John Truesdell is looking to stay longer in his second stint as Prue’s head football coach than he did in his first time around while repeating the success he enjoyed 19 years ago with the Rockets.
“Continuity would be good. That’s what I’m hoping for, as long as my health holds out,” Truesdell said this week while attending the Oklahoma Coaches Association Clinic held in conjunction with the All-State Games.
In 1999, Truesdell led Prue to an 11-0 record before a narrow loss to Morrison in a second-round playoff game. That was Prue’s last district title season. It would also turn out to be Truesdell’s only season as the Rockets’ head coach in his first stint with them as he then moved to Mounds High School.
“I lived in Mounds, still do. My wife was teaching at Mounds, my son, who was playing quarterback, preferred to play 11-man, and the drive every day was wearing me out,” Truesdell said. “Now, that drive is not a big deal. I’m in retirement so I can stay at home and get things done there until junior high practice in the afternoon. I don’t have to worry about the classroom, just coaching, (and) that gives me the freedom, flexibility.”
Truesdell returns to Prue after one season as Liberty’s head coach.
“I hated to leave after one year. I love Liberty, but Prue is a special place for me,” Truesdell said. “I have a couple kids playing for me whose dads played for me, and another one of my players (from 1999) is on the Prue school board — that’s the connection.”
Prue is coming off a trip to the Class B quarterfinals and a 10-3 season — its best record since Truesdell’s 1999 team. Truesdell succeeds Johnny Ray, who became Yale’s head coach after nine years at Prue, leading a turnaround after not having enough players for a varsity team in 2013.
“Prue is better equipped now than it was 19 years ago with its facilities, equipment and want-to,” Truesdell said. “The superintendent, Craig Thurman, wants to have success and be an eight-man power. Football is big in Prue.”
The Rockets lost running back Dylan Roach, who rushed for 2,264 yards last season before moving to Hominy, but return five starters on offense and four on defense. Junior quarterback Jace Horton is among the returning starters.
“He can run and throw, and we’re going to utilize that,” Truesdell said. “He’s a good one. Last year’s success helps a lot. We’ve had a good summer. The kids have worked hard in the weight room, went to passing league — they’ve been very receptive.
“I’m really excited to be there, and I think we’re going to have a good season and keep getting better.”
New coach at Newkirk
Another football program looking for some continuity is Newkirk, where Graham Snelding is the Tigers’ fourth head coach in four years.
Snelding was Ponca City’s offensive coordinator last year after being Blackwell’s head coach.
“I wasn’t looking to leave Ponca City, but this is such good opportunity,” Snelding said while at the OCA Clinic. “Hopefully this will be my last stop.”
Senior running back Laike Wilhelm is Newkirk’s top returning player from last year’s 4-6 team that showed considerable progress after a winless 2016. Wilhelm rushed for 1,226 yards and 17 touchdowns last season. His 97-yard TD run against Morrison was the best I witnessed in 2017.
“The only better running back that I’ve ever coached is LeGarrette Blount,” Snelding said, referring to the Detroit Lions player who is entering his ninth NFL season.
Snelding coached Blount in high school at Perry, Florida.
Smith moves to Union
On Friday night, Ron Smith was at Union-Tuttle Stadium as two of his Victory Christian football players, Tyler Hicks and Caleb Calhoon, were in the All-State Game.
That won’t be Smith’s only night at Union this year as he moved there in May. Union coach Kirk Fridrich called him after seeing Smith resigned after three seasons as head coach and seven overall at Victory. Smith led Victory to the Class 2A state final in 2016.
Smith, 63, will work with Union’s ninth-grade team and is teaching English in the high school.
“I coached against Union all those years and now it’s interesting to be there and see the tremendous organization,” Smith said. “After leaving Victory, I wanted to continue coaching and I feel very fortunate.”
Smith has a head-coaching record of 125-70, including 32-6 at Victory. He helped win four state titles as an assistant coach during 17 years at Midwest City before head-coaching stints at Edmond Deer Creek (1997-2000), Owasso (2001-05) and Bartlesville (2006-10). Smith won the Class 3A state title at Deer Creek in 2000.