Broken Arrow Express
Part of the reason Broken Arrow made the Class 6AI state title game last year was due to the performance of Carder Key on defense.
Key, a 6-2, 215-pound senior linebacker, forced 72 tackles, including four sacks, helping the Tigers to a district championship. He is now considered as one of the top players in the area at his position.
“I think it’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get to this point,” says Key, who has been starting since his sophomore year. “You come in every day with a chip on your shoulder ready to work.
“I see things a lot easier now because I know where things are going to happen before they happen,” Key says. “Every year, I’m getting bigger, stronger and faster. It’s a lot of fun playing with new speed, new strength and being able to do a lot of different things.”
The top highlight for Broken Arrow in the 2015 season was an upset of Jenks, whom it eventually lost to in the state championship. B.A. was a one-point victor (35-34) in a high-scoring battle against the Trojans in their regular season matchup but lost to them by 21 points (35-14) in the title game. That has carried over through the offseason and the Tigers would like nothing more than to get back to that place in the final.
“You come that close and you get everything you ever wanted taken away from you,” Key says. “It burns a little bit. Everybody has a chip on their shoulder and is ready to come out and prove something again this year. Everybody is counting us out, but I don’t think any of us feel like we have any disadvantage or any reason why we shouldn’t go back to the state championship game this year.”
Broken Arrow opened the season on the road down in Texas, playing Euless Trinity, back on Aug. 26, in what has become known as zero week. That meant less time for preparation.
“It’s a great opportunity to go down to Texas and show them what Oklahoma football is all about,” Key says less than two weeks before the game.
“This year, (preseason practices) is a lot different because everything is compacted. We got to squeeze everything we can out of every practice because we don’t have the extra week,” Key says. “We got it coming up quick. We got five practices of pads before we suit up against Euless. Everybody is trying to squeeze everything they can in every practice, trying to get the most they can.”
Overall, seven starters are back for the Broken Arrow defense. Key is one of two starting linebackers who are back. Skyler Haynes (6-1, 200, senior) is the other. Both will be used in a 4-3 scheme.
Tucker Dunlap (5-11, 180, junior) and C. J. Myers (5-10, 156, senior) return to the secondary. Trenton Lieurance (6-0, 275, senior) is expected to help on the defensive line. New starters will occupy the rest of the lineup.
Cade Yeager (6-1, 195, senior, quarterback), Corben Chambers (5-7, 155, junior, running back), Noah Cortes (5-10, 195, senior) and Devin Clayton (6-2, 215, junior, tight end) are among those back on offense. Blake Batson (6-3, 235, senior) is expected to anchor the line.
“We’re young, we’re going to learn, and we’re going to keep getting better and better, and that’s an advantage for us,” Key says. “Teams will peak early, but we’re going to peak when we’re supposed to late in the season, and it will help us out.
After the opener at Euless Trinity in Texas, B.A. will play at Union (Sept. 2), then will have its home opener against Owasso (Sept. 9). After an off-week, the Tigers remain at home to begin District 6AI-1 play against Yukon (Sept. 23), followed by a trip to Jenks (Sept. 30) to close out both the month and the first half of the regular season.
“It’s about getting thrown into the fire,” Key says. “You’re either going to react or you’re going to not. Coming from B.A., you’re going to have to perform. You don’t want to get embarrassed. So (the schedule) brings guys to come out and play with everything they can. We proved last year by beating Jenks in the regular season that we can definitely compete with them, and we’re going to show Union that this year.”