ELGIN – Elgin head coach Chalmer Wyatt knows the winless El Reno Indians won’t be a cake walk even if his Elgin Owls are undefeated and looking to go 4-0 for the first time in 25 years.
“They (El Reno) are tough. They pound the ball and use some clock. It’s crucial to win first downs and put them in throwing situations,” he said.
That’s because El Reno has junior running back Malachi Nicholson who exploded for 647 yards and eight touchdowns last season. Operating out of a shotgun formation, El Reno head coach Russell Cook will try to get Nicholson the ball as often as possible.
“It’ll be a challenge for our defense,” Wyatt said. “We’ve told our guys that everyone is 0-0 and the new season starts now with district play. He (Nicholson) is talented and when he’s able to get into space he’s dangerous.”
From El Reno’s perspective, Cook understands Elgin has made significant improvement since the 2021 season when the Owls had a 4-6 record.
“Elgin is a well-coached team and have a lot of skilled players who can make big plays,” he said.
Stopping Owl tailback Matthew Lund may not be possible, Cook said. Lund has rushed for more than 500 yards in three games.
“There’s not a lot you can do to stop this kid. If he gets into space, there’s not a team in 5A who can stop him,” the El Reno coach said.
El Reno has some speed of their own with a dual quarterback situation that features senior Evan RomanNose who spent most of 2021 behind center. The Indians also have junior Cooper Park who experienced some growing pains as a sophomore but has a strong throwing arm and has a nice touch on the deep ball, according to www.scorebooklive.com.
“Their quarterback (RomanNose) does a good job running their offense and can take some shots over the top,” Wyatt said.
Elgin, which is ranked No. 10 in Class 5A by MaxPreps.com, also has to be aware of senior wide receiver Devonne Smith who accounted for four touchdowns last season. According to scorebooklive, Smith has great leaping ability that allows him to play much bigger than his 5-9, 145-pound frame would indicate. Smith should also have a big impact on the return game, the web site reported.
Before the season started, El Reno’s Cook told scorebooklive, “This team has a great roster, lots of dedicated young players. This team will be young, but they have made huge strides since spring ball. We have a good bunch of seniors. We will rely on the seniors’ leadership and experience to be successful on and off the field this year. Some of our success comes down to how quickly they can pick up the new scheme and this new culture we are trying to establish.”
Although Elgin’s non-district opponents were from Class 3A and 4A, the Owls outscored them, 101-24, during the three game win streak. On the flip side, El Reno has been outscored by its non-district foes, 82-41. The Indians could be looking at a different record if they had been able to close out games with a strong showing. Cook pointed out El Reno has lost two games in the last 90 seconds, including a 20-19 loss to Weatherford in Week 2.
However, Wyatt said he hopes the Owls are able to “take all that improvement” from the first three games into district action.
“We want to be prepared no matter who we’re playing. Ranked or unranked, I’m proud of these guys. We’re here to take care of business,” Wyatt said.
NOTES: Friday’s game against El Reno has been billed as “Little League Football Night” and next week’s game against Ardmore will be “Little Cheer Night.”
Elgin’s next road matchup will be Oct. 7 at Altus followed by another away game at Noble on Oct. 14.