Wayne might've lost running back Josh Way to graduation but the Bulldogs return plenty from last year's Class A state championship team.
Wayne returns eight starters on either side of the ball, including running back/linebacker Louden Johnson.
Johnson had more than 140 tackles last season as a sophomore, leading the Bulldogs in tackles for the second consecutive year, despite playing with a knee injury all year. Johnson also served as a solid second-option at running back behind Way.
“Louden is the hardest-working kid on our team,” Wayne coach Brandon Sharp said. “He lives in the weight room.”
Sharp said the 6-foot-2 Johnson had gotten quicker since last season.
KNOWLES LEADS SAVAGES
While Wayne returns as the state champions, many favor Wynnewood to win the district.
The Savages were 10-2 last season, falling to eventual runner-up Woodland in the second round.
Wynnewood returns even more starters than Wayne, with nine back on each side of the ball.
The biggest of those returnees is Trey Knowles, who ran for more than 1,400 yards and scored 30 touchdowns at running back and also had 62 tackles on defense.
“He's dropped about 15 pounds since last season and it's made a difference in his 40 time,” Wynnewood coach Brad O'Steen said.
And although the Savages lost All-State lineman Adam Kelley, O'Steen said the line blocking for Knowles would be better overall.
“Adam's brain was the best I've been around from a lineman but in the lineman camps we went to this summer, I thought we did better than last year.
“But we'll see when we actually get started.”
District A-5 is the only district to feature a pair of defending state champions.
In addition to Wayne, Class B champion Caddo moves up into Class A after going 14-0 last season in eight-man.
“It's definitely the toughest district in Class A,” O'Steen said. “Elmore City's skill positions are as good as anybody in the district so if they stay healthy, they're going to be really good and Wewoka's probably the most athletic as a team.”
Sharp is also not taking anything for granted.
“It's going to be exciting,” he said. “There are going to be a lot of close games in this district.”
District A-5 coaches' poll
1. Wynnewood (10-2)
2. Wayne (14-1)
3. Elmore City-Pernell (6-4)
4. Wewoka (6-5)
5. Caddo (14-0)
6. Stratford (2-8)
7. Maysville (1-9)
Note: Last year's records in parentheses