May 25—You can almost guarantee Fort Gibson’s football program will make more progress this summer than it has in a while.
Two years ago, the early portion of the summer was wiped out by the flood which left many homeless or hemmed in due to routes out of town closed. Last year, others shared the misery with them thanks to COVID-19 and the lack of hooking up with other schools for work to be done.
“That excites me as much as anything,” said Tigers head coach Greg Whiteley, whose team will have its annual Spring Game on Tuesday starting at 6 p.m., before a pad camp this weekend. “It’s been a while since we’ve been able to do this much.”
Never mind that there really hasn’t been much of a breather between soccer and baseball’s seasons of success and turning attention to the gridiron to begin putting the 2022 plan in place.
“We’ve been behind the 8-ball with all that’s gone on but I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Whiteley said. “A lot of our kids, and even the kids we’ve got out here, enjoyed a lot of success. Even going and watching our girls win the whole thing in soccer. It’s been a great spring for our school.”
One of those key pieces to baseball’s success now must shift his focus to his third year starting at quarterback. Cole Mahaney was a pitcher and shortstop for the baseball team.
His role will evolve, Whiteley said, And so will the offense in general.
“We won’t be the traditional I-formation team,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of kids who need to touch the ball and I trust Cole to be able to get it to them.”
His top three rushers from 2020, starting with Deven Woodworth and his 1,140 yards, are all gone. Mahaney, who had a modest 176 yards on 59 carries, has the most such real estate on his resume.
At receiver, that experience changes. Hunter Branch, Cole Waggle and Landon Bebee comprise 764 yards of Mahaney’s 1,385 yards.
“Cole will do some things where he can be very efficient, read stuff, run-pass option — get the ball in his hands and make things happen,” Whiteley said. “He’s had two really good running backs behind him. But he’s still got kids on the outside we have to take advantage of.”
Whiteley expects the team to be quicker on both sides, especially on defense. Jaxon Purdue in the secondary will lend leadership to that unit.Waggle and Branch will also be looked at to step up, and Whiteley has been impressed with inside linebacker Atlas Potter. Purdue as a defender and Potter as goalkeeper were key pieces of the boys soccer squad’s semifinal run.
Tuesday’s event will be no more than an hour and Whiteley said it’s primarily an opportunity for reps and some work for some young kids he needs to fill spots.