The state champion doesn't reside there and the runner-up just left, but District 3A-5 might be the most balanced and competitive in its class.
Cascia Hall, a perennial power, is gone after an impressive 14-1 season, bumped up to Class 4A in the latest rounds of reshuffling.
But filling its void is a trio of teams — Metro Christian, Verdigris and Sequoyah-Claremore — that all made the playoffs out of 3A-6 in 2011.
That means, with Berryhill, Sperry and Dewey still around, six of District 3A-5's seven teams made the postseason last year, providing what should be an interesting and wide-open race at the top.
“Some outlets and things will have us picked fourth, and I don't think that's a negative reflection on our team,” Metro Christian (12-1 last year) coach Jared McCoy said. “It just shows the power of the district and how many talented teams we have stacked together.”
Metro Christian talented but thin
After an undefeated regular season and early success in the playoffs, Metro Christian's unblemished 2011 run was cut short, falling 34-14 to Anadarko in the state quarterfinals.
“In talking to our seniors, they are still kind of sick about that game,” McCoy said. “On that night, there's no doubt that Anadarko was the better team and it wasn't our best effort … We had 427 yards of offense against them but just had trouble finding the end zone.”
Another reason for optimism: Anadarko went on to win the state title, cruising past Berryhill and Cascia Hall by a combined score of 67-25.
“That's absolutely encouraging,” McCoy said. “To know we lost to the state champs and gave them a similar fight to the other teams they beat, it just adds to our confidence.”
Taking the next step forward this year, though, could be a challenge.
The Patriots return six starters on both sides of the ball and a batch of others who have received significant playing time. But after that, the talent is down and the overall numbers have taken a hit.
In previous years, Metro Christian usually keeps more than 60 players on its roster. This season, they will have between 50-52.
“We look pretty good,” McCoy said. “Our one's are going to be as good as they have (been) in a while, but we are probably as thin as we have been the last two or three years. So if we can stay healthy this year, we will give it a pretty good run.”
Berryhill favorite, Verdigris will threaten
With Cascia Hall's departure, the firm stranglehold on District 3A-5 has been lifted, meaning Berryhill will slide into the vacant role of league favorite.
Traditionally, the Chiefs are talented. Returning a core group of players from last year's state semifinalists, 2012 should be no different.
But there will be many challengers for the unclaimed crown, including an experienced Verdigris squad.
“The wild card, I think, is Verdigris,” McCoy said. “I think they are the one that could surprise some people. They've got a lot of talent, probably as much talent as Berryhill has coming back.”
District 3A-5 coaches' poll
1. Berryhill (13-2)
2. Verdigris (10-2)
3. Sequoyah-Claremore (5-4)
4. Metro Christian (12-1)
5. Sperry (4-6)
6. Dewey (4-7)
7. Blackwell (2-8)
Note: Last year's record in parenthesis