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Stillwater To Lean On Experience In Season Opener
8-31-17 by Jordan King
Tucker Barnard, the head coach for Stillwater High School football, prefers to focus on the experience his team has.

Barnard said his returning starters, including those on the offensive line, will help support the inexperienced players early.

"Those three offensive linemen, that's huge [to bring back]," Barnard said. "Those are three guys who are really good at what they do. They're physical; they'll provide us some stability for the younger guys."

Seniors Stone Mesa, the left tackle, and Jake Gray, the center, anchor the line for Stillwater.

That starts at 7 on Thursday night when the Pioneers travel to Wantland Stadium to face Edmond Memorial to kick off their regular season.

Although it will be Stillwater's opening game, Edmond Memorial has played a game. It beat Ponca City 28-7 in its opening game last week.

Running back Nate Williams had 117 yards and four total touchdowns on 16 carries.

Barnard said his staff has tried to build its defense around stopping the run and feels good about it through the preseason.

"We've been good at that," Barnard said. "That's been one of the strengths of our team.

"In our two scrimmages, we've been setting above 50 percent of our defensive snaps we've held our opponents to zero yards or less. We're going to do everything we can to create chaos for their offensive line."

Although it had success rushing, Edmond Memorial had a balanced offense in its first game; quarterback Blake Burgess threw for 257 yards, 113 of which went to Navy commit Brendan Mitchell.

Barnard said it's a chess match to know when to blitz and when to sit back to defend the pass, especially against a team that can do both well.

"We're going to try to blur those lines for the quarterback," Barnard said. "Hopefully we'll blur those lines for the offensive coordinator as well, but certainly for the quarterback and offensive linemen. We want to create a lot of confusion."

Offensively, Stillwater returns quarterback Gunnar Gundy, wide receivers Garrett Lemming and Evan Thomas and running back Tyler Disidore, which Barnard said provides balance.

Barnard said he wasn't trying to mask anything in the scrimmages, which Edmond Memorial has tape of, and it comes down to execution.

In the preseason, the Pioneers spread the ball around; Disidore scored five times, freshman running back Quontrell Walker scored four times and Lemming and Thomas each caught three touchdown passes.

"Hopefully that creates a problem for them defensively," Barnard said. "Are they going to stay back [in the secondary] or are they going to come up and commit to the run?"