By Ty Loftis
Photo of Tonkawa's Blake Bristow courtesy of Blake Bristow's Twitter page
Pawnee meets up with Tonkawa on Friday night looking to get back on track following a 34-0 loss to Hominy last week.
Meanwhile, Tonkawa is rolling at 4-0 after winning its district opener against Chouteau, 54-19.
Pawnee has made back-to-back trips to the Class A state quarterfinals, and coach Karey Jones is hoping after going perfect in the non-district slate, his team will be able to learn a few things from the shutout loss to Hominy.
“We had a bad night against Hominy; nobody is questioning that,” Jones said. “But this team is resilient.
"We had four wins in the regular season last year, but got better and better as the year went along and ended up making it to the quarterfinals of state.”
If Pawnee is to beat Tonkawa, the Black Bears will have to key in on senior running backs Cameron Johnson and Blake Bristow, who are both averaging more than 100 yards per game.
Tonkawa coach Mike Kirtley noted the two backs have been playing well so far this season.
“It is good seeing those guys play well,” Kirtley said. “With them both being seniors, they have both worked hard to get where they are and they deserve to have a good year.”
Tonkawa hasn’t had a losing season since 2014. The Buccaneers went 10-3 last year and 14-1 in 2018.
Kirtley has been at the school for 37 years, and says the biggest challenge for this year’s team is rebuilding the offensive and defensive lines.
“We have done a good job creating running lanes so far, but there is always room to improve,” Kirtley said. “Defensively, we still have areas to improve on, but overall it’s been a great start to the season.”
Offensively, Pawnee will operate out of the shotgun, using a double-wing offense and will be relying on four running backs to carry the load.
Jones says his team has done a good job running an offense that most teams have went away from.
“It’s something that in today’s day and age, you don’t see that often, but for us it works and it is one extra thing our opponents have to prepare for,” Jones said.
Kirtley, on the other hand, noted preparing to play Pawnee is unique each and every year.
“Going up against an offense like that, you have to play sound defensively,” Kirtley said. “One missed assignment and you are likely going to give up a touchdown.”
One thing that has changed with Pawnee is its alignment defensively.
The Black Bears have moved to a 3-4 defense, and Jones remarked that transition is coming along slowly after giving up 55 points in a win against Meeker and 34 points in the loss to Hominy last week.
“We need to do to a better job of reading our keys,” Jones said. “When we are able to do that and make open-field tackles, we will be on track defensively.”
Kickoff from Pawnee on Friday is scheduled for 7 p.m.