ANADARKO — The final two seasons of the 2010s saw the Anadarko football team hover right around .500, which is respectable, but a far cry from the dominant seasons the Warriors enjoyed earlier in the decade.
But fans of the Caddo County power hope to see a positive change with the return of several big names, including the architect of those teams.
When Kent Jackson took over as head coach at Anadarko in 2004, the program hadn’t made the playoffs in a decade. He changed that in four years’ time. Several years on, he proceeded to turn the program into a powerhouse. The Warriors steamrolled competition to state championships in 2011 and 2013, and finished runner-up in 2012. The Warriors were one of the most-feared teams in Oklahoma, regardless of class.
But after the 2017 season, Jackson decided to step away after 14 years at the helm to accept an administration role. Former Jackson assistant Chris Paddlety took over as head coach. And while Jackson was still around the school and program he loved so dearly, it was still an adjustment.
“Friday nights were the toughest part,” Jackson said. “The second year, I kind of missed it a little bit more.”
And the people of Anadarko missed Jackson, too, not that Paddlety did poorly. The Warriors made the playoffs his first year and lost close contests to playoff-bound teams Clinton and Chickasha in his second. But the love shown by the community, as well as his itch to coach again stoked Jackson’s fire and made him realize how special the community around him was.
“When you’re the head coach, you almost feel like nobody likes you,” Jackson joked. “But I think there were people in the community who appreciated what I did and that made me feel good.”
So when Paddlety left, Jackson was urged to take over the helm. And he was eager to do so. But he wouldn’t get preferential treatment. He applied like everyone else. But it wasn’t a shock when Jackson was once again named head coach just ahead of the 2020 season.
And what a time to be reintroduced, as the COVID-19 pandemic has complicated matters, especially as the Warriors attempt to introduce a new offense, which will be more pass-based.
“That’s been a concern because we haven’t really been able to implement the offense yet. Luckily, we’ve got two scrimmages this fall and we don’t play Zero Week,” Jackson said. “It’s been an odd summer, for sure.”
That new offense comes as a product of new offensive coordinator Shannon Watford, who coached under Jackson in 2006, then went on to win two state championships at Hennessy. Watford is one of what Jackson calls “some outstanding hires” he was allowed to make this offseason.
Two other hires bring home local legends who played large roles in the Warriors’ state title runs. Former star running back Sheldon Wilson and former quarterback Brandon Pollard will join the staff. Wilson set a state record with a mind-boggling 64 rushing touchdowns in 2011 (57 in the regular season), while rushing for more than 3,000 yards. Pollard was a dual threat who led the Warriors to back-to-back state championship game appearances in ‘12 and ‘13. For Jackson, having those two back to groom the next generation is its own reward.
“It’s been fun having these two back,” Jackson said. “It’s amazing to see all the former players who want to come back and help the program and help the guys we have now. It’s really just been a blessing to have them come back.”