Having faith in each other makes defense better

In this file photo, Kahlil Ferguson runs through drills at an Eisenhower practice session last season. Ferguson intercepted three passes last week in a big win over Guymon that gives the Eagles a 2-1 record in District 5A-2. He and the Eagles host Woodward Friday at Cameron Stadium.

One of the units that have made great improvement over the season for Eisenhower’s football team may very well be the secondary and one of the key members of that unit is Kahlil Ferguson.

Ferguson, a 6-3, 150-pound speedster, made his own highlight video last Friday in Ike’s 76-14 victory, intercepting three passes and helping the Ike defense shut down every Guymon drive except one, that coming after the Eagles muffed a kickoff and set up the Tigers just 25 yards away from paydirt. Guymon’s other score came on a kickoff return.

Earlier in the season the Ike secondary was giving up long touchdown passes in several games but that’s changed in recent weeks.

“I think that one thing that really helped the secondary was that the coaches simplified things and that’s given us a great deal of confidence,” Ferguson said. “Right now, we all have a great deal of faith in each other and we’re playing as a unit. That’s made our defense better.”

Ferguson is quick to admit that he wasn’t always a standout cornerback but that changed last season.

“I think that Kahlil really came into his own last year against Guthrie,” head coach Eric Gibson said. “You could just see him gaining confidence that night and he’s become our strongest cornerback.”

The senior said that it just took some changes in his work habits.

“I had to get a better mindset,” the quiet senior said. “I also hit the weights last summer. I wasn’t always a dedicated lifter but I knew that I had to improve over the summer. I’m not happy lifting weights but I know it’s made me a better player.”

His technique has also improved, another reason he’s becoming a real threat at cornerback.

“The key is always watching their hips because where the receiver’s hips go is where he’s going,” Ferguson said. “You also have to do a great deal of film work to learn about the guys you are going to cover. You need to know whether he’s physical and how he runs his routes. You have to learn whether to jam them at the line and play press coverage. The more you learn the better you become.”

That knowledge will come in handy this week when Ike hosts Woodward Friday as the Boomers have a talented receiver in Taelen Laird, who stands 6-3 or 6-4 and has good speed.

“They like to use him on a lot of deep routes,” Ferguson said. “They throw to him more than anyone else in the film I’ve seen. I just have to keep doing what I’ve been doing and I think we can slow him down.”

While Laird may be fast, he’s not any faster than Ferguson who also runs track, competing in his specialty, the 100-meter hurdles.

“I love track too and it’s helping me be a better football player,” Ferguson said. “I’d love to play college football but if I don’t I hope to end up in college running track.”

While Ferguson is rather slim, that’s not because he’s a light eater.

“I love chicken wings, that is my favorite food,” he said. “Wing Stop makes great Lemon Pepper wings and I love their ranch dressing. That is all the food I need.”

When it comes to the classroom, Ferguson’s favorites subjects are math and English, but since he’s already completed all his math classes, this semester he’s not taking a math class which leaves English as his favorite.

And in words that made this writer smile, he was quick to share his career goals.

“I’d love to be a sports journalist,” he said. “I love to write themes and with my love of sports, I think that would be a great job for me. I think writing about sports would be an ideal career.”

Ferguson’s love of sports comes from his family roots as his uncle is longtime Ike coach Maurice Mayfield and current coach Norman Williams is his cousin. Both those guys played on Ike’s 1990 mythical USA Today National Championship team that was honored recently at a reunion celebration.

Ferguson thinks the Eagles can make some waves in the playoffs if they can keep the momentum gained with the past two impressive wins.

“We all want to make it to the playoffs and bring home a gold ball,” he said. “We know we have to keep winning but we feel we are playing our best right now and can play with any team we might face.”

The Eagles face Woodward, then visit Guthrie, host Piedmont and then close on the road at Carl Albert.

“We know we need to keep winning and see what happens,” he said. “We are playing our best right now and we have a good deal of confidence.”