Edmond Santa Fe coach Lance Manning is thankful some young players had a chance to play late last season.
They’ll get their chance to shine this season.
The Wolves enter District 6AI-1 with their hopes lying on the development of the junior class headlined by quarterback Keaton Torre and running back Darren Williams.
Torre played the final six games of the season — starting five — when Justice Hansen went down with an ankle injury, and went through growing pains.
But he still completed 65 percent of his passes, throwing nine touchdowns and six interceptions. Torre also picked up an offer from Louisville recently.
“I think he’s ready for Friday nights now,” Manning said. “I think it got thrown at him all of sudden and he did a great job. Through team camp and spring football, he’s shown how much he’s grown.”
Williams played sparingly in 10 games, averaging 8.2 yards per carry. He will get the bulk of the carries this season.
“I think a good way to describe him is he’s a physical kid because he just doesn’t care,” Manning said. “He’s pretty elusive, but he will run over you.”
OFFENSIVE LINE CRUCIAL FOR YUKON
With Class 6A being split into two divisions, Yukon finds itself in arguably one of the toughest districts in the state with powers Jenks and Broken Arrow alongside 2013 semifinalist Westmoore.
And first-year coach Bill Young knows the Millers’ ability to compete up front will be crucial as they look to make the playoffs for a sixth straight year.
“We’re going to have to be able to throw the football, there’s no question about it,” the former Oklahoma State defensive coordinator said. “But we’re also going to have to be able to run it.”
Leading the way up front will be Shane Block, a 6-foot-5, 270-pound tackle who has an offer from North Texas, and Tyler Stilwell, a guard.
“Having some guys like that will help us big time,” Young said.
JIMMERSON, POGI HEADLINE PC D-LINE
Putnam City coach John Wofford has plenty to be excited about when talking about his defensive line.
The Pirates, who went 2-8 last season, return two seniors who have a strong chance of playing at the Division I level in Marc Jimmerson and Chris Pogi, along with junior Austin Williams.
“We are in the toughest district in the state, I think,” Wofford said. “You’ve got to have three guys up front (in a 3-4 scheme) who can get pressure on the quarterback and stop the run.”
Jimmerson has yet to receive an offer, but at 6-foot-7 and 300 pounds it’s likely someone will take notice. Pogi, meanwhile, has offers from Tulsa and Central Oklahoma. Wofford said Williams is getting some Division I interest.
THREE-WAY COMPETITION AT NORMAN
Norman coach Greg Nation admits graduation hurt the Tigers.
Perhaps the biggest loss is Jakcob Dean, a receiver turned quarterback who was vital to the success of the offense last season.
Nation said he is looking at Levi Fredrickson, Travis Houck and move-in Travis DeGreat for the job.
“I think they all bring something a little different,” Nation said. “One my run a little bit better, one may pass a little bit better, one my read a defense better, which is a good thing to have. They all have their strengths. It’s going to come down to the wire to see who it’s going to be.”
MEMORIAL DEFENSE FULL OF NEW FACES
Edmond Memorial quietly had one of Class 6A’s top defenses last season, allowing just 13 points per game.
The Bulldogs return just five starters on that side of the ball this season, leaving them to lean on their quick-striking offense as the defense gains experience.
Defensive back Robert Charlton, who is No. 22 on The Oklahoman’s Super 30, leads the way for Memorial after grabbing four interceptions last season.
Middle linebacker Jason Hand also returns after recording 128 tackles and seven sacks last season.
*Defending champion Jenks was the overwhelming favorite to win the district, receiving a first-place vote from each opposing team.
*Westmoore returns six starters on offense, including quarterback Bryson Lee. He threw for 2,019 yards and 20 touchdowns, while also scoring eight times on the ground, last season.
*Former Jenks backup quarterback Scotty Gilkey Jr. moved to Broken Arrow in the offseason, but he is not immediately being named the starter despite holding offers from Louisiana Monroe and Louisville. He is locked in a battle with Austin Gilmore, and new coach David Alexander said it could last until the final scrimmage in August.
District 6AI-1 coaches’ poll
1. Jenks (14-0)
2. Broken Arrow (10-3)
3. Westmoore (10-3)
4. Edmond Santa Fe (6-5)
5. Edmond Memorial (7-4)
6. Yukon (6-5)
7. Norman (5-5)
8. Putnam City (2-8)
*Last year’s record in parentheses