Grey Powell said he was happy his young team learned how to overcome spurts of bad outcomes during Oklahoma Christian Academy’s 42-24 win over Crooked Oak High School last Friday night.
For Powell and Co., his team had once already dealt with uneven bounces this year during their season-opener against Enid’s Oklahoma Bible Academy. So, when they drew the same hand Friday against the Crooked Oak Ruf-Nex, Powell knew what cards he was going to use.
“We actually kept them out on the field,” Powell said Monday, stating that he didn’t want to waste any time walking to and from the field to the locker room. “I wanted to address them immediately, to let them know this was as bad as it could be.”
Powell said he told the team that the score — then 24-6 for the Ruf-Nex — wasn’t indicative of Crooked Oak. It was his team that wasn’t executing, he said. They weren’t doing the little things Academy had practiced all week long, and that’s why they were down near three touchdowns.
“It wasn’t about Crooked Oak, it was about us,” the head coach said. “It was about us doing our job and being who we are, and we weren’t being that. We had to trust each other, trust the coaches, we had to believe in each other.”
According to Powell, believing in each other — or maybe moreso believing they could get back into Friday’s contest — had started the night before. The Eagles had attended the University of Central Oklahoma’s season-opening contest Thursday. There, on the same Wantland Field, the Bronchos were down 34-7 at halftime before they had clawed back into their game on a 28-3 second half differential.
Powell and his coaches used that moment on Friday.
“Some of them had stayed and saw UCO make that big comeback, so we used that. We were like ‘Hey, remember last night on this field?” Powell said. “We can do the same thing.”
Powell said the coaching staff had some help, too. Quarterback S’Mauri Abram has stepped into the leadership role this year, and Coach Powell was complimentary on his leadership during the halftime intermission. But the Eagles got another helping hand from a tenured leader who had to experience a new role starting on Friday.
Sebastian Higgins, like most Friday nights, was there on Academy’s side of the field. But previously against Oklahoma Bible, Higgins had broken his collarbone. He’ll be restricted from play for the rest of the season, but Powell said he was just as valuable Friday as he was when he was able to put on the pads.
“After he broke his collarbone, he was pretty devastated,” Powell explained. “I just told him, ‘Look man, you’re still the heartbeat of this team. You’re still a leader. Now you have to be an encourager and a coach.”
Higgins rose to the occasion. He’d lead the team in the pre-game speech, too. And — instead of an emotional call to arms — Powell said Higgins went with a calm, level-headed approach to Friday night.
“It wasn’t like a big raa-raa type of thing,” he said. “He just reminded us to go out and do what we do in practice. We had a great week of practice and he wanted us to use that.”
Higgins’ pre-game and halftime speeches, Abram’s leadership from the starting quarterback role, and Academy’s entire roster being receptive to trust and teamwork ultimately saw the team rattle off 36 unanswered points against Crooked Oak Friday night, marking the first time in the Powell-era that OCA had won a game after trailing by more than seven points.
The experience, according to Powell, helped reinforce to his team that they may have the chance to do something special.
“I think we entered the game hoping we could be successful,” Powell stated. “We left the game believing that we can.”