Chickasha coach Rick Van Cleave didn't consider receiver Jaree Blakes a starter going into last season. He changed his mind quickly enough after watching Blakes play.
"It was quite a surprise to all of us last year when he broke out," Van Cleave said. "He worked really hard and pushed himself the entire offseason to do it."
It was quite the turnaround for Blakes, who wasn't expected to be a factor on the team.
"When he came here he was lacking speed, strength and he didn't catch well," Van Cleave said. "Now his hands are outstanding, and he's added a lot of speed."
Blakes is likely to attract double teams from opposing squads, something that will open up the field for his teammates.
"Because of Blakes' success, our other guys will get a lot of one-on-one," Van Cleave said. "He needs to work on some little things, but he's looked really good so far. He didn't get complacent with the success of last year."
Durant hoping to avoid injury bug
Last year injuries got the best of the Durant Lions, culminating in a late-season game when the team had six starters in street clothes.
"It doesn't matter how good you are, you can't have injuries and be competitive," Durant coach Byron Cordell said. "We've got to stay healthy this year."
His team has a chance to win the district title if they avoid injury, Cordell said.
"There are some really good teams in this district and we'll have to play perfect to have a chance to beat them," he said. "But we'll be more than competitive and we expect to make the playoffs or at least be in contention."
The team has extra motivation to return to the playoffs after missing out last year. It was the first time in three years the team failed to make the playoffs, Cordell said.
"We've got to make a few breaks and catch a few too, but we can make it," he said.
Duncan building around offensive line
Duncan, which finished 8-3 last year, has gone through good years and bad years. The biggest factor in those seasons is the play of the offensive line, something Duncan coach Jim Holloway thinks is a strength of this year's team.
"It's not the world's greatest line, but it's a pretty darn good one," he said. "The stronger they are, the better we are on offense."
The team returns four starters on the line, two of whom are in their third year in that role.
"They've worked hard in the weight room and gotten better and stronger," Holloway said.
The game becomes much easier on the quarterback and running backs when the line performs well, Holloway said.
"When they block clean it sure makes it easy to be a running back," he said. "Their success depends greatly on the line."
5A-2 Coaches poll 1. Duncan (8-3) 2. Lawton-MacArthur (7-4) 3. Ardmore (4-7) 4. Altus (4-7) 5. Chickasha (4-6) 6. Durant (4-6) 7. Northwest Classen (0-10) 8. Capitol Hill (0-10)