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.