Coach Joe Turner said his Okemah football team will be young at most positions, but the Panthers will be battle tested after a tough start to the schedule.
Okemah will scrimmage Class 4A’s Bristow and 5A’s Kellyville. Then, the Panthers face three good Class 3A teams in their non-district schedule before opening league play with Stroud, Prague and Chandler.
“When you go play tougher teams, they expose your weaknesses,” Turner said. “That will show us areas we need to get better. If we went out there and played three easy teams and went 3-0, we’re not battle tested.”
Turner said his team is young but won’t use that as an excuse.
“We’ve lost some size, but we’re definitely going to be more athletic this year,” Turner said. “We have more coming back on defense, and our expectations don’t change from year to year.”
CHANDLER LOOKS TO VETERAN GROUP FOR IMPROVEMENT
Zach Smith enters his second season as head coach at Chandler after a 5-5 campaign in 3A last year. Smith said his senior group will be the key to success in 2A.
“The seniors we have will be our best class,” Smith said. “They’ve kind of gotten trial by fire. Most of them started as freshman.”
That experience is what Smith is leaning on in hopes of improving.
Heath Gray starts at running back and middle-linebacker. The senior rushed for more than 1,000 yards as a junior. Smith said another senior, Jackson Kashwer, will move from linebacker to defensive end and might impact a lot of ball games.
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