Catoosa had a great season last year but is still smarting from a 27-24 playoff loss to Clinton.
The Indians were the top-ranked team in the state entering the game and were one win away from a rematch with Wagoner for the state championship.
“I wouldn't say we stumped our toe in that game,” Catoosa coach Aaron Meier said. “It was a hell of a game. It was a great game, it really was.”
Catoosa loses its backfield of Cole Shulin and Levi Browning from a year ago.
“We are going to miss Cole,” Meier said. “He was a breakaway guy with a lot of speed. He was very explosive.”
Meier is counting on twin brothers Hagan and Hunter Harrison to step in as tailbacks.
“They started as outside linebackers last year,” Meier said. “These two or more in the style that Levi was. They are physical backs.”
Senior quarterback Austin Potter returns to provide stability of offense.
MCLAIN CHASING WAGONER, CATOOSA
Tulsa McLain finished third in the district last season, but new coach Jarvis Payne thinks the Titans have closed the gap on Wagoner and Catoosa.
McLain returns eight starters on offense and six on defense from a team that lost to Hilldale in the first round of the playoffs last year.
“We are going to be pretty good,” Payne said. “We got some athletic kids.”
Demetri Walker is moving to the slot from wide receiver, where he compiled more than 1,200 all-purpose yards last season. Walker likely will get the ball even more this season in the slot position.
Junior Bishop Louie is moving from cornerback to quarterback. The Titans primarily will run behind 6-3, 307-pound tackle Thurman Smith, who also anchors the defensive line.
Payne was an assistant on the McLain staff for eight years before replacing coach Dan Bitson, who left after last season to return to the University of Tulsa as an assistant coach. Bitson was an All-America wide receiver for the Golden Hurricane in 1989.
“I have been waiting a long time for this,” Payne said of the head coaching opportunity. “I am ready to go.”
STALLARD BACK TO LEAD CLEVELAND
Cleveland's hope will depend much on the play of senior quarterback Chas Stallard.
Stallard has been the Tigers' starting quarterback since midway through his freshman season. Last year, Stallard threw for 1,800 yards and rushed for 1,200 yards.
On defense, Cleveland returns linebacker Lucas Whaley, who led the team in tackles last season, along with linebackers Tyler Jones and Josh Ratliff.
“They are going to be huge for us,” Anderson said.
MORE FROM NEWSOK
District 4A-3 Coaches' Poll
1. Wagoner (13-1)
2. Catoosa (12-1)
3. Tulsa McLain (6-5)
4. Oologah (4-6)
5. Miami (4-6)
6. Cleveland (5-5)
7. Vinita (4-6)
8. Tulsa Webster (3-7)
Note: Last season's record in parentheses.