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November 12, 2013

Empire looking for first home playoff win since ‘89

EMPIRE — This Friday, Dillon Twigg, Stephen Price and the rest of the Empire football team will try and do something that hasn’t been accomplished since the year after Barry Switzer left Oklahoma.

The last time the Bulldogs (8-2, 6-1) won a home playoff game was 1989. Neither Twigg, Price nor any player on the roster was born yet. It’s been since the early 90s that the program has even hosted a playoff game, certainly new ground for the team as it takes on Crescent in the first round of the Class A state playoffs.

“It’s exciting, something that doesn’t happen a lot,” Price said before Monday’s practice. “So when it happens, you’re ready for it.”

Before Monday’s film session, coach Tony Roberts pointed out that they are the only team in Stephen’s County that is playing at home to start the playoffs. With Marlow, Central High and Velma-Alma on the road and Duncan, Bray-Doyle and Comanche missing the playoffs, the only lit football field will be in the town with a population of 955.

“It gets people thinking about Empire again,” Price said. “Everybody thinks we’re just kind of a little country school that does nothing out here. Then, we host the only home playoff game. So, they’re like, ‘Oh man, something’s going on at Empire.’”

Making his return from an injury in the game against Velma-Alma, Price’s enthusiasm has been a boost to the team right before playoffs. One of the 10 seniors on the team, he hasn’t played offense since he was injured in the Rush Springs game on Sept. 27. In the Velma-Alma game, Price only played on defense to protect the leg injury so it wouldn’t be hit. Now, he’s going full speed again.

“It’s just his presence on the field that makes everybody step up to his level and play extremely well,” Roberts said.

The player who will benefit the most because of Price’s return to the offense is Twigg. He and Roberts both agreed that to share the ball with someone else will be nice. In the 28-12 win against Velma-Alma, Twigg had 44 carries. Roberts said that should drop now with Price back, giving the junior running back a chance to breathe a little. Twigg agrees.

“It will be a big help for us and take carries off of me,” Twigg said. “Stephen’s a powerhouse. So, we’ll be good.”

Empire will be looking for redemption after Crescent (7-3, 4-2) knocked it out of the playoffs last year with a 28-25 win on its home soil. Looking further down the road, a likely matchup with undefeated Hollis in the second round will await the winner. If Empire can make it past them, it will likely play Wynnewood, which beat two of Empire’s district opponents, Velma-Alma and Healdton, by a combined 58 points. This is barring any upsets.

In order to make a deep run through the playoffs, though, Empire will need everyone to contribute.

“We need 110 percent from every team member, no matter who it is,” Price said. “Even the players on the sideline, if it comes down to cheering, or if it comes down to making one lead left block. It’s all going to come down to the whole team giving 100 percent.”

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