EL RENO — El Reno coach Tom Cobble might be a victim of his own success as he enters his third year with the Indians.
His club has reached the Class 5A semifinals the last two seasons, and expectations are going to be high this season.
But is that fair?
El Reno isn't losing one or two key pieces to what made the last two years so memorable. The Indians are only returning four starters.
Leaders like Jakeil Everheart, Cory and Cody Dauphin, Tank Mulanax and Matthew Pruitt are all gone, replaced by players Cobble said definitely have the talent but also definitely don't have the experience.
One of the few players with any kind of significant experience is senior running back Devante Moore, the team's third-leading rusher last season.
"It's good to know I've got Devante back there because he's gotten bigger since last year," quarterback Ridge Gargasz said. "He's a hoss now. He can run it right up the gut at you."
Moore rushed for 306 yards and eight touchdowns last year.
The influx of new blood led to a different direction taken by Cobble during the summer. Instead of spending as much time as possible participating in various camps or 7-on-7 competitions, the Indians were pretty quiet.
Cobble said they worked hard on getting the players to fully understand all the offensive and defensive schemes and becoming comfortable about taking the spotlight.
"Some of them were a little timid about being 'the guy' now," Cobble said. "They're starting to show signs of being more comfortable."
If starting fresh wasn't tough enough, the Indians are also trying to learn an entirely new defensive system.
Former Bethel coach Heath Claborn is the new defensive coordinator. Cobble said the players were thinking too much at first, but are starting to do a better job of simply reacting.
The offense will be run by Gargasz, a senior who was a wide receiver. The leading returning receiver is Raymond Little, who caught 22 balls for 300 yards and two touchdowns.
El Reno is one of seven teams participating in Thursday's Pigskin Preview scrimmage at Mustang.