Lions work `tune-up’ camp, eye 2020 gridiron slate

Kevin Farr,
The Bryan County News
The Durant High School Lions play home games at Paul Laird Field. The team and its new head coach, Todd Vargas, are scheduled to battle longtime scrimmage foe Madill,  Vargas' former team, on Sept. 4.

The start of football season is right around the corner and the Durant Lions are making preparations for the 2020 campaign to start as scheduled under new head coach Todd Vargas.

Durant players were finally able to start some football work the past couple of weeks with a “tune-up” camp in shorts and t-shirts, which allowed them to learn firsthand some of the new gridiron terminology in Vargas’ system.

“It’s been going well even though we aren’t able to do anything with helmets or pads,” Vargas commented. “We worked on defense last week and are working on offense this week. It has been good even in just walk-throughs to be able to show them what we want to do.

“We are just grinding along and doing what we can to make the best of the situation we are in. We just hope and pray we are still able to play in the fall.”

That season opener comes in seven short weeks, when the Lions will have a new opener this year but not a completely unfamiliar opponent, especially for Vargas.

Longtime scrimmage foe and Vargas’ former team Madill will be first on the non-district slate on Sept. 4.

The two squads have faced off 44 times on the gridiron, but have not met in an official games since an epic district championship battle in 1983 that Durant won 7-3 in overtime on the way to the Class 3A state championship. The Lions hold a 31-11-2 advantage in the all-time series.

Vargas and crew will have some familiar faces as well in their final two district tune-up games with former district-mates Glenpool and Ada. It will only be the third season since 1927 that they will not meet long-time rival Ardmore.

Two of Durant’s three victories a year ago came against Ada (14-0) and Glenpool (41-21) and they will try to start on a positive note after losing 11 non-district contests in a row dating back to a 27-23 win over Poteau in the 2016 season opener.

“We changed all three of our non-district games and think that gives us a little better chance of building some confidence and momentum than what we have been playing the last few years,” Athletic Director Tony Tubbs said. “We are keeping Ada on the schedule, who we have played every year, and Glenpool who we also know from district the last couple of seasons. Then we’ve added Madill to the schedule for the first time in a while. We’re excited about it.”

Several familiar foes dot the Lions’ 5A-3 district schedule with Tulsa Bishop Kelley, Coweta, McAlester and Tulsa Edison all holdovers from the district slate the past two seasons.

Shawnee and Tulsa East Central each return to the league after being in different districts each of the past two years. The Lions defeated East Central, 35-0, in their last meeting in 2017 and lost to Shawnee, 51-28, the same season. Shawnee has spent the past two years in Class 6A.

District newcomer Tulsa Rogers is back on the DHS schedule for the first time since 2004 and 2005 when they met for the only two times in school history. Durant won both those contests by large margins.

“We’ve been on the east side in the districts now quite a while, so we know most everybody,” Tubbs added. “It’s going to be a tough district. Shawnee is dropping back down from 6A and we have seen most all the rest of district teams the last few years with Rogers being the only new one.”