The teams were actually drafted by player captains with defensive end Jamie Blatnick drafting the original team coached by graduate assistant Vinson Reynolds. Reynolds has left to coach defensive line at Central Oklahoma, so last week defensive coordinator Bill Young and this week DeForest have coached. For DeForest it was his second straight year to be in the championship match as his team won last year over Gunter Brewer.
"That's funny because in the beginning when we first started, he (DeForest) didn't give us a chance, not a shot," said Blatnick. "He is actually now (saying) nice picks. It is kind of odd that he would be our fill in coach for the championship."
DeForest had changed his tune before Tuesday's match.
"Jamie Blatnick really picked a good team and had great strategy," said DeForest. "This is fun and it is the greatest thing we do in winter offseason. It is fun, it is competition, and the kids look forward to it every week."
"Each year it gets better. The players look forward to it. The competition gets better, and our new coaches, like Dana (Holgorsen), the first time he saw it a month ago, you know they are really impressed with what it does for morale and how the guys not only execute the drills with speed but how they put their foot in each part of the ladder and they push the sled past the line and all the little things you have to do," said head coach Mike Gundy, who observed the championship match and the three consolation matches.
Team Young/DeForest got off to a quick start as the bigger team with heavier guys and the first two events were the 50-yard sled pull and the tire flip. On the sled pull, Team Young/DeForest surged ahead 6-2. Running back Bryant Ward, wide receiver Adrian Richards, defensive tackle Shae Jarka, offensive lineman DeJuan Davis, defensive tackle Anthony Rogers, and captain Jamie Blatnick were winners.
Team Young/DeForest made it a commanding lead on the next event, the tire flip, where a huge tractor tire is flipped over and over for 30 yards. Again, the leaders surged to a 7-1 win in the event, making their overall lead 13-3. This time a couple of the speedy guys excelled in a strength event as walk-on cornerback Nick Rockwell, out of Fort Worth, Texas, and wide receiver Isaiah Anderson were winners. Rockwell upset Team Brewer captain Kendall Hunter in a close race and Anderson defeated fellow wide receiver Tracy Moore.
"That is why I picked them, a lot of people don't know about them, but I went against them against scout team offense," said Blatnick. "I watched Adrian (Richards) launch people, saw Isaiah (Anderson) make us do up downs (for scoring against the defense). I knew they could do it and that is why I picked them."
"We had a few (skill guys) and we had Adrian (Richards) and the Rocker (Nick Rockwell) that help pull us through," said Isaiah Anderson. "Everybody got in on what they were good on, Adrian (Richards) on the sled and Nick (Rockwell) and I on the tires. We just went out and competed like we were supposed to."
Those guys also came in handy on the speed and skill events like the lines drill, or 5-10-5 drill as Gundy called it. Team Young/DeForest handled that equally as well winning 6-2 for a 19-5 advantage overall. Team Brewer surged back some on the shuttle drill as linebacker LeRon Furr, inside receiver Justin Horton, and captain Kendall Hunter paced their squad to a 6-2 advantage.
Then it was back to strength events as the two teams split the two heats of the traditional tug-of-war, each worth two points. Then in the individual tug events using the orange device with handles there was plenty of fun as Team Brewer came away with a 5-3 advantage.
Highlights included linebacker Kenny Alexander battling Hunter. Hunter led early and slipped down only to get up and keep his advantage. Seconds later he lost his grip on one of the handles, stayed alive with one hand on the device and recovered only to finally be dragged across the line by Alexander.
The other highlight was Jarka's battle with defensive end and Team Brewer stalwart Nigel Nicholas. Those two both went down several times and kept battling before Jarka finally worked Nicholas the five yards off center for the win.
"It is competition and it doesn't matter if it's a tug-of-war, a sled pull, or a 5-10-5 drill, certain people compete and we have to find which ones will compete and they will be the ones that play for us when we start out here in September against Washington State," said Gundy. "The ones that compete, those will be the ones that play in the game."
With just two events remaining, Team Young/DeForest knew they need to win just five more points to clinch. After an even split of 4-4 in the bag drills and trailing 1-0 in the obstacle course, defensive tackle Shane Jarka lined up against his rival from the one-on-one tug contest, Nigel Nicholas.
The two battled nearly even through the bear crawl, sled push, rope ladder, hoop, and blocking dummies. Nicholas took a slight lead on the sprint finish, but a missed square in the ladder rope gave the win to Jarka and clinched the championship for Team Young/DeForest. The final score was 34-26.
"It feels good," said Jarka, the senior from Sugar Land, Texas. "I always want to do what is right for the team and this is right. I'm a senior and I've never won this thing and it feels good to get the final win for myself and for my team in my senior year. It is a good feeling."
One of the more vocal winners on the team was another senior-to-be in Bryant Ward. "You know we always knew we were going to do it, we just had to go out there and compete. You know it was a great challenge and everybody came to compete, great stuff. Nobody else really gave us a chance but we just had a bunch of work horses. We may not have had the best guys but we made do."
Team Meacham defeated Team Wickine 32-27 in the third-place match.
"This has been really tremendous for us, and the players have really given us the opportunity to see who wants to step up and take the spot of a (Andre) Sexton or a Russell Okung and who's going to be the leaders for next year," said Gundy. "We have had a really good offseason and now look forward to the next few days and the beginning fo spring ball."
"I think it is the most fun. We get to build some team chemistry and I get to see some guys that I wouldn't that are on the other side of the ball," said winning captain Jamie Blatnick. "We get to test everyone's heart and see where they are coming from."
Based on Blatnick's team that heart is coming from the right place.
Isaiah Anderson, So., WR
Adrian Richards, So., WR
Nick Rockwell, RFr, CB
Kenny Alexander, Jr., LB
Bryant Ward, Sr., RB
Trey Munden, Sr., QB
Shane Jarka, Sr., DT
DeJuan Davis, So., OL
Anthony Rogers, RFr., DL
Chuck Major, Jr., OL
Travis Miller, So., RB