No one can convince me that tonight’s showdown of the #2 Altus Bulldogs at #1 Lawton MacArthur is somehow not the number one game in the state. For many of us, it is the only game in the state.
No offense intended to the fans of Bartlesville and Bixby. However, that is a 6A II game between two schools almost in Arkansas, and Bixby has one loss.
So, let’s be clear what is going on here. Tonight at 7 p.m. inside Cameron Stadium, the best high school game in Oklahoma will kick off.
Bulldog fans are expected to head east in large numbers for the game. This is a big one. This showdown is for outright first place in the district race. It is a rematch of last year’s game that Mac somehow escaped from with a two-point win.
After falling just short of an earth shaking upset victory a year ago, the Bulldog faithful had to watch as Mac went on to hoist the shiny trophy as state champions.
Mac sits atop the 5A rankings. They are the current king of the 5A hill.
The Bulldogs have been steadily climbing even since. Other than being lit up at the frozen Guthrie field in the first round of playoffs, the Bulldogs are unscathed since the Mac loss last year. That Guthrie game turned on a dime after a Bulldog miscue that came after the Bulldogs had built a 17-0 early lead.
The Mac game and the Guthrie game in retrospect looks much like a young team that although talented, didn’t know yet how good they were. The 2014 Bulldogs were so excited to be relevant again, they were unable to harness their newly found success and stumbled a few times.
However, that was 2014. This 2015 version of the Bulldogs looks quite different. Quarterback, Jayden Benway, looks like a stone cold assassin under center. Benway’s leadership in conducting this offense is easy to see. There never seems to be an anxious moment for this kid. We never notice a panic or an agitation in his countenance. In football, this is an invaluable quality. Offensive penalties and turnovers have been held to a minimum.
Benway looks like a seasoned vet ready to take this team to the next level.
Speaking of the next level, Taven Birdow is much more than the hype would indicate. The best run I have seen from any running back this year was his 65-yard touchdown last week that was called back on a penalty.
That’s right. Officially, the most impressive run from an Oklahoma back this year does not exist. However, it’s hard to convince anyone inside The Rock last week that run didn’t happen. It was a spectacle of super-athlete quality almost impossible to describe. Those of us who saw it know it was real and we won’t soon forget it.
Taven “T-Bird” Birdow is just 336 yards away from breaking a 61-year-old Altus career rushing record set in 1954 by Raymond Boaz at 3,265 yards. This will give Taven the Altus single game, single season and career rushing records. This is an astonishing accomplishment considering no junior year stats exist for Taven at Altus.
Taven is much more than a running back for this team. He returns kicks and plays some serious defense when it’s his turn in the rotation. However, Taven takes more pride in being a great teammate than he does crossing the goal line.
This seems to be a common thread with this group of Bulldogs. Both Benway and Birdow deflect any praise to their teammates. That is comforting to encounter. While most of their generation are beating their chests and yelling “look at me,” these two Bulldogs want the credit to go to the team.
They are quick to point out the hard work of the offensive line as the reason for any offensive success. This Bulldogs offensive line has been working some big holes for these runners all year. I asked coach Reed after the Mac loss a year ago how the line was able to open up holes against Mac that were larger than we had seen in previous weeks. He told me he issued a challenge to his offensive line to play tougher. We didn’t want them to play soft. The O-line responded in a big way last year. It seemed like with every snap, a Bulldog was headed in some direction running wide open untouched into the second and third levels of the defense. It was beautiful. Mac’s hands were on their hips and their chests were heaving trying to get air all night.
The pace of the flex-bone often does not allow for personnel changes on defense. Hopefully, that will work again to the favor of the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs average 42 points per game. Mac allows 15 points per game. One of these averages will most likely suffer a hit tonight.
Winning in football gets much easier if penalties and turnovers can be avoided. It also helps to have a defense under the guidance of coach Vargas.
Let’s go Bulldog fans. Be loud and proud. These are the moments we have wanted for many years. The entire state of Oklahoma will take notice of the outcome tonight. This is a big one folks. This is a huge opportunity for this team.
GO BULLDOGS !! GO BULLDOGS !! GO BULLDOGS !!
Reach Brad Gilbert@482-1221 ext. 2076