Blanchard is the defending state champion, Tuttle was the only team to beat the Lions last year, and Jones was knocked off by Blanchard last season in the state semifinals.
A common ingredient among the three powers of District 3A-1 this season will be a new quarterback.
Blanchard will have to replace Brock Lamle, Tuttle will not have one of the head coach's sons at quarterback for a change, and Jones lost Alabama verbal commit David Cornwell, who transferred to Norman North.
LIONS LOADED ON DEFENSE AGAIN
Blanchard is the pick of most 3A-1 coaches to win the district, but Tuttle is a close second.
Lions coach Jeff Craig loses Lamle and standout wide receiver Zach Hill on offense, but returns an experienced offensive line and running back Braden Stringer, who rushed for 1,377 yards and 21 touchdowns last season while sharing time with departing senior Stephan Davis.
On defense, the Lions should be solid with nine starters returning, but they did lose All-State defensive end Gage Wimer and free safety Kyle Self, both of whom will play for Oklahoma Baptist University this fall.
“We've got a lot of our pieces back,” Craig said. “Quarterback play is going to be the kicker for us.”
The quarterback position is a battle between Braden Bush, who started at wide receiver last year; Kannon Kirchner, last season's junior varsity quarterback; sophomore Parker Williams; and senior Blake Owen, a move-in from Texas.
Blanchard won its first state football championship since 1979 last season after missing the playoffs the previous year. Craig says it's time for the Lions to stop celebrating and get back to work.
“You try to put last season behind but when it's been so long since you won one (state title), it's hard,” Craig said.
But if the Lions are feeling cocky, all they have to do is remember the 2011 season, he said.
“That really gave us a bad taste in our mouth, missing the playoffs (in 2011),” Craig said. “Most of these guys have had the bad and the good. They know which one they like better.”
NO CORNWELL. NO PROBLEM?
At Jones, coach Dave Martin said the Longhorns quickly turned the page after his star quarterback decided to play his senior season at Norman North.
“We are not going to sit around here and worry about the kids we don't have,” he said. “If you don't want to be here, we don't want you. If you think the grass is greener somewhere else, go explore that deal.”
Jones will hand over the signal calling duties to sophomore Clayton Sims.
“We've got a young quarterback we feel really good with,” Martin said. “He is a mobile kid who will make plays with his feet along with his arm.”
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