It was a season to remember for Empire football.
The Bulldogs hosted a playoff game for the first time since 1989, won their first playoff game since 1991, beat Velma-Alma for the first time in 17 years, and overcame several injuries and setbacks to get it done.
It was a year of success that Empire coach Tony Roberts expected as the season began.
“This was the year we were counting on to make some noise,” he said. “We proved we were worthy of what we had done.
“Nearly 25 years had gone by since we had this much success.”
The Bulldogs’ success this season was the main reason why Roberts was named The Duncan Banner 2013 All-Area Football Coach of the Year.
Roberts, though, would rather credit to his assistant coaches for how far the Bulldogs came this season.
It was a coaching staff that is relatively new to Empire. Jason Allensworth has the longest tenure at five years. Jacob Smith is in his second year, while Stefan Hunt and Michael Barnes just started this year.
Regarding Hunt, who coached the offense, Roberts said, “Me and him started to gel about week five or week six. At first, I’d talk to him and he’d talk to me about plays, but then he started calling the plays on my mind.”
Then there was the Empire senior group — 10 players who all played a key role in the program’s success.
Roberts noted that Gunnar Leseny “never missed a practice, never missed a workout, and only missed school when he was sick or when he had surgery for his knee injury.” Leseny mostly played special teams and missed much of the seaon because of that knee injury.
The Empire coach could rattle off a long list of the special contributions his seniors made. There was the interception Dakota Bilbrey had to seal the win against Velma-Alma. There was Cooper Hill, who led the team in interceptions as a freshman and remained integral to the receiver and defensive back groups.
He talked up Cole Bridges, who played fullback but mostly blocked.
“He didn’t have many carries, even when Stephen Price was out,” Roberts said, yet Bridges embraced his role.
There was Price, of course. The senior linebacker and running back missed several games with a broken foot, yet made plenty of big plays during the time he took the field.
Roberts had just as much praise for his senior linemen: Trey Skiles, Jacob Wilson, Ashtin McLaughlin, Zach Rivera and David Couch. Roberts noted that Skiles “fought his guts out,” not missing a game despite dealing with a broken hand and an ankle sprain during the season.
“Every one of those seniors contributed in some form or fashion to help us be what we were,” Roberts said.
Those 10 seniors will graduate in May. Roberts knows the Bulldogs will have a tough task ahead next season, but he has some quality players who will return. At the same time, Roberts said, they will have to work hard if they want to continue their success.
“When you have 10 kids graduate, you know that you are going to have a rebuilding year,” he said. “We will have to work hard in the offseason to get to where we need to be.
“I think we’ll be a playoff team against if we keep working hard. We’ll have to see how the young kids will develop.”
What has truly allowed Empire to succeed, the coach said, is that the players have “great attitudes” and a desire to get better. When they watched footage of the loss to Ringling Oct. 25, they never dwelled on anything and wanted to improve, Roberts said. After watching the film of the second-round playoff loss to Hollis, Roberts said players spent more time talking about the things they could have done differently, rather than looking for somebody to blame. Their attitude was no different following the Sept. 20 loss to Dibble.
“I don’t know if there was anything we could have done differently to prepare,” Roberts said regarding the losses. “I thought the game plans were good. We just got beat by the better team that day of those three losses.”
But those three losses took nothing away from a great season. Roberts said he has been happy with the way the Bulldogs have progressed in the five seasons he has been their head coach. It’s that progress that makes him enjoy what he does.
“These are the reasons you coach — to see kids grow,” Roberts said. “They were good at what they did and they’ll be good at what they will do when they graduate.”
It was a season to remember for Empire football.
Outlaws shut out Indians
“We needed to get this win and we got it,” said Marlow coach Jeff Brewer.
Demon golfers focused on regionals
The Duncan boys golfers have two more tournaments left before regionals.
The Demons will head to Ardmore this Monday for a tournament that was postponed from March 3 because of the weather.
Tourney named in memory of T-ball player
The Comanche Youth Council will dedicate its preseason baseball and softball tournament to the memory of a T-ball player who unexpectedly passed away this past weekend.
Tyee Percival, 5, was in his first year of T-ball and played for the Rangers. The youth council has named its preseason tourney the Tyee Percival Memorial Tournament. The council will hang a commemorative banner over the T-ball field at the Comanche Field of Dreams.
Lady Donkeys push towards playoffs
Fighting its roster limitations, Bray-Doyle slowpitch softball has a rare opportunity in front of it.
Coach Frank Moser is optimistic about his chances in district versus Mayesville and No. 5 Roff. While Roff has been one of the best teams in Class 2A — it has a winning record despite almost all of its games coming against ranked competitors — Mayesville has been one of the worst. It picked up its first win against Alex on April 8 by just one run.
Outlaws have chance to host regionals
The Marlow baseball team has had to overcome some adversity in recent weeks, but coach Jeff Brewer is confident the team will get back on track.
The past week started with a road game at Blanchard, ranked seventh in Class 4A, last Tuesday. Then came a tough outing at home against Class 4A Newcastle Thursday and a showdown Friday at Sterling, ranked fourth in Class A.
Tennis teams place second
The Duncan tennis teams did well for themselves in a tough field at the BancFirst Tournament.
The girls played Friday and took second as a team, with Marisa Moore taking second at No. 2 singles and Aubrey Mouser and Jordan Clauson the same placing at No. 2 doubles. Taking third were Alex Bowers at No. 1 singles and Sydney Hendricks and Carly Kirkland at No. 1 doubles.
Bronchos boast top-notch backstops
Central High coach Jeff Jones has had to tinker with his lineup to get the best Bronchos on the field for most of the year, but one position he hasn’t had to worry about is catcher.
That consistency came in the form of two very different players.
First, there’s the unheralded freshman Keeton Sallee. Flirting with a .400 batting average, Sallee is one of the Bronchos’ best offensive weapons. On defense, his quick release and strong arm cause headaches for opponents on the basepath. Just months into his high-school career, he’s performing admirably.
Girls soccer wins big at Eisenhower
The Duncan girls soccer team dominated its match at Lawton Eisenhower Friday, winning 8-0.
“We really moved the ball well,” said Lady Demon coach Delydia Gay. “We did a fantastic job. Everyone got a good amount of playing time.”
‘Dial’-ing up a vaulting tradition
Marlow’s pole vaulters have a good chance to continue the legacy of Joe Dial.
Dial held the world record in the men’s indoor pole vault at one point, clearing 19 feet, 3 3/4 inches in on Feb. 1, 1986. He was a four-time state champion at Marlow from 1978 to 1981, with his best state meet mark coming in 1980 when he cleared 17 feet, 1 inch. He now coaches track at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa.
Demons post good times at tough meet
A meet at the University of Oklahoma Friday proved tough for the Duncan track athletes, but the coaches saw plenty of good things.
Duncan’s boys tallied nine top-six placings at a meet that mostly featured Class 6A schools. Kevin Roddy won the shot put (57’1.5”) and discus (178’11”), Mason Bivens won the 3200 (9:53.71) and Walker Clampitt won the 800 (2:00.03).
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