GUTHRIE — When Guthrie quarterback Bryan Dutton was named the starter last season, most thought coach Rafe Watkins was playing for the future.
There was no way a freshman could lead a top-five Class 5A team to the promised land, right?
The expected early troubles came as the Bluejays dropped their first two games.
Four wins later, and this was it: Carl Albert vs. Guthrie. One of the fastest-growing rivalries in the state. A chance for Dutton and Guthrie to show 2009 would not be a lost season.
And then: 40-14 — Titans.
"It was humbling, very humbling to go through that, especially after how hard we worked to get back into things," linebacker Landry Chappell said.
The final score wasn't indicative of how much Carl Albert dominated; the Titans were up 33-0 at one point. Losses like that don't happen at Jelsma Stadium.
Most thought the Dutton experiment failed. But then something happened. Instead of folding, Guthrie was inspired.
"We used that as motivation for the rest of the year," Dutton said. "We just wanted to get back out there as soon as possible."
It worked. The Bluejays went from a 4-4 team to a club that started clicking on all the right cylinders and reached the state semifinals.
With a solid group of starters back, and Dutton with a year of experience under his belt, the semifinals won't be good enough.
"No way, that's not what we're working for," Dutton said. "Our offensive line is bigger and stronger. We're ready."
Despite all the commotion about Dutton being a freshman, he quietly put up more than respectable numbers last season.
He threw for more than 2,100 yards with 26 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. On the ground, he added another 400 yards and three scores.
Dutton said the turning point came in a Week 4 win against Durant, when the speed of the game started to slow down.
He's not dealing with that type of issue as the Bluejays opened practice this week. This year is all about making the reads faster, knowing the routes better. There is no wide-eyed look this time around.
Dutton is also a top wrestler and baseball player for the Bluejays, but for now, his focus is on football.
"We knew he'd be pretty good. I didn't have any doubts," Chappell said. "I've done everything with him growing up and knew we'd be OK."
And the rest of the state is going to find that out, too, this season.