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Jun. 23—FORT GIBSON — Ty Pilgrim is hitting the reset button at Hulbert.

Pilgrim, who became Hulbert’s next football head coach in May, replacing Scott Sapulpa, wants to breathe life into a program that’s had better days.

The 2020 season was a mess with the Riders facing a constant COVID-19 battle. They went winless in six games and played just once in the month of October.

Pilgrim has felt the pain.

He’s entering his third season with the program, the previous two as an assistant under Sapulpa.

“Last year was just different,” Pilgrim said. “We only played six games and we had constant quarantine for everybody. In the last game we played, we only had 13 kids on the team. It was a rough year.”

Pilgrim, who previously coached soccer at Muskogee in his last lead role, has been all over the map.

A native of Dortmund, Germany, he played football professionally in Europe, worked as an intern in strength and conditioning for the Washington Redskins, and has been a head coach at all levels.

“I just felt I wanted to do another head coaching job in football,” Pilgrim said. “In the past few years, [I’ve been] mostly a coordinator. I prefer X’ and O’s over politics. Coaching, there’s a lot more around it than just coaching the kids on the field, and that’s why I stayed away from it for a while. I felt it was time again, to do it for another 10 years, or whatever.

“I’m looking forward to doing the job, which is considerably big because of how hard we got hit with the whole COVID thing. Closing the deal with only 13 kids on the sidelines was pretty rough.”

On Tuesday, Hulbert was going through reps in 7-on-7 drills at the Fort Gibson Passing League.

It’s an important time for a team that will be inexperienced at a lot of positions.

“The way it’s looking right now, it’s going to be an extremely young team,” Pilgrim said. “On the board right now, I’m only seeing maybe five seniors and two juniors altogether. This is going to be a JV team basically, starting out. We have about 13 or 14 freshmen, and a lot of them are probably going to start.”

There will also be a radical shift in Hulbert’s offensive scheme. Pilgrim reached out to air raid guru Hal Mumme, who visited Hulbert in February to meet with Pilgrim and his staff.

“We want to be a true classic air raid team, so I contacted Hal,” Pilgrim said. “I thought it would be great motivation for him to come in and introduce everything. We needed to create some buzz and excitement.”

Hulbert returns quarterback Walker Eaton to lead the new offense. Eaton, who will be a senior, played two games last season after moving from Muskogee. He completed 30 of his 63 attempts for 378 yards with four touchdowns and five interceptions. He threw for 269 yards and three TDs against Sallisaw Central.

Other key players returning that have starting experience include offensive linemen Jonas Brewer, Ty Gordon and Trey West, tight end Daniel Hair, wide receiver/defensive back Ethan Johnson and big-play receiver Triston Collins.

Pilgrim has been pleased with the day-to-day progress his team has made through the spring and in the passing league.

“I’ve seen a lot of progress in the past few weeks,” he said. “Every time we go to Fort Gibson to a 7-on-7, the kids look a little more sure about themselves. The receivers are running better routes, and we have by leap and bounds, improved on the timing of the routes. The quarterback releases, the first couple of sessions, were a little bit slow and it took a while for them to go through their reads. But it’s starting to click right now.”