Indians excited to get 2021 season started
Casy Rowell has something he has not had before heading into his third year as the head football coach of the Comanche Indians – experienced players.
After having to rely heavily on underclassmen the previous two seasons, Rowell finds himself with 21 of his 34 players upperclassmen, including 12 seniors.
“It says a lot about this staff over the years,” Rowell said. “Our coaches are doing a good job in junior high through high school getting these kids to commit for that long because that’s really what it is in the lives of these kids. They have made a commitment a long time ago and they have stuck with it through all the ups and downs and to have that experience up top is pretty awesome.”
Rowell said this year is just different compared to the previous few years.
“We can talk to the players a little bit differently and are able to coach a little bit differently,” Rowell said. “They understand what we are trying to do.”
And that has been evidenced on the practice fields and the scrimmages they have played in.
“I think it’s been about how we thought it would be so far and I think we have been pacing ourselves well,” Rowell said. “The kids see the potential, the coaches see the potential, but we’ve got to go something with that potential.”
Rowell admits it is exciting to see the potential.
“I think this team wants to see how far we can go,” Rowell said. “And, so far, it’s been awesome to come to practice and see everyone from the coaches to the players dying to get back to practice and working.”
Even so, the coach realizes it will not be easy.
“We play in the toughest district (2A-4) in the state,” Rowell said. “The same teams who were good last year, I expect to be good this year.”
The district includes Marlow, Frederick, Davis, Lindsay, Coalgate, Marietta and Tishomingo.
“Everyone’s trying to win, everyone’s trying to rebuild,” Rowell said. “Everyone’s working hard, so we don’t take anything for granted. I just see it as a good challenge and I’m happy that we are able to compete in the district because it helps prepare you for the playoffs.”
According to the Vype magazine coaches poll, Marlow is the favorite to win the district followed by Frederick, Davis, Lindsay, Comanche, Coalgate, Marietta and Tishomingo.
Comanche looks to have several weapons on offense in the skill positions and an experienced line to open holes and provide protection. They will run a type of spread offense that also allows them to have a good running attack, which is something the coaches plan to do more of this year with a big, experienced line up front. They will use a two-back pistol look and a three-back pistol look at times.
Kooper Doucet, a junior, is back as the signal-caller for his third year as the starting quarterback. He was thrust into the starting position as a freshman when Bryson Evans was injured in the first game of the season.
“He sees the game from a whole different level now than what he used to,” Rowell said. “When we talk about what the defense is doing, he understands it because he’s seen it. He’s pretty smart with all that stuff and you can tell he has the experience now. I think he’s just a lot more comfortable back there. I hope we can get him going from the start of the game and see it continue throughout it because it seems like the longer the game goes, the more comfortable he is and he gets better.”
Another junior expected to make a big impact is running back Tucker Oliver. Rowell said he seems to be all-in this season.
“The last couple of scrimmages he has shown what he can do,” Rowell said. “We knew that he could do it, he’s just been younger and building himself up. He’s got stronger and a lot faster. He’s a lot more mature, a lot more confident and we’ve seen it in the scrimmages. He had some big runs in all of them.”
Rowell said Oliver’s commitment started before fall practice.
“He worked hard all summer long,” Rowell said. “He’s been here every day, sometimes multiple times a day. He’s gone to multiple camps too, so it’s not surprising he’s getting a lot of success right now. I think he is just the type, too, that is going to be durable and tough enough to withstand getting hit game in and game out.”
Another running back will be senior Colton Newton.
“He hasn’t got many reps in the past, but he’s kind of earned the reps this year with him being hard-nosed and you know he’ll run downhill and he’s tough,” Rowell said. “He’s quick and he’s fast.”
Garrett Emerick is another senior that is expected to get playing time in the backfield. He transferred from Velma-Alma and will be a new face, but still an experienced player behind Doucet.
“He went to eighth grade here and he’s another one we expect to see get some playing time and he’ll be getting some reps in that first game,” Rowell said.
When defenses look across the line of scrimmage, they will be looking for No. 6, Bryson Evans, and there will be a good chance he won’t be at the same place he was the play before. The coaches recognize how talented Evans is and they plan to take full advantage.
The senior, who recently committed to play baseball at Murray State College, could be lining up at quarterback or slot back or receiver.
“He can do it all,” Rowell said. “We have some plays designed for him at quarterback. We want to do what we can to get the ball in his hands.”
Doucet will not have a shortage of players to throw to, either. Besides Evans, senior Mason Kulbeth returns. He was on the receiving end of several big plays last season.
“He’s had a great start so far to the season,” Rowell said. “He’s proven in the past he can make the big play and can score touchdowns for us. We expect him to have a good senior year and I know he’s excited about it and working hard in the scrimmages that we had. He’s had catches in every one of those, so he’s someone we can depend on.”
But, it does not stop there for the Indians.
Senior Devon McCarty, who stands in the 6-foot-3, 6-foot-4 range, makes a big target. Rowell said he has the athleticism to get up and make catches.
“He’s physical and he’s got some pretty good footwork,” Rowell said.
Junior Logan Bain returns and he will be a crucial part of the mix as well.
“They are all physical and can catch,” Rowell said.
Colby Shannon, a freshman, is also expected to see time at wide receiver.
“Any other year, he would be starting for us, but we’ve got a tough group to crack this year,” Rowell said. “He’s definitely in the mix and he’s the next in line at quarterback if we need him. He’s a tough quarterback that will be great for our freshmen group, but he’s next in line at receiver also. He can run, he can throw, he can pretty much do it all. He reminds me a lot of Bryson.”
Another freshman, Colby Shannon, could also be receiving some reps at wide receiver this season.
“He’s very talented,” Rowell said.
Junior Brady Dobbins will be the opening day starter at center.
“He’s always been around and just biding his time and now he’s stepping into the center role,” Rowell said. “Having guys like (junior) Cade White and (senior) Sam Siebert as veterans up there makes a huge difference. They’re not only seasoned but they have been on the same line together. There’s just not a lot they haven’t seen.”
They will be joined by senior Owen Bigford, another veteran on the line and junior Travis Monson.
“Monson is a great-looking kid. He’s tough as nails. He missed last year with an ankle injury, but we’ve got him fired up and ready to go and he’s out there killing it.”
Monson and Siebert will play the guard positions while White and Bigford will be at the tackles.
Junior Kasen VanBuskirk is expected to be the number one tight end.
“Kasen has been playing the tight end/slotback position, and he’s going to be one of our main guys,” Rowell said. “We also have Devon McCarty, who mixes in there with Evans and Lucas Gordon. Kasen has been a huge part of our offense this year because he’s physical enough to make a good block for us and quick enough to run the ball if we need him to. He can also catch, so he’s a pretty big part of our offense.”
Many of the same faces will be on the defense that are on the offense.
“Our defensive line is extremely talented,” Rowell said. “In the middle, we’ve got six or eight guys we can throw in, but the first couple are Cade (White), Sam (Siebert), Lucas Gordon, Travis Munson and then Garrett Emerick is another one.”
At the ends will be Doucet and VanBuskirk with Dobbins and senior Coalton West expected to get significant playing time there as well.
Bigford had played noseguard the past couple of seasons in Comanche’s five-man front, but will switch to middle linebacker in this 4-3 scheme.
“I think that is going to be a huge position for us this year, because he’s proven so far that he can stuff the middle with force,” Rowell said.
He will be joined at linebacker by Bain, Newton and junior Braylen Butler. Newton led the team in tackles last year.
“He’s very physical, very fast and a big playmaker,” Rowell said.
Evans and Kulbeth will take the cornerback positions with Bain and freshman Caleb Cole seeing time there as well.
McCarty, Oliver and junior Noah Presgrove will be taking care of the safety responsibilities.
Colby Shannon will be taking care of the kicking and punting responsibilities.
“He’s got a boot on him,” Rowell said. “I would say his best is probably punting, which he can do really, really well. He’s pretty good on the field goal and PATs.”
Comanche opens the season this week at Dickson, which is having its homecoming on week one.
“It looks like they have some solid running backs and receivers,” Rowell said. “It looks like they run a similar defense to Mangum, so hopefully, if everything stays the same, then we will have seen that look already.”
The kickoff is at 7 p.m.
Please support The Comanche Times by subscribing today!