An optimistic football team from Altus will travel to Vernon, Texas, on Friday night for the season opener with the Lions. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
A large part of the reason for the optimism is the way the Bulldogs performed in their pre-season scrimmages. Altus more than held their own against a good Weatherford team, and they dominated Elk City last Friday night.
“I was pleased with the way our scrimmage season went,” AHS Head Coach Chad Stone said. “We’re light years ahead of where we were this time last year.”
It’s understandable why Stone made those comments. It was last year when Altus did not score in a scrimmage against Weatherford. At the Mustang Festival, the Bulldogs scored only a defensive touchdown.
In their two scrimmages this year, the Bulldogs crossed the goal line eight times including six times in 37 plays against Elk City.
The attention turns from the scrimmages to Friday night’s season opener.
There are many new things in the Vernon camp, including a new head coach. Vernon native Mark Bateman. The new coach has brought back an old friend, the wing T offense which was very kind to the Lions for many years. The past two seasons Vernon has unsuccessfully used the spread. Every once in a while they do get into the shotgun.
But the spread no longer exists and emphasis on the running game has been placed on the offense. The Lions in two scrimmages have run the ball 60 percent of the time. Most of their passing comes off the running game with play action fakes.
They showed two different quarterbacks. Brandon Urquizo (6-1, 165, Sr.) was the quarterback in the first scrimmage against Abilene Wylie. He went down to injury and did not play in the second scrimmage. “It may have been something minor.” Stone said. David Garza (5-9, 155, Jr.) was the quarterback the second scrimmage. “My feeling we will see the senior (Urquizo), and he moves pretty well,” Stone said.
It appears that Vernon would like to get the ball to two of their speedy backs including Orlando Haymon, (5-8, 175 Jr.) who has broken two long runs in their scrimmages and Robert Thomas (5-9, 185, Sr.).
“The wing T can present some problems because you don’t see a lot of it,” Stone said. “They have some smaller quick linemen and they have backs with speed.”
Defensively, the Lions are in a 3-4 alignment and they like to attack with their middle linebackers. Of their 11 starters on defense, only two are over 200 pounds.
“I think they are pretty confident in their back four, the two safeties and two corners,” Stone said. “They play some man coverage and quarters coverage. They are comfortable with those guys because they play their inside linebackers at about three yards. If its a pass they (inside linebackers) don’t have pass responsibilities. They shoot gaps and look to get to the quarterback and the safeties play about five to six yards. Really you’re looking at almost a 5-4 type defense.”
Game notes: Altus is riding a three game win streak over Vernon. The Lions hope to make some improvements over the last three years.
Altus will employ the “NASCAR offense” which means they want to snap the ball with five seconds of spotting the ball. “We’re looking to go up tempo,” Stone said.
The Bulldogs are also in good shape injury wise. Starting offensive tackle Chase Garrison missed the Elk City scrimmage because of a shoulder injury, but will play Friday night. Starting wide receiver, DeMaurie Randle, will miss the Vernon game. He suffered a knee injury in the Weatherford scrimmage and is listed as “week-to-week”. There are no other injuries.
The heat could be a factor in the game, and it could be an advantage to the Bulldogs. Vernon, who has only 29 players on its roster, will send many player both ways. Only Woodhouse and Cedrick Jamison are ticketed for double duty with the Bulldogs.
Stone did site Jamison for outstanding play in the Elk City scrimmage. “He had eight to 10 pancakes,” Stone.
In Sunday’s edition of the Daily Oklahoma, the Bulldogs were picked sixth in the district. They have been ranked 22 out of 32 teams in Class 5A.
“I don’t dwell on that very much,” Stone said. “Anything we can use as a source of motivation, we touch on a little bit. We feel we’re better than that, but at the same time we haven’t proved we’re better than that. It serves as kind of a wake up call. We’re going to have to continue to prepare, we’re going to have to continue to get better and play hard from week to week and prove them wrong.”