Baseball takes ECU, goes against Southern

By Jared A’Lattore, Sports Editor

The Bison baseball team took a big win against East Central University, while taking two losses and another win against Southeastern Oklahoma State. 

The Bison won against ECU two weeks ago on their home field, 13-2. There were five pitchers for the Bison combining seven strikeouts. They only gave up one hit to the ECU Tigers. P.J. Harris finished with a double, and Eric Carlson finished with two doubles. Brett Bloomfield finished was hot on the day, finishing with four at-bats and four hits. Bloomfield went for a triple in one of his hits and was not slowing down all game long.

Jake Gozzo hit a home run giving major momentum to the Bison. Pitcher Hudson Pearson picked up the win as a reliever, and the Bison won the game by a whooping 11 runs.  

During one of their road games against Southeastern, the Bison were staying in the game throughout much of the contest, even when they were down 2-0. Kiamana Bartolome hit a solo home run to cut the lead down to 2-1. Later in the game, Southeastern connected on a home run of their own and another score after that. Southeastern won that game, 5-1.  

During the first game of their doubleheader against Southeastern, the Bison were clicking on all cylinders just like they did a few days back. They won the game with multiple batters contributing. Bloomfield, Ramon Enriquez, Garrett McKee, Brock Carter, and Joey Pledger all hit for doubles in the game.

Harris, Enriquez and McKee all hit for home runs in the game. This was a rout for the Bison, 11-3. Thomas Shroder picked up the win. It was Shroder’s first win of the year.  

The second game of the doubleheader called for payback from Southeastern. Southeastern took a 9-0 lead by the fourth inning. 

Gozzo continued to show his worth with a home run shot in the game, but the Bison fell way short this time. Southeastern picked up an 11-3 win over the Bison.  

Shroder believes that the team has its strengths such as the pitching and the veteran leadership to show that the elite is rising again in 2019.  

“One [strength] being the 12 seniors, including myself, that we have on the roster who have all played together and know what it takes to win a conference tournament and play past that,” Shroder said. “Two, I think we have a deep pitching staff which is something that not having hurt us last year, as well as another very talented lineup.” 

With the season still young, the team is hoping to find its strength and use it to beat teams across the conference and so forth.  

I’m not too sure we have any glaring weaknesses, I think you’ll start to see several guys catch stride as the season goes along and we’ll continue to play knowing we’re the best team in the GAC,” Shroder said.  

Having the strength of not hitting balls, but the mental capacity in which they do it in is very important.  

“We know we’re talented enough as a team to beat anyone in this league at any given time and so it all comes down to having confidence in the work we’ve all put in and our approach when we get the ball/bat in our hands,” Shroder said.  

The team is all about taking one at a time to get back to where they were last year.  

“To get back to an NCAA Regional, we have to go take care of business this weekend at NWOSU and then continue to take the season one game at a time,” Shroder said. 

While the Bison would have loved to have a better start going into 2019, they understand that it is a process to be where they want to be like last season.  

There’s a lot of upside with this group and the coaching staff looks forward to the strides they’ll make throughout the season and the finished product we’ll end up with in May,” Assistant Coach Christopher Cox said. 

The Bison are looking forward to getting better whether it is in practice or games.  

“I think one thing that sticks out especially with the slow start we’ve gotten off to is their resilience,” Cox said. “They come to work every day hungry, looking to get this thing going in the right direction.” 

Cox notices how important the veteran leadership is to the squad. They will look to lead the team to another birth in the Division II postseason.   

“They understand the culture that’s been built here and understand its importance in the winning tradition the program has, Cox said. “Couldn’t be more pleased with this group of guys in how they represent the university, the coaching staff, and themselves.” 

 

OBU Tennis team earns victory in Springfield

By Courtlin Haygarth, Assistant Sports Editor

The rematch was set, and the Bison and Lady Bison were on the road. 

The Lady Bison headed out to Tahlequah to take on the Northeastern State Lady Riverhawks Friday, Feb. 22 and the Bison headed South to Dallas, Texas for an exhibition match against Division I Southern Methodist.

Last year the Lady Bison met the Lady Riverhawks in the Finals of the NCAA Championships Central Region. 

OBU was unable to pick up a single doubles match, giving NSU the early 1-0 lead heading into singles.

Kim Moosbacher got her revenge against Lady Riverhawk Tatjana Stoll from the doubles match with a three set 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 win at No. 1.

Tahlia Walsh and Madeleine Boepple both got singles victories. 

With needing just one more victory to seal the match, Alex Bowers tried to give OBU the win after dropping her first set 6-0 as she pushed the match to a third set before falling 7-5.

Due to time constraints, the matches at Nos. five and six were changed to an eight game pro set, of which the Lady Bison lost both. NSU got the slight edge 4-3. 

After the Bison Men returned from Dallas, Oklahoma Baptist made their way to Sooner country in Norman, Okla. against the Kansas Wesleyan Coyotes.

Due to weather concerns, this match was relocated from Bison Hill.

This was the first time these two teams had met. 

For the men, this was the Coyotes’ first match of 2019.

They came in 1-2 with their last loss coming against Washburn 6-1. OBU lost to Washburn 6-1.

On the women’s side of things, the Lady Coyotes are 0-2, having only logged one point in those two matches.

This, too, was their first match of 2019. Both men’s and women’s squads got the win over the Kansas Wesleyan Coyotes 5-2 and 7-0, respectively. 

Both Bison teams won doubles, including a narrow 7-6 doubles victory from Andres Graterol and Matias Le-Fort to give the men the nod.

The women won each of their doubles matches 6-1 as KWU had to forfeit the third doubles match. Both squads were dominant in singles.

The men’s singles victories all came in straight sets and with the exception of Gianlucca Galdi’s 7-5 second set win, every set was 6-2 or better on the side of the Bison.

The ladies showed utter domination as they only gave up two games in all of the four singles matches with Alex Bowers and Madeleine Boepple having 6-0, 6-0 wins.  

Prior to their Feb. 26 match against University of Arkansas Fort Smith, Bison duo Andrusch/Galdi are now 4-0 as doubles partners at the No. 1 slot in regular season matches. Graterol/Le-Fort are 3-1 at No. 2. Lady Bison Moosbacher is 5-1 in No. 1 singles. Boepple is 3-0 in the No. 4 slot and has seen two 6-0, 6-0 victories. It seems Coach Proctor may have found something. Up next for the Oklahoma Baptist Men is their home opener. 

The 5-2 Texas A&M-Texarkana Eagles will come to Bison Hill March 1, followed by Western New Mexico on March 2, also at home. The next three Bison tennis matches will be in front of their home crowd.

The Bison Women have a back-to-back in San Angelo, Texas against St. Edward’s and Angelo St. March 1 and 2. Last year, the Lady Bison defeated St. Edward’s at home 8-1.  

 

Bison and Lady Bison shine at track indoor GAC Championships

By Michael Stewart, Assistant Sports Editor

The Oklahoma Baptist indoor track teams wrapped up the 2019 indoor regular season in style as they swept the top awards in the 2019 Great American Conference Indoor Championships.  

OBU served as host of the two-day meet that began Friday, Feb. 22 at Mosier Center on the campus of the University of Oklahoma in Norman.

The Lady Bison and Bison joined six other GAC teams in the event, including Arkansas Tech, East Central, Harding, Northwestern Oklahoma and Southern Nazarene.  

Other non-conference teams competing were West Texas A&M, Rogers State, Oklahoma Christian, Azusa Pacific, Le Tourneau, and Laverne.  

“We were really excited to compete,” junior JoziRose Mayfield said. “Heading into the meet, we knew we were going to have to come ready to compete.”  

In the meet, the OBU women nearly doubled the points of second-place Harding. OBU finished with 234 points while Harding managed 125.  

“The team really showed up in a big way,” Mayfield said. “This team is really special. Everyone shows support for one another and it really helps everyone perform their best.”  

When the Lady Bison are performing their best, they are tough to beat. Kaylee Crowson earned the title of top female athlete at the event winning the 5000 meters and finishing second in both the one mile and 3000 meters.  

“Kaylee (Crowson) made us all really proud,” Mayfield said. “The way she always competes is very contagious throughout the team.” 

There were plenty of bright spotlights for the Lady Bison, with Cameka Witter and Mckae Mitchell finishing first and second in the 400-meter dash. 

Four more Lady Bison finished in the top 10. Sher Van Der Westhuizen, Candis Rodgers, Beyel Tubbs and Mayfield were in the top 10. Tesa Potter finished first in the 800-meter dash. Brooklynn James finished sixth.

The 4×400 meter relay and distance medley went to the Lady Bison for first.

Peyton Worley got first in the pole vault. Isabella Lotz won the long jump.      

The Bison also cruised to a victory in the meet.

The OBU men scored 278 points more than the second through fifth place finishing teams combined.

Oklahoma Christian finished second with 80 points, which was 200 points behind OBU.  

“Everyone was very focused,” senior Nathan Crowson said. “When we are competing at our best, we are a hard team to beat, and we showed that.” 

The men also claimed top male athlete of the competition. Heptathlon athlete, Hayden Ashley, earned the honor after he won five of the ten competitions and had two other second-place finishes.  

“Hayden (Ashley) is such a competitor,” Crowson said. “He lives for big moments and always steps up to the plate.”  

For the Bison, Mahcoe Smith won the 60-meter dash. The 400-meter dash went to Shirvante Knauls with Sayvon Milton right behind him.

Logan Huslig won the 800-meter dash.

The 4×10 and the distance medley went to the Bison for first as well.

For the high jump, Nathan Worley, Hayden Ashley and Andrew Worley went for first, second and third.

Spencer Lashley finished first in the pole vault and Saleem Fadel finished first in shot put and weight throw.  

This was the first ever Great American Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships, and OBU made easy work of its competition.

The GAC event served as the last opportunity for OBU to add to its growing and lengthy list of NCAA meet qualifiers at next month’s meet in Pittsburg, Kansas. 

The OBU track teams will stay here for Mar. 14 and for Mar. 28 and 29 for the OBU Invitational on Bison Hill.

 

OBU tennis ranked high for spring

The Oklahoma Baptist Bison enter 2019 with a pre-season Great American Conference ranking of 5th, preceded by Southern Arkansas, Ouachita Baptist, Harding, and Southeastern Oklahoma St. with the top spot. 

After a 1-2 GAC record in last year’s conference play, OBU will have a lot of people to prove wrong as their lone conference win last year came against Ouachita Baptist. Harding, this year’s pre-season #2 ranked GAC team, bettered OBU twice last year, including in the end-of-year GAC Tournament. 

OBU had quite the turnover from last year to this year as they lost Daniel Aguilera, Babji Atturu, and Luis Romero to graduation, as well as OBU’s No. 1 from last year, Lucas Castelo Branco, who transferred to Division I Oklahoma. Returning for the Bison are juniors Kevin Andrusch, Gianlucca Galdi, and Matias Le Fort. Freshmen Harrison Boggs, Ashish Komaragiri, and Rhett Rollins, as well as JUCO transfer Andres Graterol round out the new faces for the OBU Men. 

Gianlucca Galdi saw the most success in October’s GAC Individual Championships as he made it to the finals in Flight 1. Flight 1 for doubles showed Andres Graterol and Kevin Andrusch make it to the consolation finals.  

The year’s conference play will not begin until March 30th when Oklahoma Baptist takes to Magnolia, Arkansas to face Southern Arkansas. OBU will start and finish conference play within a month as their last conference match will come against Harding on April 12th 

In the men’s exhibition match against Abilene Christian, two of the three doubles matches went the Bison’s way. However, saturday morning showed a lone win from freshmen Rhett Rollins with junior Gianlucca Galdi 7-6. Before that, OBU dropped their doubles matches at No. 1 and 3, giving Metro. St. the doubles nod before Rollins and Galdi could even secure the win with the previous matches ending first.  

With the Roadrunners of Metro. St. up 1-0, OBU needed four singles matches to take the overall match. The Bison earned zero singles wins in their exhibition match. Starting out, OBU went 1-1 with a loss from Matias Le Fort and a win from Andres Graterol. Following suit to Graterol was Kevin Andrusch at No. 1 with a three-set win after dropping the first. 

With the match tied up 2-2, OBU needed two more matches to take the match. Galdi fell just short as he dropped his third set 2-6 after it being tied 1-1. After a Rhett Rollins loss, the match rested on Nick Parker’s shoulders. Nick, a senior, is playing his first year of collegiate tennis ever after freshman Harrison Boggs proved ineligible to play this year. Parker dropped his first set 1-6 before storming back in the 2nd only to fall 5-7.  

Oklahoma Baptist will return to Shawnee before taking a short trip to Oklahoma City on February 9th where they will take on the Washburn Ichabods at neutral site Oklahoma City Tennis Center. Last year in the same location, the Bison fell to the Ichabods 4-5.  

The Lady Bison as the defending GAC champions are three days out from their first match of the Spring 2019 season. They will go into that match with pre-season rank #1 in the GAC next to their name. OBU led the way in the pre-season poll followed by Henderson, Arkansas Tech, Southern Arkansas, Southeastern Oklahoma St. Henderson St., and Ouachita Baptist rounding it off. 

Last year the Lady Bison went 6-0 in conference play, including Harding, this year’s pre-season rank #2 in the GAC, twice. One of those victories over Harding was on the way to claiming the GAC tournament title after defeated Southeastern Oklahoma St. in the final.  

Returning from last year’s championship team are seniors Madeleine Boepple and Alex Bowers, along with juniors Kim Moosbacher, Tahlia Walsh, and Jacqueline Charvat. OBU graduated Kateryna Shkot, Caroline Abbe, and Megan Bowlin. Filling the void left by Shkot, Abbe, and Bowlin will be freshmen Ethne Dowling and Landrey Johnson, as well as JUCO transfer Stefy Varon from Hinds Community College. 

The GAC Individual Championships earlier in October showed Lady Bison Alex Bowers win herself a Flight 3 championship alongside Madeleine Boepple and Kim Moosbacher who claimed the doubles title in their respective Flight. 

The Oklahoma Baptist Lady Bison’s trip to Colorado ended with a season-opening loss to Metropolitan St. – Denver 5-2. This loss came one day after OBU lost an exhibition match to Division I Air Force 7-0. 

Lady Bison duo Madeleine Boepple/Kim Moosbacher got the lone doubles victory for OBU at 6-4. Moosbacher also attributed to OBU’s point total with a singles win at No. 1 along with Alex Bowers at No. 3. Tahlia Walsh at No. 4 recovered from her 6-0 1st set loss with a 6-1 2nd set win before dropping the 3rd 6-1. 

The 0-1 Oklahoma Baptist Lady Bison return to Bison Hill before making the short trip to Oklahoma City on February 9th to take on the Washburn Lady Ichabods at neutral site Oklahoma City Tennis Center. The Lady Bison were winners over the Lady Ichabods 6-3 when they met last year at the same location. 

Oklahoma Baptist will see their first conference action Saturday, March 30th when they travel to Magnolia, Arkansas to take on Southern Arkansas before closing their season with five straight GAC matches.     

 

Players honored in Bison and Lady Bison basketball

By Michael Stewart, Assistant Sports Editor

The Oklahoma Baptist Men’s and Women’s basketball teams have had a busy start to the new year. Both teams found success throughout the month of January, setting the teams up for a compelling end of the season.  

The Lady Bison saw senior Autumn Avina named U.S. Basketball Writers Association Women’s Division II National Player of the Week for the week ending January 6. 

“Being named Division II Player of the Week was a blessing and something I will never forget,” Avina said. “My team helped me accomplish this goal and had my back the whole way.” 

Additionally, the senior guard from Austin, Texas was named GAC Player of the Week for the same week. She averaged 19.0 points, 7.5 assists, 6.5 rebounds and 4.5 steals for the week, including a triple-double. Not only did she fill up the stat sheet, she did so efficiently, shooting the ball 50 percent (17-of-34) from the field, including 57.1 percent (4-of-7) from three-point range.  

The Lady Bison headed into the last week of January 4-4 on the month. The team ended the month on a road trip to Arkadelphia, AR to face-off against GAC opponents Ouachita Baptist Thursday, January 31 and Henderson State Saturday, February 2.  

“We knew we had to expect some very competitive matchups,” Avina said. “Everyone is hungry for wins and now that we are in the second round of conference everyone is looking to play for March.” 

In the first game, the Lady Bison set the tone early, earning a 24-14 lead at the end of the first quarter.  

“We came out firing and had a great start,” senior Katy Custer said.” We executed the game plan in the first quarter.” 

Unfortunately, over the next three quarters, the Lady Bison saw their lead diminish until they found themselves down in the third quarter. The fourth quarter turned into a defensive battle, but the Lady Bison couldn’t fight their way back into the game. They would eventually fall to Ouachita Baptist 70-59.  

“There was a momentum shift with about 3 minutes left in the second quarter and it felt like we never got it back,” Custer said. “Everyone fought hard, but it was definitely a frustrating one.”  

Custer managed 12 points in the loss, becoming the 29th OBU player to reach 1,000 points in her career. Also, junior Victoria Blankenship finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds for her sixth double-double of the season and Avina added 10 points and 11 rebounds for her fifth double-double of the season.  

With a bitter taste in their mouths from Thursday’s loss, the Lady Bison turned their attention to their next matchup with Henderson State on Saturday. 

“We definitely were looking forward to the game against HSU,” Custer said. “HSU is one of the top 3-point shooting teams in our conference, so we knew we had to come out focused.”  

Once again, the Lady Bison found success in the first quarter; however, they found themselves in a deep hole by halftime, down 13 points. Henderson State came out in the second half firing on all cylinders to make sure OBU couldn’t dig themselves out of that hole. Despite a decent push by OBU in the fourth quarter, it was too little too late as they would fall 73-64 for their second straight conference defeat.  

“Although we lost, I think there are several positives that we can take away from the performance,” senior Alexa Richards said. “We cut a 23-point deficit to 9 points, and we proved to ourselves that if we simply stick together like we did in the end then we can win tough games.” 

Blankenship led OBU with 21 points and 11 rebounds earning another double-double. OBU also got double-figure scoring from freshman Charissa Price with 16 points, Avina added 15 points, and Custer added 12 points.  

The loss moved OBU to 9-11 overall and 5-9 in the GAC. 

For the Bison, freshman Brantly Thompson was recognized as the GAC Men’s Basketball Player of the week for the week ending January 13. Thompson averaged 19.5 points and 5.5 rebounds for the week, helping the Bison secure the top spot in the GAC standings.  

To end the month of January, OBU also traveled to Arkadelphia for a pair of difficult road tests against Ouachita and Henderson State. OBU entered the first matchup against Ouachita sitting atop of the GAC standings and surging on a three-game winning streak.  

“We have the number one spot that everyone is racing for,” senior Antonio Wade said. “We are expecting every teams best shot.”  

Well, that’s exactly what they got from Ouachita. Despite racking up a 7-point halftime lead, the Bison were unable to withstand a 50 point second-half from Ouachita. OBU would lose a close one, 77-71. The Bison’s three-game winning streak would be snapped, and they would be bumped into a tie for second place in the GAC.  

“We missed a lot of shots we usually make which was a big factor in the game,” sophomore Harrison Stoddart said. “I feel like we played great tonight on the road, our shots just would not fall.”  

Stoddard led OBU with 21 points on the night. Also, freshman Mohammed Abubakar added 13 points and Wade and senior Julian Daughtry added 10 apiece.  

Looking to bounce back, the Bison squared off against Henderson State two days later.  

“We knew we would have to keep fighting through the adversity,” Stoddart said. “We wanted to stay focused as a team and fight together.” 

The Bison sputtered out of the starting blocks against Henderson State and found themselves fighting from behind the rest of the way. OBU found itself down 21-6 after the first eight minutes of play. Despite the slow start, the Bison were able to cut the deficit to 7 points two different times. However, the Bison could never fully recover from their slow start, eventually falling to Henderson State 66-57. 

“The tough truth is that mediocrity cannot win tough games on the road,” Wade said. “We are learning what it takes to win on the road when the odds are stacked against us. Every loss we learn more about ourselves.”  

Wade led the team with 17 points and Thompson added 13 points of his own. The loss moved OBU to sole owners of the third-place mark in the GAC. 

“This team is incredibly resilient,” Wade said. “This team has set the bar for success and we are constantly pursuing that everyday regardless of the obstacles we face.” 

The Bison currently hold an overall record of 11-9 and a 10-4 GAC record. With the Great American Conference postseason push heating up, the next few games are going to be pivotal.  

Both the Bison and Lady Bison will travel to Durant, OK Thursday, February 7 looking to bounce back against Southeastern Oklahoma State University. After, they will be welcoming Southwestern Oklahoma State University to the Noble Complex Saturday, February 9. 

 

 

 

 

Lady Bison swept by Ouchita, miss out on playoffs

By Michael Stewart, Assistant Sports Editor  (Courtesy photo/Bison Athletics)

The Oklahoma Baptist women’s softball team wrapped up the 2018 season by traveling to Arkadelphia, Ark. to face off against Great American Conference foe Ouachita Baptist University the last weekend of April. The Lady Bison entered the weekend with the hope of earning a playoff berth; they needed to win three out of the four games.

“We knew it was going to be a challenge,” senior shortstop Katie Reyes said. “The team really wanted to leave everything that we had out on the field.”

Unfortunately, the Lady Bison struggled offensively and were defeated in all four of the contests. In the first two games on Friday, the Lady Bison played solid defensively, holding their opponent to one run, but couldn’t get on the scoresheet.

“We came out focused and locked in on every play,” sophomore second baseman Shelby Savage said. “Offensively, we just couldn’t drive in runners.”

In the first contest, the Bison had five hits to Ouachita’s six; however, they were all singles by five different players, and no one was driven in for any runs. Ouachita didn’t get on the board until there were two outs in the sixth inning.

“Katie [Long] pitched a great game,” Savage said. “She was doing everything she needed to do. It was an unlucky loss.”

In the second game of the back-to-back, it was a similar storyline. The Lady Bison posted solid defense through five innings to stay in the game, but had a minor hiccup in the sixth inning that would cost them the game.

OBU struggled again to get any offense going, getting four hits to Ouachita’s five. Junior Bry Flanagan was responsible for two of the four, but no runs could be brought in. The final for both games one and two was 1-0 in Ouachita Baptist’s favor.

“I’m really proud of how the team dug in and gave ourselves a chance to win both games,” Savage said. “The team definitely has a lot to be proud of.”

After losing back-to-back games on Friday, OBU were officially out of playoff contention heading into Saturday.

“As a senior, I knew [they were] going to be my last games as a Bison,” Reyes said. “I approached the last games with all I had left.”

In game three, Ouachita came out red-hot, scoring three runs in the bottom of the first inning, but OBU was able to respond with a run of their own in the top of the second inning after Flanagan smashed a solo homerun to left field.

Ouachita turned around and answered with another run in the bottom of the second to extend their lead to 4-1.

Later, in the top of the fourth inning, OBU scored another run after junior Aspen Grimes drove in sophomore Cheyenne Demaree with a single to left center-field.

This brought the score to 4-2. Once again, Ouachita came right back at OBU with two runs of their own in the bottom of the fourth inning to stretch out their lead, 6-2. The Lady Bison would be unable to overcome the deficit.

“Ouachita is a very dangerous team if you let them get things going,” Savage said. “They didn’t leave anyone on base. They did a good job of driving people in.”

In the final game of the series, OBU were the first on the scoreboard. Savage was driven in off a single from Flanagan, giving OBU a 1-0 lead at the end of the first inning.

Ouachita responded with five runs of their own in the bottom of the second inning to overcome OBU’s one run and get out to a 5-1 lead.

Looking to spark a comeback, Savage came out with a solo homerun in the top of the third, bringing OBU within three runs of the opponent.

Ultimately, Ouachita tightened things up from then on defensively and held OBU scoreless through the last four innings.

They were also able to add another run in the sixth, sealing a 6-2 win. This brought the Lady Bison’s season to an end.

“It was a tough way to see our season end,” Savage said. “But, it doesn’t take away from all the things we accomplished this season.”

For the seniors, it was the last game in a Lady Bison uniform.

“I tried my best to leave a positive legacy on this team all year long,” Reyes said. “I tried to focus more on being a better team player, who was there for her teammates and helped others whenever they needed someone. I hope my legacy lives on.”

With this season in the books, all eyes are on the future of Lady Bison softball.

“I know this team has so much potential for the future,” Reyes said. “We have so many talented individuals and are lethal when we put everything together.”

The Lady Bison ended the season with an overall record of 16-31 and a GAC record of 13-26.

 

Bison football grows through spring

Albert Monge, Contributing Writer  (Courtesy photo/Bison Athletics)
The Oklahoma Baptist University football team is one of several athletic programs on campus that is relatively new. The Bison are completing just their sixth season since the program’s restart in 2012. In that time they have moved up from NAIA to full members of NCAA Division II.
In the last three seasons as Division II participants, the Bison football team has been home to a great deal of adversity, with quite a few coaching changes as part of that process. But, the team looks to this spring as an opportunity to make the necessary progress for being a big-time competitor for the 2018-2019 season in the Great American Conference (GAC).
Grant Gower will enter his third season calling the plays this year, as the program’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Gower, who is the all-time leader in wins in Deer Creek High School football history, came to the Bison in the spring of 2016 to take the driver’s seat on the offensive side of the ball.
Last year, the Bison saw quite a few opportunities in games where the score was relatively close at halftime, but then faltered somewhat after the intermission.
Gower stressed the need for consistency as the key to closing out games.
“One of the things we always look to do is maintain consistency,” Gower said. “That is, from season to season, from game to game, from half to half, from quarter to quarter and from series to series. That is what it really came down to.”
One cause of the lack of consistency in games stemmed from quarterback play, as a result the Bison offense saw the transition of starting quarterbacks last year, going from senior Dezmond Stegall, three-year starter from Searcy, Arkansas, to Preston Haire, a redshirt freshman from Trophy Club, Texas.
“The thing that was probably the best was the way that both of those men handled the situation,” Gower said.
Haire would emerge as the full-time starter in game six of the season, but the adversity would not stop there for the team. The Bison’s leading rusher, Isaiah Mallory, junior from Fort Worth, Texas, suffered a season-ending injury in game 10.
“Of course, with Isaiah being Isaiah Mallory, he is just unbelievably focused, [has a] work ethic, and [is] a vocal leader. He is just off the charts,” Gower said.
Gower spoke highly of both Haire and Mallory, who will be vital pieces to the returning offense, with high aspirations for both men.
Haire, who played high school football at Byron Nelson High School, took last year as a learning experience.
“It was definitely different, you know, being one of the youngest guys on the team,” Hair said. “Having integrity was one of the biggest things for me, but being a follower of Christ definitely helped with that.”
Haire said that being able to learn how to finish games is going to be the biggest thing for the Bison as a team to be successful. Haire said that he looks to the spring as an opportunity to build the comradery as a team, so that in the fall, they can focus on winning games, and less on becoming the team that they already are.
“Seeing how [Gower] leads both on and off the field is really inspiring for us, as a quarterback group, and as an offense;” Haire said. “I think even as a whole team, everyone can look up to him and be better based off of him, not only as a football team, but in life.”
Haire said that the biggest key for him was to not get complacent from the success he saw in his freshman year. He said that belief in each other and having faith in each other as a whole team would propel them to success.
Mallory, who played high school football at Aledo High School in Texas, is seeing this spring from a different perspective. Mallory is still in the process of rehabilitation, resulting from tearing both the ACL and MCL in his knee last year against Northwestern Oklahoma State University.
“It was a really hard time. Attribute here It was a time for me to realize the blessings I have in my life, and what God can give you, and take away,” Mallory said.
Mallory is adjusting to his new role as his injury will have him sidelined for the remainder of the spring. He said he is trying to take the positives out of the situation. He said this would be an opportunity for him try to encourage others through the leadership role that he holds.
Mallory, who has been the team’s leading rusher for the last two seasons, said he looks to keep the positivity flowing throughout the entirety of the spring season. Mallory also said he sees the character of the team changing, saying that everyone being more and more dependable as the semester progresses on.
“If we can keep each other accountable, it will translate into the fall,” Mallory said.
Mallory looks to keep himself accountable as well, saying that he plans to work hard to get back to the form that he was at before the injury, acknowledging that he is going to have some competition next fall.
Joining the quarterback and running back duo, the receiving core for the Bison will see quite a few returners that saw significant time last year, including Josh Pettijohn, Cagney Roberson, Noah McGraw, Nick Hinkley and Emmanuel Adesokan.
Joining Mallory in the backfield will be Darrien Moss, who shouldered quite a bit of the load following Mallory’s injury, as well as Reuben Thompson. Seth Glasscock and Reece Gilbert look to keep things strong behind the offensive line, both returning at the tight end position.
Up front, the offensive line will return Brian Cornell, Zachary Blevins, John Calhoun, Creede Wright and Jake Foshee.
On the other side of the ball, the defense saw a leadership change mid-season last year, after the resignation of Defensive Coordinator Paul Smith, with Brandon Morris being promoted to the Defensive Coordinator position. In his first full semester on the job, Morris said that this transition has been a huge learning experience, but is excited for what is to come.
“We are pretty young when it comes to on-field experience,” Morris said. “But at the same time, being young can help when it comes to changing the mindset and the culture of the defense.”
This ‘young’ defense that Morris talked about saw the loss of quite a few key contributing seniors who played significant time in games last year.
The list would include Dante Foster and Chris Hosanna in the defensive backfield, and Houston Tyler, Daniel Moniz, and Dennis Nguyen all graduating on the defensive line.
But, Morris said he chose to look at this from an opportunistic perspective, also saying that there would be a lot of competition this year at every position.
He said that one of the main keys of the spring session was to make sure that all facets of the defense are understood by everyone. This would include two key returners from last year’s squad, redshirt sophomore Josh Arnold and senior defensive lineman Ashton Vickers.
“Josh Arnold is a key component in what we do,” Morris said. “He’s taken to this defense like a fish to water, and he does everything that we ask him to do. He’s a leader both on and off the field, and I have the utmost confidence in Josh.”
Arnold, who was a redshirt freshman last year, played in all 11 games at the linebacker position, and has the support of Morris behind him to be at the helm this spring, and next year.
Morris also talked about Ashton Vickers, one of the few returning seniors for the Bison defense next year.
“Ashton has made strides that are pretty remarkable,” Morris said. “I’m excited about the guys that I’ve seen make plays on Saturday, and Vickers is definitely in that category.”
Morris noted that the biggest driving force to take from this spring into the fall of the 2018-2019 season is a culture of a success. He said that the guys must use their talents to go out and make plays and breed success through that culture.
Josh Arnold, a redshirt freshman from Collinsville, Oklahoma, said he saw playing in all 11 games last year as a learning opportunity.
“I felt a little bit of pressure the first couple of games, but after that it felt like I was where I supposed to be.”
Arnold said that he viewed this spring as the most productive spring since he’s been on campus.
He acknowledged the loss of a few key defensive players in the seniors that graduated, but he said that it would be a good opportunity for the younger guys to step up and play a big role.
Arnold also said he recognizes the new components of the defense come with the coaching changes, as well as integrating the new guys into the scheme of the defense. He said in the first few days of spring practice, things were a little bit difficult, but after the initial introduction, things have gone fairly smoothly.
“The biggest thing going from the spring to the fall is the mindset that the coaches are trying to instill in us,” Arnold said. “You have to establish a winning culture in the way you do everything.”
Leading the charge in front of Arnold will be Vickers, from Vian, Oklahoma. Vickers, who played both offense and defense in high school, was recruited to OBU as an offensive lineman, and made the transition to the defensive side of the ball not long after he got here.
“We have a lot of young players, and a lot of guys coming back. I think we have what we need. We just need to put games together,” Vickers said.
Vickers said that despite the result of last season, he feels hopeful for what is to come in the next year. Vickers started eight games last year for the Bison and played alongside the group of graduating seniors during that time.
“I think myself and some of the other seniors have big roles to fill. But, I think it’s crucial for us to have senior leaders on the team. When things get tough, we have to be the guys to look to, and to lean on,” Vickers said.
Vickers was quick to mention other senior leaders, and said that this group of guys will be the ones to lead the charge. Despite the senior leadership, Vickers acknowledged the younger look of the defense, noting that there would be some guys who would be seeing playing time that they hadn’t seen before. He said his biggest advice for those guys would be to play with confidence and not nervousness.
For many university football teams, spring is used as a time for transition and team bonding.
“I think it’s a time for us to build the chemistry [of the team],” Vickers said. “I’d say I’m a lot closer with the offensive guys than I have been in the past. I think that’s important because it’s not just offense and defense, it’s the whole team.”
Vickers said he thinks the biggest key for seeing success in the future of next season is building on the momentum of the last three games of the 2017-2018 season. The Bison won two out of the last three games they played last season, and Vickers noted that it is important for the team to build on that starting in the spring, to take into next fall.
“Enjoy the moment, because it will be here and gone before we know it.”
The Bison will conclude their spring session with their spring game on May 5th at 1 p.m., at Crain Stadium at OBU’s Hurt Complex.
The Bison will return to practice in August to prepare for their first game of the 2018-2019 season August 30 in Ada, Oklahoma versus the Tigers of East Central University.

Last Week in Bison Sports

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The Lady Bison softball team split their series with East Central this past weekend. The Bison won the first game of the weekend 9-3, but were unable to continue their success through the second game which they lost 16-8. The Bison will be at home this weekend to face off against Southern Nazarene.

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Kevin Andrusch and his doubles partner Gianlucca Galdi (not pictured) scored the only win for the Bison last weekend at Harding University.

 

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The Lady Bison lacrosse team traveled Colorado to face conference opponent CSU-Pueblo, but were defeated by a score of 22-1.