ADAIR, OK —
Adair quarterback BJ Bradbury rolled out to his right, set his feet and threw to sophomore receiver Brock Martin. Martin turned upfield and gained 11 yards before being brought down — just enough to move the sticks for an Adair first down.
Bradbury quickly lined up his offense and took signals from the sideline. The 6-foot-1 freshman barked out the audible, and a split-second later the ball was in the hands of sophomore speedster Cody Eby, who ran the ball in for a Warrior touchdown.
At least it would have been a touchdown in a game situation. Bradbury, Martin and Eby were on the Adair practice field last Tuesday, where the young Warriors do most of their best work.
It all starts in the offseason, Bradbury said. "We're not even about football, we're just working out. The staff makes us faster and stronger. All summer we work on our routes."
"After we lift, we come out and run five 300-yard shuttles," junior Hunter Rosebrough said of the conditioning campaign. "Skill guys have to run each shuttle in 65 seconds with only 30 seconds rest. Then we come in on Wednesdays and run over routes for about an hour and a half."
"Every player we have is one play away from starting," Adair head coach Mark Lippe said. "We're just trying to prepare the whole team, and we really sell the fact that every player on this team is important. You're either in that starting group, or you're trying to get there. We've got to give players an opportunity to get to that point."
Lippe and his staff have done a remarkable job of ensuring a seamless transition from his fourth season as head coach to his fifth, one that saw an almost complete changing-of-the-guard at most of the Warrior skill positions.
In 2012, a pair of high-octane seniors helped Adair to an undefeated regular season and a berth in the 2A state quarterfinals. Together, Brady Bradbury and Zak Woolman combined for 4,965 yards of offense and 65 touchdowns, one of the top — if not the top — offensive tandems in the state. Bradbury and Woolman accounted for over 90 percent of the Warrior offense in 2012.
With just five seniors on the roster, including one that hadn't played a down of organized football since his middle-school days, you'd be forgiven for expecting a dropoff in production from the Warriors heading into the 2013 season.
Adair has been happy to prove the doubters wrong.
Brady's younger brother BJ has taken the reins of the offense and has already established himself as a top passer in the state. He's completing passes at a 65-percent clip for 1,703 yards and 24 touchdowns and just four picks through nine games.
Eby's 767 rushing yards and 12 rushing touchdowns leads the team, and he's also caught four touchdowns. Martin has 24 catches for 423 yards and five scores on the season. Fellow sophomore Ben Woolman is averaging over nine yards a carry in totaling 332 yards and seven touchdowns, and sophomore receiver Will Hefner has 186 yards and three TDs through the air.
Plenty of credit is due to senior offensive linemen Dustin Lee, Mark Campbell, Michal Boriack and Austin Bourke, but in the numbers game, 87 percent of the Adair offense has come from the arms or legs of freshmen and sophomores.
"The biggest thing is the learning process, as far as the pace of the game, the pace of practice and operating the offense," Lippe said. "We don't run quite as many plays as we used to. But since we're narrowing our focus, we're a little more efficient in what we do. When you've got a senior quarterback, he can make a lot of adjustments on his own. With BJ and some of the younger kids, you have to kind of limit your package."
The limited package has led to a seemingly unlimited supply of points. The Warriors have the No. 2 scoring offense in Class 2A (47.1 points per game) and are even outscoring their counterparts from a year ago through nine games.
"This year, we're calling our plays faster so we can run an up-tempo style and keep the defense on their heels," said Rosebrough, the top returning contributor from the 2012 campaign. Rosebrough's 554 receiving yards led the team last season, and he again tops the team with 674 yards and 10 touchdowns this year. Rosebrough is one of 14 upperclassmen on the Adair roster, and one of just six junior or senior skill players.
"You start in sixth grade with them, and they're taught the same thing all the way through, so when they get to this level, there's less thinking," Lippe said of the middle school program, which is run by high school coaches. "We want to play fast, and the less thinking there is, the faster you can play, and hopefully the product is good on Friday night."
The collective lack of game experience has shown through at times during the season, however, most notably during Adair's Week 3 contest with Millwood. The Falcons confused and frustrated the young Warriors all night and left Mayes County with a 34-7 win. That loss — Adair's only regular season loss since 2010 — has stuck with the team.
"Every week we have a word of the week, or maybe even two words, that we have to learn," defensive back Tayler Conseen said. "This week, it was 'Fight.' Coach wants us stand up, grit our teeth and dig in. He doesn't really tell us to focus on the game that much. He wants us to be good young men."
Conseen, a sophomore, leads the team with three interceptions. Bradbury and Eby each have two of their own. Of the 14 oskies the Warriors have hauled in this season, 13 were collected by freshmen or sophomores. Even the team's leading tackler, linebacker Walker Graves, is just a sophomore.
Adair is poised to make a deep run in the 2013 playoffs, and every key statistical contributor, save for senior running back Cody Yoder, will return in 2013. That is a scary thought for opposing teams.
"We'll all be really experienced next year," Eby said.