Senior leadership boosts 5A state finalist East Central
BY MIKE BROWN World Sports Writer
Saturday, December 01, 2012
12/01/12 at 6:35 AM
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A strong senior class has carried the East Central High School football team into Saturday's Class 5A football final.
The same seniors were largely responsible for keeping the program together during a turbulent offseason when the school lost two head coaches in a four-month span.
"We realized we had to stick together because we were all we had," linebacker Kimmie Carson said.
Carson is one of 23 seniors who will play his last game when the No. 1 Cardinals take on Carl Albert for the 5A championship, set for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater.
The count would be 24 if standout offensive lineman Alejandro Garcia hadn't broken his leg in an Oct. 12 regular-season win at Grove.
Almost every senior has contributed this season, and almost every senior showed leadership during an uncertain period when the Cards were often left wondering who their next head coach would be, and when he would arrive.
"It was a stressful time, but everybody stayed together and tried to make it work as best we could," receiver Stanvon Taylor said. "We knew the only thing we could control was what we did to make ourselves better, so we were willing to stay in the weight room."
Travis Hill resigned last December after building his alma mater into a juggernaut during 14 years at the helm. Former Hill assistant Ben Bowling was elevated in his place, but spent less than two months at the helm before stepping down on April 25 after an alcohol-related arrest.
Only one assistant from the previous staff remained when former Jenks High standout Bobby Klinck was introduced as the new head coach on May 14 - the first day of spring drills.
"It was an exciting day," linebacker Josh Herman said. "We didn't even know if we were gonna have spring ball. Coach Klinck introduced himself. I was nervous, because I didn't know what to expect. But he came off seeming like a good coach, and I liked him."
Klinck hurriedly assembled a coaching staff and started bonding with his new players. That part wasn't easy at first, he said.
"There was definitely a phase where (coaches and players) were feeling one another out, but you could tell when we got here that they were hungry," Klinck said. "These seniors were a closeknit group, and I definitely leaned on them in the beginning."
The transition was probably smoother because the Cards knew what they wanted. Several played as sophomores when East Central lost to Booker T. Washington in the 2010 Class 5A final.
"It didn't matter who the coach was gonna be, because we knew we were gonna work hard," receiver Deontre Youngblood said.
The seniors didn't allow disappointment to ruin the season when the Cards were forced to forfeit their first four wins because of using an ineligible player.
"We never let it bring us down." said Taylor, the University of Oklahoma commit who on Thursday was named Gatorade's state player of the year. "It made us go out and play harder because we had no room for error. We weren't guaranteed of making the playoffs, so we played every game like it was our last."
Counting the forfeits, the Cards are 9-4. But they are 13-0 on the field, looking to become the first unbeaten, untied TPS team since Booker T. Washington's 11-0, state championship squad in 1973.
Klinck might have the most veteran roster in all of high school football. The Cards rarely allow a non-senior on the field except for sophomore quarterback Tre'von Cherry, who has thrown 25 touchdown passes. East Central will start 10 seniors on offense and 11 on defense Saturday. Almost every starter plays both ways, and almost every significant special-teams contributor will graduate in May.
The work of Taylor (19 total TDs), Carson (126 tackles), Youngblood (20.8 yards per pass reception) and running back William Goree (1,290 rushing yards) has been closely documented, but some of the other seniors aren't as well known.
Herman accumulated 111 tackles and a team-leading six sacks from his middle linebacker spot, and doubles on the offensive line. Strong safety Latarious McGoy has 87 tackles, three sacks, three fumble recoveries and an interception.
Michael Johnson and Antoine Brown have five sacks each from their defensive end spots and also find time for double duty on the offensive line.
Demontre Burkhalter gives the Cardinals a second lockdown cornerback along with Taylor, and a dangerous third downfield option in the passing gamne. He had key receptions from Cherry in the 26-14 win over McAlester in the semifinals last Friday.
Class 5A championship
East Central vs. Carl Albert
7:30 p.m. Saturday
Boone Pickens Stadium, Stillwater
TV: FSP-68 Radio: KITO fm96.1
Midwest City Carl Albert 2012 schedule and results
Aug. 31: vs. Southmoore L, 21-48
Sept. 7: vs. Coweta L, 19-21
Sept. 14: at Duncan W, 31-10
Sept. 21: at Edmond Deer Creek L, 7-21
Sept. 28: vs. OKC McGuinness L, 32-42
Oct. 5: at Guthrie L, 17-21
Oct. 12: vs. OKC Northeast W, 58-0
Oct. 18: vs. Guymon W, 62-0
Oct. 26: at Western Heights W, 74-8
Nov. 2: at El Reno W, 55-7
Nov. 9: at Del City W, 28-21
Nov. 16: vs. Claremore W, 41-16
Nov. 23: vs. OKC McGuinness W, 56-33
Dec. 2: vs. East Central 7:30 p.m.
EAST CENTRAL SCHEDULE
Aug. 31: at Del City W, 53-31*
Sept. 7: at Bartlesville W, 13-10*
Sept. 14: vs. B.T. Washington W, 27-0*
Sept. 21: vs. Central W, 33-12*
Sept. 28: at Coweta W, 35-28
Oct. 5: Claremore W, 20-19
Oct. 12: at Grove W, 50-20
Oct. 18: vs. Collinsville W, 36-26
Oct. 26: at Tahlequah W, 42-0
Nov. 1: vs. Pryor W, 42-7
*forfeited for using ineligible player
Nov. 9: vs. Shawnee W, 38-14
Nov. 16: vs. Guthrie W, 20-13
Nov. 23: vs. McAlester W, 26-14
Dec. 1: vs. Carl Albert 7:30 p.m.
5A STATE CHAMPIONSHIP: EAST CENTRAL VS. MWC CARL ALBERT
7:30 p.m. Saturday
Boone Pickens Stadium, Stillwater
TV: Fox Sports Oklahoma Plus-68
Weather: 61 degrees at kickoff, wind SW 5-6 mph
Tickets: Adults $7, students $5
Records: East Central 9-4, Carl Albert 8-5
Last meeting: East Central won 21-14 in the 2010 playoff quarterfinals.
Original Print Headline: Senior leadership boosts East Central
Mike Brown 918-581-8390
East Central seniors Deontre Youngblood (left), Kimmie Carson, Josh Herman and Stanvon Taylor anchor a class that has helped the Cardinals weather a turbulent offseason. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World
East Central's Demontre Burkhalter brings down a pass for a completion in a Class 5A semifinal game against McAlester. BRETT ROJO/For the Tulsa World