interest.”
This is dual purpose in an effort to retain interest and to cultivate players at a younger age.
“Having fresh kids is better then the same ones dying, get them some rest and get them back in there,” said Culwell.
This season has a large senior class with 14-15 seniors and eight juniors.
Overall there are currently between 55 to 58 students attending practice with another week before their first scrimmage.
The boys are scheduled to have their first scrimmage at Tahlequah starting around 5 p.m. and including the middle school and high school players.
After playing Tahlequah their next scrimmage will be held on 5 p.m. Thursday August 23 at home against Sallisaw.
Typically, the players will only play a couple quarters instead of a full game during scrimmages which allows all the teams a chance to see time on the field.
With the season fast approaching its important for Grove to make the best of their practices with their first regular season non-district game at Vinita on 7 p.m. Friday, August 31.
Looking towards the start of the season Culwell said, “I don’t think anyone will be easy.”
However, the first four games of the year show good potential for the Ridgerunners with Vinita being 3-7 last year.
“We would have beat Vinita if we had a quarterback last year,” said Culwell.
Referring to the loss of quarterback Toby Cearley just minutes prior to the half, during which the he was knocked unconscious and removed from play for observation.
“Amos did a great job for having never really stepped into the quarterback position,” said Culwell.
Their second game against the season will be against Jay at Grove Sept. 7 in the annual Delco Bowl which Grove lost last year.
“We can play with Jay,” said Culwell.
Jay lost their quarterback and a number of their starting players to graduation which makes them an unknown.
The final non-district game of the year is against Pryor on Sept. 14 and according to Culwell, “Pryor isn’t out of the question.”
Last year Pryor finished 3-7 in their season and depending on their attrition and current player growth could present a challenging game for the Ridgerunners.
The first district game will be against Miami which was the only team the Ridgerunner defeated last year.
“Miami has a new coach and early wins are tremendous, we have good rivalry between Vinita, Miami and Jay,” said Culwell.
Other changes to season are the additions of Bristow 9-3 and Cleveland 4-6 to the district.
“Bristow in the past had a lot of tradition and was a quality opponent,” said Culwell.
“Cleveland has a really good option quarterback.”
Each season brings with it new challenges and new opportunities as the records are wiped clean and players and their talent come and go.