A new season, a new era for Panthers football
By Justin Scrimshire
ONL Sports Reporter
As preparations for the upcoming football season begins, the Okemah Panthers do so under different leadership for the first time in fourteen years.
Micheal Gregory was hired earlier this summer as the head coach for the Panther football team and his arrival has ushered in a fresh mindset and a new game plan.
Coach Gregory is keenly aware of the transition his new team faces and has been amazed with the reception he has received not only from the team, but from the Okemah Public School staff and the community as well. “I’ve never seen so many people make me actually feel like they want me like Okemah has,” said Gregory.
“At our very first meet and greet at Simple Simons, the whole team was there to greet me and my family as well as some of the staff, and boys from the team even helped me move furniture into my house,” said Gregory.
When the hiring announcement of Coach Gregory was made, returning assistant coach Anthony Gaxiola began working with the players to learn and understand Gregory’s Diamond-T offense, before Gregory even moved to Okemah.
That hard work seems to be paying off. Gaxiola commended the Panthers for their effort, stating, “we’ve never had this many kids show up for summer practices.”
Coach Gregory also confidently noted that after just a few weeks of practices, the Panthers were “capable of running about 50 plays.”
Expectations have been set from coach and player alike. “I’ve emphasized communication and discipline,” said Gregory. “I’ve cleaned up the locker room and I’ve told them if they leave trash behind, they have to run extra.”
The team responded with a “yes sir” and a few expectations of their own. “They’ve told me they want to win games and several of them have told me they want to reach the second level, to play in college, and I’m going to help them with that.”
While Coach Gregory may be new to Panther football, football is not new to Coach Gregory.
Gregory boasts an impressive resume that begins with his four year high school career as an offensive guard and nose guard for the Barton Bears.
The Bears went undefeated from 1986-1989, winning a staggering 63 games in a row on their way to four consecutive Class-A Arkansas state championships, under the tutelage of Arkansas high school hall of fame coach, Frank McClellan.
After high school, Gregory attended the University of Central Arkansas, where he played defensive end and nose guard.
Gregory initially studied to become a game warden before a challenge from a coach altered his career trajectory.
“Coach asked my why none of the players that were involved with that four year high school state championship run got into coaching,” said Gregory. “I thought about that for a while and decided that’s what I wanted to do instead and changed my major.”
During his tenure as coach, Gregory has taken multiple football and softball teams to the postseason and competed for state championships in both sports. Gregory was also voted as Coach of the Year for taking the Clarksdale football and softball teams to the post season in the same year in 2002. Gregory has also successfully coached track, winning an indoor state championship with Helena High School.
Gregory comes to Okemah with his family, wife Amy and two children, Jemma and Jett. The Gregory’s have an older daughter as well, Shelby who is married and lives in Arkansas.
Gregory is also an avid outdoorsman. He served as the Regional Director for the Arkansas State Trappers Association and has held workshops about trapping beavers, coyotes, raccoons, and bobcats.
Gregory also served on the National Wildlife Turkey Federation and has written grants for schools that provided education for fishing and archery.
Gregory stated that he would like to continue in those capacities in Oklahoma as well.