Last year, the Vinita Hornets came close but failed to finish off games, football coach Duwayne King said.
"Last year, we turned the ball over way too much in crucial times," he said. "We have to be more consistent."
King said he hopes that a summer spent emphasizing ball protection will reverse the trend.
"We've worked on it a lot this summer," he said. "We think we'll be better this year, but we haven't played a game yet, so you never know."
King said he expects his team to get over the hump this season and win the close games.
"To challenge for a playoff spot or a district championship, we have to win those games we came up short in last year," he said. "We think we're going to be ready to take care of business when the opportunity presents itself."
Jay rebuilding defensive unit
Jay, which finished 7-4 last season, returns just four defensive starters and hasn't yet plugged the holes, coach Shane Holland said.
"We've got to replace a lot of guys on defense," he said. "We have to have some kids step up that haven't played before."
How Jay's defense performs will be key to the team's success, Holland said.
"You win and lose with defense," Holland said. "I've never seen a football team do well without having a good defense."
While Holland has some players he thinks can step in and play, a lack of experience remains a concern.
"We won't know for sure until we put on the pads and start to hit," he said.
Mannford to increase passing game
Mannford, which finished 0-10 last year, will try to turn it around this season by focusing on its passing game.
The team will increase the amount of passing it does in hopes of freeing up the running game, coach Jason Landrum said.
The team will turn to quarterback Cody Carter to lead the offense, one of five returning offensive players. Carter started at quarterback all of last season and figures to improve in his junior year. The team returns seven defensive starters.
District 4A-3 coachesâ€™ poll 1. Wagoner (8-4) 2. Oologah (8-4) 3. Catoosa (7-4) 4. Jay (7-4) 5. Vinita (3-7) 6. Tulsa McLain (3-6) 7. Miami (2-8) 8. Mannford (0-10) 2009 record in parentheses