For the past four years, Bryan Dutton was a steady presence at quarterback for Guthrie.
Dutton led the Bluejays in multiple last-minute comebacks last season after losing Kai Callins to an injury on top of other accomplishments. Dutton also broke nearly every quarterback-related record in Guthrie's record book.
So it's no surprise coach Rafe Watkins' biggest concern is replacing Dutton this season.
But it could be easier than some think.
Senior Reed Roberts is set to take the snaps after serving as Dutton's backup the past two seasons.
“Reed fits the bill,” Watkins said. “He's 6-3, 200 pounds, has got a cannon for an arm, he's just a little bit different type of player than what Bryan is but he can throw the ball better.”
Roberts isn't a stranger to pressure situations. He pitched in the state baseball tournament last year.
“He's had his feet to the fire,” Watkins said. “Maybe not having some 270-pounders chase him around, but we'll see.
“He does provide us a big ol' strong kid in the pocket who can stand tall and deliver the ball.”
CARL ALBERT O-LINE A WORK IN PROGRESS
Carl Albert coach Gary Rose has a few holes to fill on the offensive line that played a huge role in the Titans' run to the Class 5A state championship last fall.
Two starters, Robert Lolofie and Anthony Woods, return along with tight end Trenton Ball, who is a major part of the Titans' run blocking schemes.
Gavin LaValley, one of the team's top blockers last season, has decided not to play football this year after suffering a knee injury in summer baseball. With a college scholarship waiting for him, and the potential to be drafted in baseball next year, LaValley decided not to risk further injury.
Quarterback Stevie Thompson rushed for 1,926 yards and 36 touchdowns last season, and his running ability will be at the forefront of the offensive gameplan again.
“Our philosophy is that we're gonna run the football first, and if you don't stop it, we're gonna keep doing it,” Rose said. “If you stop it, hopefully we'll be able to do something else.”
Thompson threw for nearly 1,400 yards last year, and with receivers like Ball in the mix, Rose expects that part of the offense to be improved as well.
DEER CREEK'S DEFENSE RETURNS 4
Deer Creek returns four players on defense from last year's team that won the district championship, including Class 5A sacks leader Eli Hooks.
Hooks recorded 12 sacks last season as the Antlers allowed just 13.9 points per game.
Deer Creek coach Grant Gower said he's impressed with how much weight Hooks has added in the offseason.
“He's going to be probably over that 200 mark and that will use his quickness because that's what so much of his defensive end spot is based off of,” Gower said. “He still possesses that and added some really good weight.”
Outside linebackers Marcus Coleman and Alec James also return alongside safety Caden Sander, who led Class 5A with seven interceptions last season and will also play quarterback.
“Those guys return, and the ones we've got really stepped up in the spring and the team camp this summer,” Gower said. “We feel good about some underclassmen and seniors who have been in the program, and it's their time.”
MCGUINNESS LOOKING TO FORTIFY SECONDARY
Bishop McGuinness technically returns just three defensive starters, but it still possesses one of the top defensive lines in Class 5A.
Senior defensive end Bobby Sweeney anchors the line after recording 100 tackles and 10 sacks last season, while Johnathan Higgins, Andrew Williams, Johnathan Olay and Tyler Kippenberger will also see time on the line.
Linebacker Gray Gochenour also returns after leading the team with 153 tackles and recording five sacks.
But Irish coach Justin Jones remains focused on improving the secondary, which is extremely young and inexperienced.
“I think the biggest thing is just being able to see things happening in front of them to be able to recognize and react,” Jones said. “Anytime you've got a young secondary they like to think, and I think when they think, they slow down. It's going to be important that those guys do a great job in game plans and recognizing game plans and being able to tighten those things before they happen.”
Junior Brandon Roy is the only returning player with secondary experience. He had 58 tackles last season as a cornerback.
*Northwest Classen returns 12 starters off a team that produced one of the Knights' best seasons in recent history. Leading the way will be senior running back Fre'Darian Ashley, a gifted athlete who has begun to gain Division I recruiting interest.
*New El Reno coach Taylor Schwerdtfeger said the Indians will be young on the offensive line and he has concerns about overall depth, but he feels like the team will compete after going 4-6 last season.
*Western Heights will lean heavily on dual-threat junior quarterback James Lewis to guide the offense as the Jets look to improve after an 0-10 season.
District 5A-2 coaches' poll
1. Carl Albert (9-5)
2. Guthrie (10-2)
3. McGuinness (11-2)
4. Deer Creek (10-2)
5. El Reno (4-6)
T6. Northwest Classen (4-6)
T6. Western Heights (0-10)
8. Guymon (1-9)
Note: Last year's records in parentheses