By Jeff Mapes
The Davis Wolves scrimmaged for the final time on Aug. 24 at Marlow and now have their sights squarely on Friday’s season opener against Pauls Valley.
The Wolves’ first-string offense and defense saw limited action, playing only in the opening drive of their respective series. Coaches utilized the rest of the 77-minute practice to further evaluate the reserve players.
“I thought we made a lot of improvement,” head coach Greg Parker said when referring to last week’s scrimmage at Allen. “Over a week’s time of practice, you could tell that the kids saw themselves on film and they took their coaching and got better.”
Ethan May rushed for a touchdown for the Wolves’ only score against Marlow. The Outlaws scored twice against Davis, one on the ground and another on a pass.
“Our shape got better,” Parker said. “I was pleased with the improvement. Are we there? No. We still have a lot of improvement to make, just like everybody else, but I think we’re on the right track.”
“We have tough kids and they’re working hard,” Parker continued. “They recognize what they’re not doing right and they’re trying to get better at it.”
Parker was pleased with the progression of his role players and knows they’ll be needed at crucial times throughout the season.
“The guys fighting for those spots that are in the second huddle, we want to get more film on them so we can see how ready they are, how close they are,” Parker said. “Can they spell somebody and take reps? It’s important for those younger guys to get more opportunities to show they can do the job.”
The scrimmage was marred by a serious injury. May, a senior, broke his leg while making a tackle on defense.
“It’s a big loss for us,” Parker said of losing May for the season. “He brings a huge amount of toughness to our team. He’s truly a tough kid, and I’m talking about tough. He does a great job at dealing with adversity.”
May has battled foot problems and has not played football since the eighth grade. Parker stated the halfback was going to contribute this season to the team.
“Nothing was too hard for him,” Parker said. “He learns fast. He was playing really well. He was picking up on stuff so fast. He’s still a big part of our football team. It’s just in a different way now.”
The attention now turns toward hosting the Panthers in the home opener and Homecoming. The queen coronation ceremony is set for 7:15 with kickoff pushed back to 8 p.m.
Davis will try and improve on its 9-2 season from a year ago. The Wolves claimed their 36th district title and their first since 2017.
However, Davis lost 12-6 to Frederick in the first round of the playoffs. The Wolves have not won a post-season game since beating Holland Hall 28-27 at home in overtime in ’17.
“We want to be as good as we can be,” Parker said. “We want to be able to beat everybody we play. Our goal is to get better each day, and to be as good as we can be when it’s time and we have a chance.”
“One thing is for sure, we will have a chance and be a formidable opponent when we play,” the sixth-year head coach said. “We’re not looking to there yet. We’re a long ways from there. On Monday we’ll try and get better so we can compete with Pauls Valley.
The Wolves return eight starters on offense. Luke Linville (6-1, 210, JR) will make his first start at quarterback against the Panthers replacing the graduated Jake Parker. Linville was used mostly last season as a tailback and gained 383 yards on 41 carries and scored five rushing touchdowns.
“I think he’ll do a fine job,” Parker said of Linville. “We’ve got several kids who are stepping in and they’re ready to do it.”
Linville has a strong arm and will depend on the receiving corps of Trey Melton (5-10, 175, JR), Dakota Carter (6-0, 175, JR) and Seth Knapp (5-9, 175, SR) when he drops back to pass. Melton led the Wolves a year ago with five receptions for 230 yards and four touchdowns.
“They’re ready to do it,” Coach Parker said of the trio. “The year’s growth that they’ve had, their experience, they’re ready to go.”
Four starters return on the offensive line including Colton Rawls (6-1, 235, SR) and Jacob McClellan (6-1, 315, JR) at tackles. Fisher Smith (5-10, 180, JR) and Mason Tomlinson (6-1, 220, SR) also return at guard and Spencer Clinton (6-2, 210, SR) returns as a weapon at tight end.
“They’re tough. They’re tough kids, all of them,” Parker said. “The year of experience and the weight room, they’re going to be better players. It’s the hardest position on our team to play and they’ve got be smart.”
“Jett Jennings (JR) is going to play, and Logan Gibson (JR) is going to play,” Parker said. “Paden Thomas (SR) and Colton Horton (SR) will play. We’ve got several guys who can fit in there.”
Davis football has been predicated on the running game and this season will be no different. Parker and his staff have the luxury of skilled players that can play tailback.
The Wolves rushed for 3393 yards in 2022 and averaged 321 yards per game and 7.01 yards per carry. Davis running backs racked up 40 rushing touchdowns.
Brenden Rawls (5-9, 185, JR) takes over for his brother Lane at fullback. A year ago, he rushed for 270 yards and two touchdowns on 44 carries.
The list of backs includes Tyson Moss (SR), Rance Digby (JR), Tye Barnett (SR), Dee Idleman (JR), Knapp, and Jaxson Bonner (SR).
“Tyson is electric,” Parker said. “He can do stuff that kind of shocks you sometime. He’s so quick and so strong. Dee is as tough as they come.”
“Tye is so important to us on the other side of the ball,” Parker continued. “I’m real reluctant to play him a bunch on offense because he is the swing man on our defense. He’s very crucial to our success on the other side. I rely on that guy a bunch.”
The Wolves also return eight starters on defense. Last season Davis allowed 161 yards rushing per game and 4.6 yards per carry. Opponents threw 40 percent against the secondary.
“We’ve got so many kids back we should be better,” Parker said of his defense. “It’s a week-to-week thing defensively because teams do so many different things. We’ve got smart kids and they’re so tough.”
Mitchell Garrison (SR) is back at nose guard and should get help from Jennings, McClellan and Horton. Wyatt Fielding (JR) and Tomlinson will split time up front.
Colton Rawls and Clinton will play at defensive tackle. Carter, Melton and Linville combined eight interceptions in the secondary.
Moss and Barnett return at outside linebacker while Brenden Rawls and Digby are back at inside linebacker.
Following Pauls Valley, the Wolves host Sulphur and travel to Wynnewood. Davis starts district play Sept. 22 when it entertains Holdenville.
By Jeff Mapes