Eufaula head coach Larry Newton, Jr., has been around high school football for most of his life. He’s not sure he can remember a better individual performance than what he saw from Ironhead senior Khelil Deere last week in the 2A quarterfinals.
Deere had three touchdown receptions on offense and four interceptions on defense to lead the Ironheads to a convincing 31-14 victory over Oklahoma Christian.
“He should have had another one,” said Newton with a chuckle. “He had it and it just got out of his hands a little bit. Or it would have been five.”
“Ya, I would say that was probably my best game,” admitted Deere. “We still have another game to go, though.”
The win was even sweeter because Eufaula avenged last year’s heartbreaking 24-20 loss to OCS, when the Saints scored the winning touchdown in the game’s final 30 seconds.
“We remembered last year,” claimed Deere, who had touchdown catches of 13, 16 and 72 yards. “We played off that all year long. We worked hard all summer just to get that win.”
Deere and the Ironheads have certainly turned it on offensively in the postseason. They’ve averaged 43 points per game in wins over Keys, Metro Christian and Oklahoma Christian en route to the school’s first state semifinal appearance since 2005.
“Khelil has really gone off in the playoffs,” said Newton of the 5-10, 180-pound wide receiver/defensive back. “He’s got 12 touches for 301 yards and seven touchdowns (five receiving, two rushing). He’s a very special athlete.”
In the second round against Metro Christian, Deere had two rushing touchdowns and another one receiving.
“He put on a show against Metro,” stated Newton. “When you’re able to do what he did against the two-time defending state champs, that’s pretty awesome.”
“The thing about Khelil Deere is he’s an absolute team player,” added Newton. “He knows that everything he gets is from his teammates around him. The better we make Khelil, the better we make the guys that play around him.”
“Whatever I can do to help the team, that’s what I’ll do,” said Deere, who currently holds scholarship offers from Tulsa, Arkansas State and Missouri State. “As long as we’re winning games, I’m fine.”
One college football recruiting service lists Deere as the 50th-best Class of 2021 player in Oklahoma. Newton scoffs at the idea that Deere is ranked so low.
“A lot of scouts don’t give him the credit he deserves because he’s playing at a 2A school,” said Newton. “I’m telling you right know, there’s not that many better than him. There might be some that have better stats than him, but you need to see Khelil Deere play live. Until you see how he can get to the football and how he can manipulate his body in the air; he is something to watch.”
Since returning to take over the Eufaula program in 2012, Newton has tried to return the Ironhead program back to dominance.
“I try to remind people that we had the Selmon brothers come out of here,” added Newton. “We had JC Watts come out of here. We’ve had two Oklahoma Players of the Year. We’ve had five high school All-Americans. We still have those type of kids.”
With the win over Oklahoma Christian, Eufaula is one game away from playing for its first football state championship in school history. The Ironheads take on Marlow Friday night at Putnam City High School.
“It would mean a lot to get to play for a state championship,” admits Deere, who also plays basketball and runs track. “We would be the first ones to ever win a state championship. It’s been amazing so far. The community takes football seriously around here. We just have to play hard and keep doing what we’ve been doing all year.”