FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Trojans to rely on experience in 2020
In his first two seasons as head coach of Jenks football, Keith Riggs has guided the Trojans to the 6A-1 state championship game.
Riggs has a combined regular season record of 12-8 and a combined playoff record of 4-2, but it is those two playoff losses that Jenks looks to turn into gold in 2020.
The Trojans lost to Broken Arrow in the 2018 6A-1 state championship game and Owasso in the 2019 title bout.
Now, in 2020, Jenks, like every other team in the state is trying to navigate a pandemic, while preparing for the start of the regular season, which takes place at 7:05 p.m. Friday against Springdale Har-Ber at Allan Trimble Stadium.
“It’s hard with all those things we missed out on in the spring and summer,” Riggs said. “We are in the exact same boat as everyone else. Every team missed those opportunities as well. We are all trying to catch up as best we can. I am excited about the fact we have a lot of experience back, which somewhat helps overcome some of those things. We are a little further ahead because we have so many kids back that had playing time last year. There really is no substitute for experience.”
Riggs said he is hoping that experience will pay dividends early in the season.
“We saw that last year at the beginning of the year,” Riggs said. “We weren’t very experienced, and we struggled a little bit. Over time, we got better. Hopefully, we are going to start the year much further ahead than we did last year. We are playing some really high-quality opponents in pre-district, which will be a great to evaluate where we are, but really excited about our opportunity this year.”
Jenks will rely on the upperclassmen to get them through the adverse situations they face and to help prepare the young players for what they will see throughout the year.
“The seniors and juniors we have this year, they know the routine,” Riggs said. “They know what a big game is like. They know how to deal with those moments. They know how to deal with the highs and lows. That is just going to help those guys be better leaders to those younger guys. Our seniors and juniors have done a great job leading our young guys and helping them through all this.”
However, having experience on the football field is not the same as going through a pandemic.
“Everyone on our team is going through a first right now with this pandemic,” Riggs said. “We just have to rely on the experience and leadership throughout this time.”
Notoriously, Jenks has always played a tough pre-district schedule. This year is no different with the Trojans taking on Springdale Har-Ber, Bixby and Union before opening district play in late September.
“The schedule is a challenge,” Riggs said. “I believe it is the right approach. We want to win every game we play, but if you play someone you have a clear advantage over, you might play really well and not recognize some of the areas you need to improve. Win or lose, we are going to know exactly where we stand after these first three games. That is important as you move into district play. The bottom line is we want to be playing our best football as we head toward the playoffs.”
Riggs said his players are excited about what they can accomplish in 2020.
“The kids did a great job in the past two weeks in their preparation,” Riggs said. “They realize it could have easily gone the other way and we could have lost this opportunity like some other states. I believe they really appreciate the opportunity that we have.”