Much the same…still yet different describes the outlook for Muskogee and Choctaw football teams heading into the 6A-II state semifinals on Friday night. With identical 10-1 records, the offensive and defensive statistical comparisons of the two teams are quite similar in a matchup between a veteran team, Choctaw, that has reached the playoffs the past four seasons including an appearance in the 2020 state finals going against the Roughers who returned to the postseason for the 40th time in school history still yet for the first time since 2019. Both teams have consistently put plenty of points on the scoreboard with Muskogee averaging 42.1 points compared with the Yellowjackets 39.1 seasonal mark.
“There’s plenty of similarities in the two teams,” replied Muskogee head coach Travis Hill. “But just look at the final four teams in 6A-II. The top four in the final rankings have a combined 41-3 record. In our game, it will be the little things like penalties and turnovers that make the difference.”
Choctaw’s uptempo offense poses a dual threat to the Muskogee defense that has limited opponents to a mere 15.2 points per game. Senior quarterback Steele Wasel, an Akron University commit, has completed 71-percent of his passing attempts while totaling 2,674 yards and 33 touchdowns and just four interceptions this season pushing his career total to more than 8,000 yards passing as a three-year starter for coach Jake Corbin’s team. A quartet of receivers including Jax Smith, who has more than 3,000 yards in his high school career, will be one of Wasel’s primary targets. La’Trell Ray brings both speed and agility to the Choctaw ground attack as the Choctaw senior who has 905 yards and 11 scores this year was a force in last year’s battle against Muskogee rushing for 207 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the ‘Jackets 49-32 regular season win.
Muskogee’s defense has carried a big stick against their opponents in 2022 posting 65 tackles for loss including 32 quarterback sacks while recording 27 turnovers bolstered by 23 pass interceptions as defensive backs Jayden Bell and Deyonn Bowler have six and five picks respectively. The Roughers had four interceptions including Anthony Watson’s pick-6 last week as the Rougher defense recorded its third shutout of the year in the 18-0 quarterfinal victory over Ponca City. Linebackers Trayveon Houston, who has 117 tackles and Brandon Tolbert who recorded 116 stops with five sacks will play a big role in slowing down the Choctaw offense.
Choctaw has defensive prowess as well limiting their 11 foes to just 16.3 points per game with a 11-man to the ball strike force with junior linebacker Easton Costa leading the sting punishing opponents and totaling 65 tackles while R.J. Jackson has hurried opposing quarterbacks and recorded seven sacks this year.
Muskogee’s offense enters the semifinal game at full speed with a healthy lineup and with proven abilities to move the ball on the ground as well as through the air where sophomore quarterback Jamarian Ficklin has connected on 65 percent of his passing attempts with 38 touchdowns totaling 2,038 yards while pushing his 21-game two-year total to 4,394 yards and 58 scores. Kayden McGee leads the receiver statistics with 35 receptions totaling 708 yards including 13 touchdowns while Bell has 27 grabs and Watson has 33 catches. Sophomore Ondraye Beasley poses dual threat big play potential with a combined 1,017 yards and 10 trips to the end zone. Running backs Brandon Tolbert and LaTavion Johnson have shared duties while combining their stats for more than 1,000 yards rushing this year.
Game time is set for 7pm Friday night at Koi Ishto Stadium on the East Central University campus in Ada. The game will be broadcast via livestream on YouTube.com/RougherTV and can also be heard on radio on KTFX 101.7 fm.