WYNNEWOOD — Trey Knowles came to Wynnewood High School with a last name that meant plenty in a town once known as much for its football team as the refinery that dominates the city.
The football team hadn't fallen off completely when Knowles came in as a freshman in 2009, but it had been four years since the Savages had won a playoff game.
And the program wasn't what it once was.
Trey Knowles' cousin, Daniel, starred on the football field for Wynnewood before collapsing in a game in 1999 and dying eight days later.
Wynnewood was a perennial state-title contender before 1999 but struggled in the years following Daniel Knowles' death.
Trey Knowles entered high school with high expectations and became the first Wynnewood player to wear No. 32 since the 1999 season opener.
The Savages have gotten steadily better since his freshman year, which coincided with Brad O'Steen's first year coaching Wynnewood.
They went 6-5 in the first season with Knowles and O'Steen and 7-5 the next. The Savages went 10-2 went last year, losing only to Class A finalists Wayne and Woodland. Knowles ran for 1,418 yards and 30 touchdowns on offense and had 62 tackles from his linebacker spot.
But for all the numbers he put up last year, Knowles said he could've done better.
“I was out of shape,” Knowles said. “I was just eating too much. I needed to slow down on the food.”
That continued after the football season when Knowles, who didn't play basketball so that he could heal his injured ankles, climbed up near 240 pounds.
But in the spring, O'Steen and the Wynnewood coaches stayed on Knowles about getting into shape.
He's down around 215 pounds now, close to his ideal weight.
The result is a quicker, more agile player on both sides.
“Our goal is to get him three or four yards and after that, he makes a lot of things happen on his own making cuts and running people over,” O'Steen said. “This year, we think he can make some of the cuts that he wasn't able to make last year. One thing we've really worked on is his vision and seeing and being able to make those cuts instead of just running through people.”
Being in better shape also figures to keep Knowles fresh late in games, and it should help as the season wears on.
The memory of a late-season 47-42 loss to Wayne last year that could've been turned a play or two still lingers for Knowles.
“We were just that one play away and we could've been playing for that gold ball,” Knowles said. “Every year has just driven me for that.”
Wynnewood hasn't won a state title since 1992, when it took its fourth in sixth seasons.
Knowles understands what adding another to the collection would mean.
“It's been a long time since we've had one,” he said. “It'd bring a lot of tradition back to this town.”
Campaign slogan: Return to normalcy
Wynnewood was a football powerhouse for much of the 90s, with players like James Allen and Daniel Knowles carrying the ball. When Daniel Knowles died, though, the Wynnewood program took a step back. Since his cousin, Trey Knowles, came on the scene, though, the Savages have crept back into state-title contention, making Warren G. Harding's 1920 presidential slogan an appropriate one.
ENDORSEMENTS FOR TREY KNOWLES
Brandon Sharp, Wayne coach: “He's such a tough runner. He hurt us a lot two years ago when we played them at their place. When you're getting ready to play them, you better spend some time on him or you're going to get hurt.”
Brad O'Steen, Wynnewood coach: “During the spring and during team camp and summer work, it's the best I've seen him run the football since I've been here. If he can stay healthy, he can be even better than he was last year. He's really committed his whole entire body and life to getting to where he needs to be. ... We want him to build speed, make cuts and be able to play all four quarters because he probably won't come off the field for us offensively or defensively.”