New Northwest Classen coach Bruce Madden takes over a team with some talented and experienced athletes in important places.
Eric McGee threw for more than 800 yards and eight touchdowns at quarterback last year, while T’auboliek Vick accounted for more than 800 all-purpose yards as a receiver and running back.
Newcomer Marquan Struble could also provide some big-play capabilities as a receiver and defensive back.
On the defensive side, L’edarral Hollingsworth returns after a 108-tackle season a year ago.
The Knights also find themselves in a less challenging district, getting away from Carl Albert, Guthrie, Deer Creek and McGuinness, though new district opponents Del City and Lawton MacArthur still provide a tough test.
U.S. GRANT LEANING ON EXPERIENCED BACKFIELD
As new coach Matt Lane takes over at U.S. Grant, he has a couple of experienced players to handle the ball on offense.
Roland Pichardo returns as the starting quarterback, and senior Michael Powell is back at running back.
The primary focus for the Generals during the next four years, while they’re independent of the OSSAA, will be to build the program to a positive level, so players are eager to come out for the team.
With sophomores like Pichardo, tight end/defensive end Andrew Meyer and offensive and defensive lineman Samuel Davis in starting roles, the growing process should get an early boost through the stability of having those young players for three more years.
JOHNSON UP TO REBUILD CAPITOL HILL
New Capitol Hill head football coach Greg Johnson knows there is a long road ahead to rebuild the Redskins program.
For the present, wins and losses are not his primary concern.
“Right now, the kids just don’t believe in the program like they should because the program has been down for so long,” said Johnson, who worked at Texas Lutheran University before taking the Capitol Hill job. “We’ve got to instill some confidence.”
That won’t be easy. Capitol Hill has won just eight games in the past dozen seasons. With just five seniors on the team, the Redskins have dropped out of Class 5A for the next four seasons and are playing an independent schedule while they try to rebuild.
Still, the schedule is tough with teams like Western Heights, Tulsa Edison, Putnam City West and Star Spencer. The Redskins also will not have a true home game most of the season with their stadium being rebuilt.
When the Redskins are not playing on the road, they will be playing their scheduled home games either at Star Spencer or Douglass, with hopes of Speegle Stadium being reopened by late October.
SOUTHEAST HAS QUALITY PIECES AROUND DOZIER
With quarterback Markel Dozier coming back healthy from an ACL injury, Southeast coach Chris Vandersypen is excited about taking some pressure off Dozier with some of the other offensive pieces.
That starts with Malik Swain, who is coming off a solid season and will be Southeast’s slot receiver. Also, the offensive line returns six players who started on the line at some point last season.
“(The offensive linemen) have been in the system and understand what we’re doing,” Vandersypen said. “We’ve got some new kids who are out there to improve what we have.”
SMITH STILL AT IT FOR STAR SPENCER
It seems like Milon Smith has been making plays at Star Spencer forever, but the 5-foot-9, 160-pounder is just now heading into his senior year.
The fourth-year starter will play a key role on both sides of the ball once again. He and Jerome Smith will carry the load in the backfield behind an offensive line that was very young last season.
CENTENNIAL’S QB BATTLE BETWEEN A SENIOR AND SOPHOMORE
Centennial’s two candidates for replacing quarterback Malcolm Mitchell Jr. are senior Kahlan McDaniel and sophomore Brandon Barnes, coach Don Willis said.
Barnes backed up Mitchell last year and was given some playing time. Willis said he handled being thrown into the fire well.
McDaniel was one of the team’s backups in 2012 but left for a year before coming back this year to fight for the starting quarterback position.
“We’re aware of what (McDaniel) can do,” Willis said. “We told him you have to battle for it, we’re not just going to give it you.”
JOHN MARSHALL EXPECTS PLAYOFF APPEARANCE
In coach Rashaun Woods’ second season at John Marshall, the Bears are expecting at least a trip to the postseason.
“We want to make it to the playoffs, we want to make it to state, we want to do all of that,” said junior lineman Jeremiah Patton.
John Marshall went 4-6 last season, and was much improved from going 0-10 in 2012. The Bears remained in playoff contention in Class 3A until losing to Centennial in the final week of the season.
“We got (Centennial) Week 2, and we’re all excited for that game,” Patton said. “We want to especially show every Oklahoma City school that John Marshall is back on the map.”
The team also returns much of its roster from a season ago after losing just seven seniors. Among the top returnees is quarterback Leonard Levinston, who started as a sophomore last season.
CROOKED OAK IN REBUILDING PERIOD
Crooked Oak coach Dennis McCray knows he’s up against a tall order this season after losing seven starters from his offense last year.
A new quarterback, fullback and two new running backs in a traditional triple-option offense won’t be easy. But McCray said he has the kids to do it.
“They know it because they’ve been in it for a couple of years,” McCray said. “Not many teams run it because it’s so hard to learn, especially for new guys.”
Jose Martinez will be tasked with taking snaps for McCray. The senior outside linebacker hasn’t played quarterback, and McCray said Martinez has a newfound respect for the position. McCray also said picking Martinez to take over the quarterback job was an easy decision.
“He’s got some speed,” McCray said. “He doesn’t get too flustered. He knows everybody isn’t going to make the right read every time but he can put mistakes behind him.”
NORTHEAST’S WILLIAMS READY FOR CHALLENGE
When Carlos Williams took the head coaching job at Northeast Academy, his main priority was to start recruiting the athletes from his own school.
Northeast has a strong tradition in basketball and track, but not football, going just 1-9 each of the past two seasons. The Vikings have won just eight games in the last six seasons.
Williams thinks there is plenty of athletic talent at Northeast for the Vikings to be successful in football if he can persuade the kids to don the pads.
“Northeast football has been down so long, we have got some guys standing around who won’t come out for football because they are waiting on basketball season,” Williams said.
“That’s how they’ve felt about the football program. I’ve been in the halls, been in their homes, trying to get these kids out for football.”
Senior linebacker/running back Trevor Reed, the team’s leading tackler from last season, is back to lead a young squad that is looking for a return trip to the state championship game of the Oklahoma Christian Schools Athletic Association. ... Coming off a 1-9 season, OKC Legion will rely on QB/LB Karber Miller and RB Johnson Miller. ... SeeWorth Academy was shut out in four of the five games it took the field last season. ... Santa Fe South will try to get an offense together to improve off a seven-points-per-game average last season.