Tahlequah Tigers Team Breakdown – Pigskin Preview 2018 – Presented by Northeastern Health System

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Tahlequah Tigers

Coach: BRAD GILBERT

Quick Hits:

Tahlequah’s 23 wins the past three seasons are the most in a three year period since 1991-1993.

Tahlequah ended an eight game losing streak to Coweta, defeating the Tigers 19-7 in the first round of the playoffs. The teams will meet again in a non-district clash on September 7th.

The Tigers take on Sallisaw for the 10th consecutive season on September 14th. Tahlequah has won three of the last four in the series and held Sallisaw to only 40 points in those games.

Last 5 Years:

2018 – 8-4

2016 – 7-5

2015 – 8-3 

2014 – 5-6 

2013 – 1-9

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OFFENSE

The Tigers have high expectations entering 2018 as they reached the Class 5A quarterfinals for a second straight year. With only three starters back from a year ago, coach Brad Gilbert’s offensive game plan will focus on a consistent and productive ground attack. In order to reach the production of last year’s offense that averaged 280 yards per game, Tahlequah must fill the gaps left due to graduation. Dae Dae Leathers (5-7, 155, Jr.), who averaged 6.6 yards per carry, will be the workhorse in the Tigers ground attack at tailback along with Simon Escalera (5-10, 175, Sr.) while Johnny Fuentes (5-7, 215, Sr.) delivers the muscle at fullback.

There’s a two-way competition to win the starting quarterback position including Simeon Armstrong (5-10, 165, Jr.) and sophomore Tate Christian (6-2, 195, So.), who moved into the Tigers camp from Pauls Valley.

“Both of them have their strengths,” said Gilbert. “Simeon is a solid runner and Tate has the arm strength plus starting experience. We’ve got the guys that will do what we need to do.”  

The cast of receivers taking the field are without a single varsity career catch yet have plenty of skills to create game changing moments as Jaxon Jones (6-1, 160, Jr.), Kobey Baker (5-10, 165, So.), Bradley Pruitt (5-9, 160, So.), Danny Lopez (5-10, 170, Sr.), Trae Patrick (5-10, 150, Jr.), Colton Booth (5-10, 160, Sr.) and Qua’shon Leathers (5-10, 155, So.) will take their turns in the rotation.

“There’s a lot of guys working hard to get more reps,” notes Gilbert. “They’re all young but have a high ceiling of potential.”

Opening the way for the offense to reach the goal line will be the player of veteran Nick Grasshopper (5-11, 255, Sr.) along with Blake Corn (6-0, 235, Jr.), Brandon Davis (6-3, 275, Sr.), Hayden Napier (5-11, 235, Jr.) and Aidan Yahola (5-11, 245, Sr.)

“We’ve got the makings to have continued success,” Gilbert acknowledged, “but our young men are going to have to grow up in a hurry.”

DEFENSE

The force of the Tigers will once again be evident on the defensive side of the football with seven starters returning for 2018 paced by VYPE Top 100 choice Cole Goodnight taking his position at the outside linebacker position with his energy running off the charts.

“We’ve had some good linebackers and Cole fits that mold,” said Gilbert. “He has a nose for the football and ability to create game changing plays.”

 On the other edge in the Tigers 4-3 alignment, outside linebacker Simon Escalera runs downhill to the football with Dylan Parish (5-10, 195, Jr.) anchoring the middle.

Blake Corn and Isaak Strain (5-11, 180, Sr.) will bookend the efforts of Brandon Davis (6-3, 275, Sr.) on the defensive front line along with Nathaniel Justice (5-11, 245, Sr.).

Cornerback Colton Booth, who totaled 34 tackles last season will captain the duties of the secondary unit while the Tigers play commitment football with a group of young guns protecting the secondary.

“The front seven is solid and gives us a nucleus to build around but we’ll need some of the others to step up and play in a hurry at a high level.”

With the roster complete with talented players who have playoff experience, Tahlequah’s lineup knows the key to success in order to compete at a championship level.

“With us making the postseason four years in a row, everyone wearing the Tigers uniform has back-to-back quarterfinals experience. They understand the commitment and hard work it takes to get there,” said Gilbert. “It’s time now for us to take it another step higher. We’ve got great young men in our program that makes our future bright.” 

Schedule:

8-31 – at Fort Gibson

9-7 – vs. Coweta

9-14 – vs. Sallisaw

9-21 – at Tulsa Rogers

9-28 – at Skiatook

10-5 – vs. Collinsville

10-12 – vs. Pryor

10-18 – at Tulsa East Central

10-26 – vs. Tulsa Memorial

11-2 – at Claremore