Mitchell Monteith

Mitchell Monteith runs to find an open receiver during a scrimmage during the 2019 season. The Bulldogs open the season this Friday at home against Wellston.

Traveling for the first and only scrimmage of the 2020 season, the Empire Bulldogs football team is ready for the season opener in week zero of action at home against Wellston.

Oklahoma High School football has had a week zero for a few years now and several area teams including Empire has used it to their advantage with this being the third year in a row they have played in this first official week for games.

This is the second season the Bulldogs have been led by Brant Hayes, who said the 2020 team is ahead on getting the new defense he has installed, although they now need some work on the new offense.

“I thought we played pretty good, especially defensively. We are installing a new defense and a new offense so we are a little behind offensively I think than where we want to be,” Hayes said. “Defense I thought is picking up the new defense pretty quickly and they are ahead of schedule I think and they look really good flying to the football and getting after things last Friday night. Offensively, we’ve got to put a lot of stuff in and get better offensively to get where we need to be.”

Some of the returning starters on offense has Hayes excited about getting to a good point before Friday evening when the Bulldogs open the 2020 campaign. Hayes mentioned quarterback Mitchell Monteith, center Matt Mendenhall, Noel Sarmeinto at right guard and out wide is Daniel Alvarez at receiver.

“Those are key guys for our offense and it is basically the same kind of terminology as last year but just some different formations and different sets,” Hayes said. “We also added to the mix Landon Burton and Clayton Nunez … and freshman Gabe Diaz, those guys are going to be big parts of our offense going forward.”

Empire Public Schools have put out some guidelines for athletic competitions with the main one stating if a person hasn’t been felling well or has been sick in the last 24 hours, they are not to enter the stadium. They will also allow the use of lawn chars around the field to achieve social distancing inside the stadium and want people to be mindful of that policy. Masks are not required but highly encouraged and they will only allowtwo people in the restroom and only three people in the concession at the same time.

Hayes said despite not having spring ball because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he knows the athletes are ready to play and will go into the game looking for the victory.

“With not having any spring ball to implement any of our new stuff, it has been a long time since we have gotten to play football,” Hayes said. “The kids are really excited and it is just a matter of time — we don’t know, and we are taking it day to day and game by game. We kind of dread if we ever get that call to shut it down and it is a different time in what we are living in right now. Hopefully everything keeps on track and we keep going and getting after it and getting to play every week.”

Game time is set for 7 p.m. Aug. 29 at Empire High School and is the first of five non-districts game. Hayes hopes to start the season with a victory.

“I think this will just help us get better down the road with a big win on Friday night in front of the home crowd while getting things growing as far as offense and defense,” Hayes said. “We’ve got to get used to the new guys and we have a lot of people who have played one way of football and learning each other and learning us. I think it will be like I told them after the scrimmage this past Friday night, it was a good starting point and we got to get going and keep going up.”

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