Stillwater coach Tucker Barnard is hoping his team will enjoy this football season.
Barnard isn't sure his team will be a part of the Class 6A-1 district in the future after the restructuring to separate the largest and smallest teams in 6A for playoff purposes.
“This could be our last year as we've known it, so it's our last opportunity to play teams like Jenks, Owasso and Union,” Barnard said. “We're going to make the most of it.”
Stillwater brings back leading receiver Brandon Prather as well as junior quarterback Braxton Noble, who threw for just over 1,000 yards in five games before dislocating the shoulder on his non-throwing arm.
“We played a lot of young kids last year due to injury situations,” Barnard said. “We're hoping to reap from the rewards of those young guys getting to play.”
UNION TO REBUILD OFFENSE AROUND THREE STAPLES
Tulsa Union returns just three starters on offense — wide receiver Jeffery Mead, tight end Carson Meier and tailback Justin Silmon, all seniors, all among the state's best at their respective positions.
The quarterback position and all five lineman position are up for grabs, with Zack Fisher and Mason Farquhar battling it out for the spot at signal caller. Union coach Kirk Fridrich is also facing a defense that returns just three starters.
“Our summer has been really good,” Fridrich said. “The guys that are returning obviously have some ability that allows us to lean on some of their experience as well as playmaking ability to help us out.
“No doubt though, we'll have some inexperience, especially in our offensive line. Those guys will have to grow up quick.”
YOUNG BARTLESVILLE TEAM WILL HAVE TO GROW
Bartlesville football's senior class totals just 17, leaving the team “young and very inexperienced,” per Bartlesville coach John McKee.
McKee will be playing a large amount of sophomores. He's interested to see how his team handles pressure.
“This year will be about how fast they grow up and get a feel for 6A football,” McKee said.
SECOND TIME'S A CHARM
Steve Chard is entering his second year as Enid's coach, which provides his players with more familiarity and more experience with the same scheme.
“It's not necessarily as much of a learning curve,” said Chard, whose team went 3-7 last year. “We should be improved.”
Starting wide receiver Aaron Beagle returns for his senior year, while Estevan Arana, who is drawing D-I interest, returns as well as an offensive and defensive tackle.
*Oklahoma State commitment Jordan Brailford will join with one of the state's strongest lines at defensive end for Tulsa Washington. Brailford, a three-star commitment with offers from four other Big 12 schools, is the star of the line. He finished last year with 98 tackles and 11 sacks.
*Sand Springs coach Dustin Kinard is counting on senior quarterback Cody Hale (2,463 yards and 22 touchdowns in 2012) to be this year's team leader.
*Brothers John Cole Neph and Gabe Neph, Owasso's starting senior wide receiver and junior quarterback, will try to help the Rams build off their 2012 semifinal season. Owasso returns nine offensive starters.
*Ponca City's strength will be in its defense, with the Wildcats returning two starting linebackers in junior Adam Nicholas and senior Zach LeForce. There isn't a single returning starter on offense.
District 6A-1 coaches' poll
1. Tulsa Union (10-3)
2. Owasso (10-3)
3. Sand Springs (8-3)
4. Tulsa Washington (6-5)
5. Stillwater (3-7)
6. Bartlesville (6-4)
7. Enid (3-7)
8. Ponca City (2-8)
Note: Last year's record in parentheses