Richard Stroud

Grove Sun

GROVE- After playing three of their first four games of the season on the road, the Grove Ridgerunners will have an aptly-named Homecoming contest on Friday against the Tulsa Central Braves.

But unlike most homecoming foes, the Braves, the eighth-ranked team in 5A, will be no pushovers.

Both teams are coming in with identical 3-1 records and both teams won their district openers last week. Because of that, Fridayís game, even though itís only at the halfway point in the season, will go a long way toward deciding who gets one of the districtís four playoff berths.

Fridayís game is also shaping up as a battle of running backs. Grove senior Buck Maples will go into Fridayís contest having amassed 467 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground through the seasonís first four games, while Centralís Tyron Garth ran for 174 yards and all three touchdowns in last weekís 21-14 overtime win against Tahlequah.

In contrast, the Grove defense has allowed an average of 100 yards per game on the ground, with no individual runner going over the century mark.

Having lost do-everything quarterback DeMarco Cobbs, who is now at the University of Texas, the Braves have been relying on their defense this season. With 68 points allowed through four games, Central has given up the third-fewest points in the district, allowing more than 20 points just twice in a week two win over Western Heights (30-21) and a week three loss to Muskogee (21-14).

They will be tested by a Ridgerunner offense that has averaged just over 30 points per game in 2010. Led by the running of Maples, the offense has been able to find big plays through the passing of quarterback Adam Steffenson, who has 348 yards and six touchdowns on the season.

With a trip to Coweta and upcoming games against Claremore and East Central later in the year, Ridgerunners are facing a crucial early-season contest.

The Braves and the Ridgerunners will kick off at 7:30 on Friday, with Homecoming activities immediately preceding kickoff.