McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

September 24, 2013

Grant Sontag helps the offense go

By Matt Goisman
Sports Writer

McALESTER — As a transfer from Henryetta, Grant Sontag had to sit out his 2011 sophomore football season at McAlester. But he made the varsity baseball team that spring, and with several assistant coaches working with both teams, football head coach Bryan Pratt knew what Sontag would bring long before the 2012 season started.

Sontag lived up to those expectations, securing the starting left tackle position before the 2012 season-opener against Stillwater and becoming, in Pratt’s words, “one of our best O-linemen.”

“He’s very consistent,” Pratt said Friday. “I don’t think that he goes one way or the other. He’s just who he is and he gets the job done, and you can always count on him to get after it.”

Born in Stillwater, Sontag moved to Henryetta when he was one month old. He said he started playing football in the third grade, and started getting playing time a year later.

“I was really big back when I was little, and I was kicker, ironically enough,” Sontag said Thursday. “I remember on a kickoff, I ran the ball down and tackled the kid, and he fumbled it. I picked it up and ran to about the 20.”

Sontag moved to McAlester when his mother, Tracey Sontag, became Director of Indian Education for McAlester Public Schools. Sontag said his ancestry includes members of both the Creek and Cherokee Indian tribes, which makes him feel unique in an area of Oklahoma more commonly Choctaw.

Because of his size, Sontag said he became an offensive lineman pretty early on his football career. Since moving from 3A Henryetta to 5A McAlester, Sontag’s had to learn more complicated blocking schemes.

“The talent pool is a lot deeper,” Sontag said of 5A football. “The offense we run, specifically, is a lot faster, and I find it better.

“As the outside tackle, we have to set the edge. We have to block the outside to where the back get around or the receiver on a sweep.”

Playing on the line requires a certain attitude. Though he said his teammates respect and regularly praise the offensive linemen for it does — “Last year one time, Caden (Pratt, 2012 quarterback) said we were one of the best lines in the state” — offensive linemen get few opportunities to stand out as individuals or rack up stats.

That attitude tends to form a tight bond between offensive linemen, who Sontag said know that “without us, the offense wouldn’t function properly.” Sontag said he’s formed such a bond with many of his Buffs teammates, especially good friend and right tackle Austin Hilton, which might be what he’ll miss most after graduating in May.

“I just like how quickly I’ve gained friends and how quickly I’ve gained camaraderie with people,” Sontag said.

Sontag’s devotion to his position shows up when he watches football as well. His favorite player is Seattle Seahawks tackle Russell Okung, a former Oklahoma State University player, and when he watches a game, Sontag said he watches the line as much as the skill-position players.

“I like how physical he is,” Sontag said of Okung. “He’s really good with his hands.”

Along with being McAlester’s starting left tackle, Sontag started at first base for the Buffs’ baseball team last spring. He started playing baseball when he was three, his development as a first baseman helping his development as a left tackle and vice versa.

“Being a first baseman, you have to be quick laterally,” Sontag said. “And I think with this type of offense, being a tackle, you also have to be very quick laterally, and you have to be very good with your feet.”

Now a senior, Sontag has started looking for ways to continue with athletics past graduation. He said he’d like to earn an athletic scholarship, his best being a baseball scholarship to a junior college like Eastern Oklahoma State College, and potential areas of study include sports management and physical therapy.

When not playing football or baseball, Sontag said he enjoys playing Ultimate Frisbee and his Service Learning class at McAlester High School.

But those activities take a back seat to football or baseball, and right now Sontag and the rest of the Buffs are focused on winning a state championship.

“It’s already Week 3, and it seems like just yesterday we were at Summer Pride,” Sontag said.

“We have a load of talent, but we also have a load of heart. A whole bunch of heart, a whole bunch of guts and a whole bunch of determination.”

Contact Matt Goisman at mgoisman@mcalesternews.com.