With every Oklahoma high school football state championship trophy of the highest classification going to a team from the Tulsa Metro area since 1996, it’s safe to say there’s a regional hotbed of talent in and around T-Town. Tulsa is also home to the Oklahoma Thunder which is considered by many to be the top team in the country at the developmental level over the past decade.
On Saturdays in 2019, a new Tulsa team will take the field and don’t be surprised if the Tulsa Gators quickly gain a widespread reputation for themselves as a team to be feared as well.
“We will 100 percent be looking to compete nationally and we look to continue building from our hotspot of talent,” Gators co-owner Carson Smallwood told Developmental Football USA.
This fall, the Broken Arrow Tigers pulled off a perfect season and took home the 6A-I crown and the Bixby Spartans took home their fourth 6A-II title in five years. The area is also home to last year’s 6A-I champs, the Owasso Rams, last year’s 6A-II champs, the Booker T. Washington Hornets and this year’s 2A champion Sperry Pirates.
Historic 6A powers Jenks and Union – who both have titles in recent years – are also from the Tulsa area as well as a load of powerful smaller schools that have gone deep in the playoffs in recent years like Beggs, Berryhill, Lincoln Christian, Victory Christian, Metro Christian, Rejoice Christian and Regent Prep, among others.
Needless to say, assembling a talented team happened almost overnight for the Gators.
“We do have some out of state players, but we absolutely love the area that we are in and the talent and drive these young men have,” Smallwood said. “We are a new team, yes, but we have added some talent from other established teams like the well-known Oklahoma Thunder, as well as some young guns with a chip on their shoulder from various colleges ranging from Oklahoma University to Tulsa University to smaller D-II and junior college schools.”
With sound ownership and Thunder DNA at key positions, everyone should expect the Gators to be highly competitive immediately.
Gators head coach Khalid Lowe is the former offensive coordinator of the Thunder, and brother to Thunder head coach Rashid Lowe, and starting quarterback Steven Hamilton is a 6-foot-3, 215-pound veteran with 10 championships under his belt, including some with the Thunder. Hamilton also played for the Oklahoma Defenders indoor team in 2011-12.
Fan should recognize former Oklahoma Sooners running back Princz Jones, who will be a load carrying the football for the Gators at 6-foot-1 and 235 pounds.
“He can run by you or he can run through you,” Smallwood said. “He helps with pass protection and gets better as a game goes on. He has outstanding character and he’s a must-have spirit in the locker room. Look for him to have a huge season this spring.”
Sharing the wealth with Jones offensively is speedy wideout Terell Buchanan, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound deep threat.
“If you blink, this kid is gone,” Smallwood said. “I would put money on him being the fastest player in this league. He is unbelievable at finishing catches in the air. He looks like he is running track on the football field. He is our over-the-top burner and kick return dynamite.”
Six-foot-three, 265-pound left guard Mike Edwards will anchor the offensive line and help pave the way for Jones and set the pocket for the Gators quarterback.
“He’s an offensive coordinator on the field who is looking to cause physical harm on every play,” Smallwood said. “He is just a physical mean offensive lineman ready to bury his helmet into anybody in his path. He sees the defensive alignment and calls out pass protection audibles. He is a very smart, mean player.”
Defensively, fans should also recognize 6-foot-4, 245-pound outside linebacker Frankie Davis, who was a three-year starter for the Tulsa Golden Hurricane.
“He’s a team captain and a pass-rush specialist that can run with the skill players,” Smallwood said. “He passes the eye test and will make opposing offensive linemen hate their job. He locks down the run game.”
Joining Davis in the linebacker corps is 6-foot, 240-pound middle linebacker Michael Abernathy.
“He is a very intelligent player looking to break anybody he crosses in half,” Smallwood said. “If he isn’t filling gaps with hellacious hits, he’s calling the plays and orchestrating the defense. He’s a true player coach looking for a perfect game and a shutout on every Saturday. He’s a very valuable asset with a ton of championship experience.”
In the secondary, expect 5-foot-10, 185-pound, lock-down cornerback Eric Shannon to make plenty of noise for the Gators.
“This cat is a freak athlete that loves man coverage and loves to make tackles,” Smallwood said. “He’s our honey badger. He will keep our defense together by communicating and eliminating the opponent’s best threat.”
Too often at this level – and really every level of football – a highly-talented team underachieves due to poor leadership, but don’t expect the Gators to become part of that camp.
In addition to Smallwood, the Gators are owned by Joe Estes – owner of the Safari Joes water park and animal refuge, Levi Currier, and Billy Perry, who beat Adam Vinatieri’s world record for most field goals made in two minutes.
“We feel confident that we can transcend into national contention by keeping our values: Family, Football and Transparency,” Smallwood said. “We created this team to kill the stereotype of dishonesty in semi-pro. We want to give a professional feel to it on and off the field and in our community. Our vision is to ultimately be recognized worldwide.”
While it’ll take a good deal of talent and discipline for a newcomer to crack the rotation on this team, the opportunity is there as the Gators are still accepting new players who meet the standard they have set.
“At this point we are now focusing more on the playbook then recruiting, but to join us is simple,” Smallwood said. “Can you play at a high level? Can you commit? Can you be professional on and off the field?”
The Gators will play their inaugural season in the 4-State Football League, which is comprised of 18 teams from Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and Arkansas, including some of the top teams that came over from last year’s Premier Amateur Football Association like the Joplin Crusaders, NWA Battle and Tri-City Panthers.
“Those are some of the historic teams, but this offseason we have been picked by superior talent over these teams,” Smallwood said. “I fully expect us to have a chance to win the championship with the talent and the coaches we have. Chemistry, timing, and executing on the field is going to be our key issues to tackle.”
Last year, the Arkansas Boltz took home the 4SFL trophy, while the OKC Jaguars won the PAFA. The Jags are no more, but the core of their team has formed the Oklahoma Bears, which will still be coached by Kevin Cox, who was a nationally recognized coach of the Oklahoma City Bounty Hunters just a few short years ago.
“The Boltz will be very tough as well as the Kansas Cougars and the Oklahoma City Bulls,” Smallwood said. “Top to bottom this league is stacked.”
For more information on the Gators, visit www.tulsagatorfootball.com