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Pain and pride: Little Axe football team left to rebuild after tornado

A May 10 tornado took out the football stadium at the small Oklahoma school of Little Axe.

By Robert Przybylo, Staff Writer, bprzybylo@opubco.com Modified: May 23, 2010 at 3:14 pm •  Published: May 23, 2010

/> Nothing could have prepared him for this.

"This has just been so difficult,” Wheeler said. "You never think this is how it’s going to be for your first head-coaching job, that’s for sure.”

School was canceled for the rest of the year, and it looked like spring practice was going to be eliminated, too.

But after talking about it, the administration decided there was no reason to cancel the practices. The Indians still have a makeshift practice field down the hill from their football field.

"It’s helped to be back out here,” Dryden said. "There’s still a lot of work to do, but it’s good to be back here and doing normal things.”

Players took the field for the first time Monday. There was still a sense of awe, even for the coaching staff.

"It was rough that first day, but that’s when we (the coaches) needed to step up our game,” Wheeler said. "We needed to try to get their mind back on the field. We needed to start recovering.”

Wheeler said the process of rebuilding will not be the toughest part — funding the rebuilding will be.

"We need help. I don’t want to sit here and throw a pity party, but getting the money for everything is going to be difficult,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler said once the funding is in place, it won’t take that long to try to rebuild everything. If it happened fast enough, the improvements to the stadium could be complete before the season.

There is a possibility the team won’t be able to play home games in Little Axe this fall.

The field is still a sense of pride for the players. With good reason.

After years of being a doormat, Little Axe football came alive under Smith.

After just missing out of the playoffs two years ago at 5-5, the Indians went 8-3 last year and placed second in their district.

"To think that I might not be able to play at home my senior year — that’s rough,” Dryden said. "I’ve been going here for years and this is where all my memories are.

"Last year was the most fun I’ve ever had playing football. We were hoping to qualify as a fourth seed, but somehow we got the second seed and shocked a lot of people. This year we want to make a run for the state title. We’re not going to give up.”