CHOCTAW — While he was interviewing for the head coaching job with the Choctaw football program, Todd Dilbeck looked at facilities, talked to administrators and staff, and researched the state of the program.
And he felt a familiar vibe.
“It really parallels a lot to Mustang when we went there,” Dilbeck said. “They have better facilities at Choctaw than what we had back then. We had to build a lot of the facilities at Mustang.
“They passed a bond to improve schools and athletic facilities in Choctaw a couple years ago. You can tell it's a community that's excited about the growth and everything that's going on.”
Adding to the Mustang connection, Dilbeck brought in longtime friend Ty Prestidge, who had been his offensive coordinator, then replaced him as head coach at Mustang when Dilbeck left seven years ago. And others from the Mustang staff are likely to join them at Choctaw as well.
Dilbeck's road from Mustang to Choctaw was unique. He left Mustang to join Todd Graham's coaching staff at Rice University as the offensive line coach and run game coordinator, but Graham — now at Arizona State — was only there one year before heading to Tulsa.
“He gave me the opportunity to go to Tulsa with him,” Dilbeck said. “But I just missed the relationships and the ministry with kids. I missed making an impact with kids, because it's different at the high school level than the college level.
“I always had that golden aspiration to coach at the Division I level, and I got that opportunity. But I missed making that impact and setting that foundation for kids in high school”
So Dilbeck looked for another high school job, landing at Alma (Ark.) High School, where he took over for the school's legendary coach, Frank Vines, who was retiring.
Dilbeck's teams went 35-31-1 in six years at Alma.
After the death of his father in November, and with all of his children still living in Oklahoma City, Dilbeck started looking to get back to the metro area.
Choctaw has been a downtrodden program, with its last four-win season coming in 2005, and just one win each of the last two years.
However, with the facility upgrades and the impending Class 6A split, to go with some eager young athletes, it seems like the ideal time to build a program at Choctaw.
With the 6A split set to begin in 2014, Choctaw should be in the mix to become a regular playoff contender among the 16 teams in Division II, especially under the leadership of established program builders like Dilbeck and Prestidge.
It will take some time to get to the level of Midwest City, Stillwater or Lawton — some of the expected powerhouses in the new Division II — but once a program starts winning more, other athletes get involved and stay involved.
Aside from that, Dilbeck and Prestidge have long been known for playing a fun brand of offensive football. Their early Mustang teams were the first to succeed with a modified version of the spread offense Mike Leach made famous at Texas Tech in the early 2000s.
And that's what Dilbeck plans to run at Choctaw.
“That's still my style,” Dilbeck said. “We're gonna spread it out, throw it, run it, high tempo. That's something I believe in. It's fun for the kids and exciting for the fans once you get it going.”
Spring practice can begin on Monday, and Dilbeck expects it to be a time of teaching.
“We've got to just get in there and get started,” he said. “We've got a long way to go, but when I met with the players and coaches, they're excited. We've just got to get in there and do what we can in the next couple weeks.”