DECATUR — Evan Owens knew it was bad as soon as he hit the ground.
Mountain biking with his younger brother last spring, Owens came over a jump and parted ways with his bike. He landed sharply on his left shoulder and felt the familiar stabbing pain.
Just a few months earlier, Owens broke his collarbone in a football scrimmage against Gentry. The first break sidelined the Bulldogs quarterback for the entire season.
Owens said he knew immediately when he hit the ground that it was broken again.
“I just did a bad jump, I guess,” Owens said.
With two broken collarbones in the span of a few months, Owens said he was a lot more careful after the second break to allow the bone to heal. He said he has no fear of another injury as the Bulldogs head into the opening game of the season.
First-year coach Shane Holland said Owens is a quiet leader. But the soft-spoken, 5-foot-7, 140-pound junior has a competitive spirit that comes out daily in practice, Holland said.
“He’s sure not a rah-rah guy,” Holland said. “You have to get him to speak up at times, but when we run and do things, he’s going to be first.”
Holland said Owens’ teammates have faith in their quarterback and can count on him to get the job done. Owens never missed a summer workout.
Last season was a disappointment, Owens said. Watching his teammates compete on Friday nights was especially tough. That Decatur was playing its first varsity games in two years after the school failed to field a team in 2009 due to low numbers only compounded the issue.
“I didn’t like standing on the sideline,” Owens said. “I hated missing the games.”
With five starters returning each way, the Bulldogs are hopeful of improving on last season’s 1-8 record. Holland, a veteran coach from just across the border in Eastern Oklahoma, said the team is slowly buying into the new program. Holland is Decatur’s second coach in as many years.
Having a healthy Owens would be a huge plus for the Bulldogs. By changing to the Spread offense, Holland is confident the new scheme will play to Owens’ strengths as a runner.
“The Spread opens up seams for guys to run,” Holland said. “It’s not just about throwing the ball all over the place. Evan is a good runner and he has good quickness.”
Owens said he hopes to someday race mountain bikes, although he has never competed in a bike race. Holland is hoping the bike stays in the garage at least until football season is over.
COACH Shane Holland
LAST SEASON 1-8
RETURNING STARTERS Offense 5, defense 5
POINTS SCORED PER GAME 6.0
POINTS ALLOWED PER GAME 44.1
OFFENSIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH Evan Owens (Jr., QB 5-7, 140); Mitchell Perry (Sr., RB 5-10, 210), Joe Yang (Jr., OL, 6-1, 290).
DEFENSIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH Bryan Cox (Sr., DE, 5-11, 230), Jeremiah Bean (Jr., DL, 6-0, 250).
KEEP AN EYE ON Junior quarterback Evan Owens missed most of last season with a broken collarbone. He’s a dual threat as a runner and passer with exceptional quickness.
OFFENSIVE OUTLOOK New coach Shane Holland has implemented a Spread offense that should open things up. Decatur has good size along the offensive line, and the Spread should give running back Mitchell Perry the space to break off big gains.
DEFENSIVE OUTLOOK Size matters for the Bulldogs and they have plenty of it along the defensive line. Joe Yang (6-1, 290) and Bryan Cox (5-11, 230) should help the Bulldogs in stopping the run. Cox is also a force off the edge at defensive end with the speed and quickness to get to the quarterback.
SEASON OUTLOOK In just its second season back after not fielding a team in 2009, Decatur is also under its second coach in as many seasons. Veteran Shane Holland takes over a program that has not seen a lot of bright spots. But Holland is a longtime coach with a proven reputation for building winning programs in Oklahoma with stops in Jay, Grove and Tahlequah. He’ll need all that experience and then some to help Decatur climb up the ladder.
KEY GAME The season opener at home against the Tahlequah (Okla.) junior varsity will be key as the Bulldogs look to open the season with a win and a boost of confidence. Decatur opens the season with four straight home games, which could mean a fast start for the Bulldogs.
QUOTING COACH SHANE HOLLAND “Our goal is to get into the playoffs. We have a great group of kids who are slowly buying in to what we’re doing. Yes, it is a big challenge, a huge challenge. But we’re meeting it head-on.”
Sept. 3 Tahlequah JV
Sept. 9 Hartford*
Sept. 16 Mountainburg*
Sept. 23 Hackett*
Sept. 30 at Johnson Co. Westside*
Oct. 7 at Conway Christian
Oct. 14 at Western Yell Co.*
Oct. 21 Danville*
Oct. 28 at Union Christian*
Nov. 4 at Magazine*
- — 2A-4 Conference game