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May 25—Leadership is an important focus for Tahlequah High School's football team going into the 2023 season. According to Head Coach Brad Gilbert, this change needs to start at the top.
"We have to create better leadership starting with me, going to the coaches, and filtering to our players," said Gilbert. "That has been our focus and we understand that every day is an opportunity to create that. How intentional we are will determine how we build leaders. I am excited but we have a large group of seniors, they have been out on the field a lot on Friday nights, so they know what they need to do."
Through two weeks of spring football, Gilbert has seen the Tigers making steps in the right direction. Several players have stepped up according to Gilbert.
The Tigers boast a big senior class going into this season. Brayden Northingham and Brodie Younger are expected to be a pair of senior leaders going into the season.
"We have got a few stepping up," said Gilbert. "Northington and Younger have stepped up, then other guys have stepped up that we did not expect. You have your everyday guys who show up and grind like Jacob Morrison. It has been pleasant to see the growth."
As the spring practice wrap up and specialized camps loom, Gilbert sees the first two weeks as a good building block for the future.
"We have been talking about this," said Gilbert. "It has been more exciting and more energy than I can remember. We believe every day we have gotten better. The kids have brought a lot of energy themselves, the young men are stepping up and finding their roles it is exciting."
After finishing the season with a 3-8 record, Gilbert is expecting more out of several groups of his players. So far he has seen the right parts of his team step up.
"I think up front offensive line has improved they are a good group and are molding into one unit," said Gilbert. "That is what is important for that group. We have to be better there."
Along with the trenches of the Tigers improving, Gilbert has seen the other side of the ball take necessary strides in the offseason.
"Defensively we are going a lot better than last year," said Gilbert. "We are more active and I think that comes down to our depth we are the deepest we have ever been. We have over 60 guys on the roster and we have a bunch that have the athletic ability to go out and play. Mindset does not make a football player there are a lot of other intangibles like the mindset that come along."
Spring camp wrapped up on Thursday, May 25. Despite practice being over the Tigers will remain active.
On Friday, May 26 the Tigers will have a team camp before nearly two weeks off.
On Thursday, June 8 the Tigers will start Passing League at Pryor. They then start offensive and defensive line camp at Muskogee on Tuesday, June 13.
Gilbert believes these camps will help the Tigers reach their end goal.
"Our goal is not going to change," said Gilbert. "We compete for district championships. An immediate goal of ours is to be better than we were the day before. We are going to set our standards high because without high standards you never know how good you can become. We are never going to sell ourselves short."
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