District 4A-3 produced two of the best football teams in the state last season.
Wagoner (13-1) won the state championship. District champion Catoosa (12-1) lost a heartbreaking double-overtime game to Clinton in the semifinals after defeating Wagoner in the regular season.
The Bulldogs and Indians are expected to be loaded again this season.
“It's a tough district,” said Cleveland coach Dale Anderson, whose Tigers join District 4A-3 this season. “We have possibly the top two teams in 4A with Wagoner and Catoosa. If not the Top 2, I would be shocked if they are not in the Top 5.”
BULLDOGS HAVE TO QUIT CELEBRATING
Wagoner is still euphoric after the school's first state title in football, defeating Clinton 23-0 in the championship game.
“I always wondered how you would feel after that (winning a state championship),” Wagoner coach Dale Condict said. “I was actually more excited to get going again (this season). The kids and the community are too.”
Condict said the club is trying not to bask in last year's glory.
“We wallowed around it for awhile. We milked it all we could,” he said. “Now we are trying to get over it and get ready for another run. There are lots of question marks. Some of the guys we lost were really key players.”
The most pressing question that must be answered is how will Wagoner replace the versatile and talented Kevin Peterson, who is now playing for Oklahoma State.
Peterson was the Bulldogs' biggest playmaker last season. He rushed for 1,621 yards and 25 touchdowns. He also had 189 yards receiving and three touchdown catches. In addition, he returned an interception and a punt for scores.
“Kevin was pretty special,” Condict said.
Thirty touchdowns won't be easy to replace but the Bulldogs are counting on senior Kerwin Thomas to fill the void.
“We will do the wildcat stuff with him like we did with Peterson last year,” Condict said. “He is a good athlete. He is probably our top college prospect.”
Wagoner also has a pair of running backs, Devin Hawkins and Lawrence Evitt, who will get more carries this season. Condict has added the pistol formation to the offense to better utilize their running style.
“We are trying to start them from an ‘I' type position to get them going downhill,” he said. “We have been tinkering with this pistol all spring and really like it.”
Wagoner should be in the title hunt again this season.
“I think there is potential to be really good,” Condict said of his team. “A lot of guys have to prove themselves on Friday nights.”