EDMOND — Replacing 27 seniors is a daunting task, but Deer Creek coach Grant Gower feels his team is quite capable of doing just that.
The Antlers won the District 5A-2 championship last season, but repeating will be no small accomplishment.
Gower, though, is happy with how the program and new-look team is progressing.
“We'll have a lot of guys that can step in that have been in the program, have been in the system,” he said. “The biggest part is knowing and understanding the system. A lot of guys you may not have heard of just yet, but I feel really good about what they'll bring on a Friday night instead of a Monday night.”
Still, there are some familiar names returning.
The Antlers return defensive end Eli Hooks, who recorded 12 sacks last season, in the 3-3 Stack.
“He's going to be a force for us again,” Gower said. “He had a great offseason. He's invested in this program. He's done a tremendous job and I'm excited what he's going to bring to our defensive front.”
Senior Caden Sander returns after grabbing seven interceptions at safety last season and returning kicks. Now, he moves to quarterback to replace the steady presence of Joel Blumenthal.
“With Caden, there's no doubt in my mind he's going to step in and do a good job at that quarterback role,” Gower said.
Running back/linebacker Alec James also returns after totaling 14 touchdowns last season along with Marcus Coleman. Receiver Cole Verble returns alongside Jackson Smith, who is expanding his role to receiver after playing in the secondary last season.
The offensive line still boasts senior Clay Jarzombek, who is moving to center to replace Austin Loomis.
Gower, though, is impressed with the other linemen, including Tanner Fialkowski, Colten Hodge and Justin Graham among others.
Then there's Dillon Noble, who was very consistent in the kicking game last season. He's receiving interest from Ivy League schools and is a big weapon for the Antlers.
It's just a matter of piecing it all together again.
“We feel good about some underclassmen and seniors who have been in the program and it's their time,” Gower said.