“We needed to understand that all we had was this year, and all we got was what was in the locker room and we needed to take advantage of it. I think it kind of redirected our kids. Since that point, practices have been sharper and on the field on Friday nights, we are just making plays.”
Checotah lost to Spiro in the season finale, giving Stigler the district title. After all the Panthers had been through during the season, “it was karma, I guess,” Risenhoover said.
Ada meets Clinton Friday night in the Class 4A semifinals at Putnam City while Weber and the rest of the Cougars are still trying to deal with Johnson's unexpected death.
“For me and every coach, it's the worst fear you have in this profession,” Weber said. “It changes, really, our outlook on everything right now. I don't know that we have a blueprint for dealing with something like this. I know time will help heal, but it's still pretty fresh with us.
“I never had to deal with this before and hope to never have to deal with it again. Time will help, but it's not going to bring Cody back.”
Dombek said it was difficult for him to stay focused on football after Smith's death last season.
“You try to be as strong as you can for the players and the families associated with the program because you have to lead that program and continue on,” he said. “It took a toll on me. I am not going to lie. I struggled with it.”
Dombek's advice to Risenhoover and Weber is “to speak with your heart and say what you are feeling.”
Dombek still thinks about the kids that died a decade ago at Plainview.
“You remember the good times and keep their families in your prayers and you keep going, and you pray that nobody else goes through it,” he said.