By Adam Ewing | email@example.com
MEEKER – With prep football season just days away, the Meeker Bulldogs are gearing up for what hopes to be a prosperous season.
In his three years at Meeker High School, DJ Howell sits at 22-12 overall with a 15-5 record versus district foes. Last season the team went 8-4, finishing second in the district before bowing out in the second round of the playoffs. All three regular season losses came against playoff-bound opposition in Luther, Perry and Jones.
“We were a better team than 8-4,” Howell said. “We played a couple games early on that I felt like we had great opportunities to win. There were a bunch of mental mistakes, and the guys did a great job of regrouping when we made it to district play.”
Using last season’s 2-2 start, the coaching staff stressed the day-to-day perpetration rather than the end goal.
“I think our players were ready to fast forward to the playoffs,” Howell said. “When we sorted things out and paid attention day in and day out, we ended up a pretty solid football team.”
For the 2020 season, the Bulldogs return a plethora of talent for Howell to deploy on both sides of the ball.
“We return five starters on our offensive line, two really good running backs and a ton of receivers who have a chance to be really good,” Howell said. “Defensively we bring back nine starters so I feel pretty good about our situation situation this year.”
Over the last three seasons, the Bulldog’s main objective was running the football. Not much is going to change this year.
Caden Wolford returns as the team’s stalwart back. Wolford, a senior, rushed for 1,500 yards and 20-plus touchdowns in back-to-back seasons.
“I think with the backs we have and the size of our offensive line, it’s a good place to start, Howell said. “Wolford’s a workhorse and plays his tail off on both sides of the football. He’s a tough kid that gives max effort.”
Don’t be fooled by the ground and pound approach, the Bulldogs can air it out when needed.The team graduated Jacob Martin who threw for over 4,900 yards in his career. This year, Cameron Budgie takes the reigns to the offense.
“Budgie has all the abilities needed to make plays with his arm and running the football,” Howell said.
In backup duty during the 2019 campaign, Budgie managed one touchdown pass last season in a 59-8 drubbing of Henryetta.
On defense, the team has the ability to get after quarterbacks from all angles.
“If you look at our front seven we are pretty good,” Howell said. “We have two outside linebackers in [Zach] Cook and [Caden] Wolford that can really get after the quarterback.”
One player Howell praised specifically was senior linebacker JJ Bloomer.
“Bloomer is one of the best blitzing linebackers I’ve ever coached,” Howell said. “He’s as good at timing blitzes as anyone I’ve ever coached. The guy is absolutely fearless. If I’m getting on a bus, I want a kid like JJ on there. He plays his heart out for you.”
One contributing factor to the program’s increasing success in recent years is players buying in to the team-first approach. That meant many hours in the weight room which translated to confidence on the field, Howell said.
“We are more physical thanks to our dedication in the weight room. I don’t see many teams pushing us around this year,” he said. “They bought in to morning lifts and trying to maintain a proper diet. Our intensity is at the level where it needs to be in order to be competitive. When you’re bigger and stronger than you were last year, you play a different way.”
The Bulldogs fully expect to be competitive and make a playoff run, Howell said.
“It’s coach-speak in a sense but we have to come and do our job every day. It starts with that,” Howell said. “Ideally we would like to win a district championship. There are a lot of good football teams in 2A, and I say this humbly, I think we have a very good shot at making a run, practicing on Thanksgiving and competing for a state championship.”
Looking forward to playing for keeps, Howell and the Bulldogs know the road ahead will not be easy.
“Depending on what pre-season rankings you look at, you have three top 10 teams in our district, he said. “Whoever comes out of it, and hopefully it’s us, will be more than ready for the playoffs.”
The season will start with a home game against Stroud. Howell and his team are more than ready to get back on the field.
“With all that happened so far this year, there was uncertainty if we were going to play,” Howell said. “Getting back to something normal is important for these kids. I’m excited for these kids to go out and make memories that will last a lifetime.”
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Friday Aug. 28.
Meeker Bulldogs 2020 Schedule:
- 8/28 vs. Stroud – 7 p.m.
- 9/4 vs. Bethel – 7 p.m.
- 9/11 @ Purcell – 7 p.m.
- 9/25 @ Kellyville – 7 p.m.
- 10/2 @ Prague – 7 p.m.
- 10/9 vs. Millwood – 7 p.m.
- 10/15 vs. Star Spencer – 7 p.m.
- 10/23 @ Chandler – 7 p.m.
- 10/30 vs. Crossings Christian – 7 p.m.
- 11/6 @ Jones – 7 p.m.