First-year Purcell coach Shannon Watford has been pleased with his team's performances early in practice.
Watford, who guided Hennessey to back-to-back state titles the last two years, takes over a team with another district title on its mind.
If Purcell is going to keep up its recent strong showings in district play, the Dragons are going to have to do it with a mostly new group of skill-position players.
They do have some experience, though.
Dominique Gavia rushed for more than 500 yards last season as a sophomore, sharing the carries with the graduated Damian Shea.
Now, Gavia will be asked to carry much more of the load.
He'll be running behind a line that's expected to be solid, though, averaging around 270 pounds across the front.
“We're really blessed with a lot of size here,” Watford said. “Our skill guys are young but they're very athletic.”
PLAINVIEW PICKED TO WIN
Despite having just a handful of starters returning from the team that went 9-4 a season ago, Plainview is the strong favorite to win District 3A-4.
Chris Berus' team, though, has strong returning players at key positions and a solid group of young players filling in.
The returners include wide receiver/defensive back Chase Brooks and James Bowker, who is primarily a running back but also sees time at quarterback as well.
Plainview finished second to Purcell last season.
PANTHERS BRING BACK STRONG CORE
Pauls Valley, picked to finish third in the district, has eight starters returning on offense and nine on defense.
The Panthers' biggest asset is the returning skill position players, especially senior receiver Dewayne Sanders.
Sanders had 868 yards and 10 touchdowns receiving last season.
Pauls Valley also returns quarterback Joe Foster (1,756 passing yards) and running back J.C. Eyabi (812 rushing yards).
Dickson coach Jeremy Reed expects an improved offense after Drake Haggard moved from quarterback to running back late last season and Chris Bamburo, now a sophomore, took over at quarterback. ... Sulphur coach Jim Dixon enters the season having won 270 games in his 36 years as the head coach there.
District 3A-4 coaches' poll
1. Plainview (9-4)
2. Purcell (9-2)
3. Pauls Valley (5-6)
4. Madill (8-4)
5. Sulphur (4-6)
6. Lone Grove (4-6)
7. Dickson (3-7)
8. Atoka (4-6)
Note: Last year's records in parentheses