By Zach West
While Class 5A’s No. 7 Duncan (4-1, 2-0) is off to its best start in 10 years, coach Jim Holloway isn’t getting caught up in the hype. Heading into the Demons’ crucial match-up with Lawton MacArthur — the winner will take sole possession of first place in the brutal 5A-1 — Holloway is realistic. After all, he’s seen this before.
Just last year, in fact, the Demons were 2-0 in district heading into the Lawton MacArthur game, where they lost 13-7 after officials ruled a last-second fumble recovery came up just short of the goal line. The next week, the Demons lost two key players to injury, and the season snowballed from there to a 4-6 finish, with Duncan missing the playoffs.
But while Holloway knows just how fast things can go south, he also has confidence that this year’s team — with 18 returning starters — has the fortitude and experience to withstand adversity.
“This is a whole different football team on the field this year than what it was last year,” Holloway said. “These kids know how to practice. Three to four of these kids have started every game since (they were) sophomores. Let me tell you — that’s huge. It’s like redshirt seniors on the college level. They bring so much experience.”
That experience helped the Demons stay within striking distance of No. 1-ranked Carl Albert a year after being blown out 50-7 by the Titans. It also helped them hold off fellow upstart Western Heights on Friday night.
“We were learning how to crawl and walk last year. Now at least we’re on our feet, and we’re competitive,” Holloway said.
Of course, if the Carl Albert game showed how good the Demons can be, the team’s inability to hang onto the football in the 34-21 loss showed how much room the Demons have for improvement.
“I don’t think we’ve played that perfect game,” Holloway said. “We played the socks off of Carl Albert, but we turned the ball over seven times. We’ve got a chance to be really good when we’re error free, and that’s going to give us a chance to win every ball game.”
That and having senior Trent Wilkins behind center, of course. The Tulsa commitment has dominated, with 717 yards rushing, 680 yards passing, and 19 total touchdowns. Oh, and his defense isn’t too shabby, either.
“He’s a tremendous safety,” Holloway said. “Make no bones about it, when we’ve got No. 7 back there, we’ve got a chance.”