By MIKE MOGUIN
GTR Sports Writer
It won’t be long until Jenks puts on the helmets and pads to gear up for another football season. New leaders will rise up as the Trojans make another run for a state championship.
Looking back on last year, Jenks had a memorable campaign. A solid class of seniors led the Trojans to an 11-2 finish and district and state runner-up finishes. That included victories against eventual 6AII state champion Bixby and a sweep of rival Union, both the regular season and the playoffs, and they did it in the first year without Allan Trimble coaching from the sidelines.
“There were so many firsts for me as a first-year head coach,” said Keith Riggs, who took over the reins of the program after Trimble retired. “I think my seniors are what I’m going to remember the most. Through all the transition and the uncertainty when Coach Trimble stepped down, they were great as far as leaders in the locker room. It never phased them, they were moving forward. It was just a great group of young men. It was a pleasure to be around them on and off the field. Those guys probably come to mind first.”
Among those guys were quarterback Ian Corwin, who played that role for three years, linemen Brady Latham, Hunter Hoyt and Carter Brestovansky, running backs Noah Hernandez, Dreyson Watters and Jacob Shelley, wide receivers Julian Clarke and several others.
Corwin (Drake) and Latham (Arkansas) signed with Division-I programs while the rest signed with the likes of Oklahoma Baptist, Southwestern Oklahoma State, Pittsburgh State and other lower level programs.
“A lot of what you saw this year was a direct result of what Coach Trimble has built,” Riggs said. “The culture he has developed here, we certainly try very hard to continue that same culture and tradition, but, it all started with the standards that he had set and the levels of excellence that he strove for and expected from his teams and his coaches. We just try to continue that.”
In the playoffs, the Trojans dished out a memorable 27-24 comeback win over Union. After a back-and-forth battle against Broken Arrow in the Class 6AI final, they came up short when an end zone interception stopped a potential game-tying drive in the closing seconds. Both of Jenks’ losses came to Broken Arrow, including the title game.
“It speaks strongly about our kids and their ability to keep fighting to the very end,” Riggs said. “They never give up. Things didn’t look good from the outside at the end of the Union game, but they knew they had 20 seconds and they were going to make the most of it. Even in the championship game, you can’t ask for anymore but to have a chance to win the game and we were right there. You look back at any game and say maybe if we do something differently, it turns out different. But all you can ask is to have a chance at that championship and the kids did that and you can’t ask anything more from them.”
Both the Trojans and the Tigers had to deal with adversity when the game was dealt a weather-delay with over four minutes left.
“I never experienced anything like that before. It was certainly a little bit of a challenge,” Riggs said. “Again, the maturity of our kids, they handled it really well, they stayed calm and composed and were really all about preparing for whatever time we went out, making the adjustments we needed to make. Our coaches did a great job of getting them ready for when we did go out. It didn’t really feel like as long of a break as it actually was, but I think that was because we were trying to get ready for when we did go out and finish that last part of the game.”
While the senior leadership of last year’s team will be missed, Riggs said, he and his staff are excited about the classes of talent rising up.
“The seniors’ ability to play football and their leadership qualities will be missed,” Riggs said. “But, we’re excited about the young group of guys we’ve got in the program and we expect several of them to step up into the starting roles and do a great job.”