Every Monday during the high school football season, I took some time to examine the week that was.
No one team, one streak or one player made up the best storyline of the season. Instead, it was a whole two-week span as teams jockeyed for the playoffs.
Coming into Week 9, no team had clinched a playoff spot and only one had been eliminated. Coming into Week 10, three had clinched, two were eliminated and three more were still up in the air.
By the time the final whistle had sounded on the regular season, six of the eight area teams had made the playoffs, including six of seven in Stephens County.
It would be hard to call it the most successful regular season for Stephens County, since there were no area district champions and only one runner-up, but you’d be hard-pressed to find another year when 85 percent of the teams made the playoffs.
With new head coaches and limited success in 2011, it looked like it was going to be a rebuilding year for Marlow and Central High.
In a way, it was, but that didn’t stop either team from overachieving and reaching the postseason.
Marlow’s Rob Renshaw took over a Marlow team that had gone just 1-9 the year before. With largely the same players, the Outlaws went 4-6 in the regular season and snuck into the playoffs.
Darren Lamar was actually the second head coach Central High hired during the offseason, and by the time he came in, there was little time to get aquatinted with the players and install a new system. Despite that chaos, the Bronchos started 5-0, built a regular season record of 7-3 and made it to the playoffs.
Teams have identities and players learn to fit them.
Hard-nosed programs produced hard-nosed players. Finesse-based programs produce players that know how to look for the big play.
So, when Duncan coach Jim Holloway told me in the preseason that his team was going to completely change their system and identity, and that they still expected to go after a district championship, I was a little bit skeptical.
But as the season went on, the Demons were everything their coach said they would be. They were strong at the line of scrimmage, had a tough defense and a versatile running game. Furthermore, they were a blue-collar team filled with players willing to sacrifice for the program and put in the effort every day to get better.
Though they didn’t win the district title like they would have hoped, the Demons established their new identity as they stayed in the hunt for the title during the regular season, made the playoffs, and went toe-to-toe with Bishop McGuinness in the first round of the playoffs.
After each week I updated, who I think is in the running for Area Player of the Year, the same way that analysts debate who is in the running for the Heisman
Award after each week of college football.
There was no shortage of impressive performances or standout players this season.
When looking at the season stats or at the weekly box scores, though, two names stand above the rest.
Velma-Alma senior running back Dallen Mercer and Central High junior running back Kevin Harris were just on a different level. They both showed consistency, dependability and versatility throughout the season, and I have yet to hear a convincing argument as to why one of them shouldn’t be the Area Player of the Year.
Mercer finished one good run shy of 2,000 yards rushing (1,976), while Kevin Harris totaled 1,957 yards of offense (1,791 rushing, 149 receiving, 17 passing) and 228 points individually (20.7 points per game).
Nearly as impressive as those numbers was their toughness. There’s no question defenses were keying on the two players and both took a number of shots, but week-in, week-out, both players took the field and performed.
Greg Crews is sports editor of The Duncan Banner. He can be reached at 580-255-5354 or at email@example.com.