Beggs had 16 seniors graduate from last year's 10-2 team, but the Demons are the preseason pick to win the Distirct 3A-6 title again.
Returning to the Demons is tailback Chris Baccus, who rushed for more than 1,200 yards last year and will be relied on even more this season.
“The secret is getting him the ball a lot,” Beggs coach Bob Craig said. “We just don't have to hand it to him either. We can throw it to him and he can throw. We will exploit all of his abilities a lot more than we've had to in the past.”
Baccus also will be an important cog in the Demons' defense, where he will see more playing time at linebacker.
Beggs has won the last two district championships but will have to rely on youth for a third consecutive crown. Craig admits the Demons lost a bunch of talent at the skill positions from last season.
“We had a lot of players that were experienced and could do things with the ball. That made us very hard to defend,” he said. “We've still got good football players. A lot of those people had to pay their dues and mark their time. Now is their time to shine and we expect them to.”
HENRYETTA WILL BE EXPERIENCED
Henryetta was just 1-9 last season but should be much improved with 19 starters returning. The Knights only had two senior starters on offense last year and just one on defense.
“We don't have to fill many holes,” coach Kenny Speer said.
Senior running back Blake Johnson has rushed for more than 1,000 yards the past two seasons. The Knights' offensive line was bolstered by the transfer of 6-3, 240-pounder Tyler George from Wetumka.
“He brings size to our line and he is a real good player,” Speer said.
The Knights went 7-4 in 2010 and made the playoffs, but 13 seniors graduated from that team, leaving last year's club very inexperienced.
Entering his 14th season as the Henryetta football coach, Speer had never started freshman until last season.
“And I had to start six of them,” he said.
But those freshmen and sophomores are now one year older.
“We feel like we are a playoff team,” Speer said.
FRESHMAN TO LEAD VICTORY CHRISTIAN
Victory Christian lost to Seminole in the opening round of the playoffs last year, and the Conquerors will be young but talented again this season.
Coach Brent Marley is going to count on freshman Keats Calhoon at quarterback.
“Normally (starting a freshman) isn't a good thing, but we think he's got a tremendous upside,” Marley said. “He is skinny as a rail right now (6-2, 150 pounds) but he's got good feet. He will be a dual threat.”
Victory Christian is going to rely on mostly freshmen and sophomores at the skill positions. The offensive line, however, will be all seniors.
“If we do stay healthy, I feel we got a chance to be as good if not better than last season,” Marley said.
NEW COACHES IN OKMULGEE, INOLA
New coaches trying to resurrect their programs will be Kevin Gordon at Okmulgee and Brian Tinker at Inola.
Okmulgee was winless last season, while Inola was 2-8. Gordon had been the defensive coordinator at Tulsa East Central while Tinker was coach at Liberty-Mounds.
“We got to teach kids how to win,” Tinker said.
UNKNOWN IN KELLYVILLE
Kellyville only has one starter back from last season's 5-5 team.
“I hate to use the world rebuilding, but I don't know what else to say. I guess we are going to be rebuilding,” Kellyville head coach Kelly Anderson said. “This is the first time in my career I have gone into a season that I have no idea what I can or can't do.”
Kellyville's one returning starter, wide receiver/safety Presley Smith, is moving to quarterback on offense.
“He understands the game and what I want,” Anderson said. “He will be OK. He is going to have to help bring some kids along.”
District 3A-6 Coaches' Poll
1. Beggs (10-2)
2, Victory Christian (7-4)
3. Morris (6-6)
4. Henryetta (1-9)
5. Okmulgee (0-10)
6. Inola (2-8)
7. Kellyville (5-5)
Note: Last season's records in parentheses