With the district re-alignments this year, no team in District A-7 was a part of it in 2013.
This year’s A-7 is made up of four teams from A-8, two teams from 2A-8 and one team from B-3. In the newly constructed district, two teams — Afton and Rejoice Christian — won their respective districts last year, and Afton, which was the A-8 champion in 2013, is picked to come out on top this year.
“I like how we match up with most of the new teams (in the district),” Afton coach Zach Gardner said. “There’s a lot of gray area out there as far as what the unexpected might bring as far as just depth and what the new teams are going to do.”
Afton returns Cooper Mitchell as a dual-threat quarterback, and the backbone of the defense in senior middle linebacker Blake Wisdom, who set back-to-back school records in total tackles during his sophomore and junior years.
REJOICE CHRISTIAN MOVES UP, EXPECTS TO CONTINUE SUCCESS
The Rejoice Christian Eagles dominated most of Class B last year.
They recorded a perfect regular season, posting seven shutouts and eight victories in which they scored at least 45 points. Rejoice Christian won its first two games of the postseason by a combined score of 106-12 but ran into the eventual state champions, losing to Laverne in the quarterfinals.
For 2014, coach Albert Kemp and the Eagles make the move up to A-7, returning senior running back Jace Sanchez and junior quarterback Bryan Mead with high expectations.
“Our goal’s not to finish second,” Kemp said. “We’ve been working our tails off to get to where we need to be to compete for a district title, so I think we’ll be able to do that.”
Moving up from Class B to Class A means adjusting from 8-man football to 11-man, but Rejoice Christian’s players are handling that transition fine, Kemp said.
SUMMIT CHRISTIAN QUARTERBACK WILL NEED TO HELP THE RECEIVERS DEVELOP
Senior Cameron Gilbert has posted an impressive career at Summit Christian.
He has amassed about 7,000 passing yards, 2,482 of which coming last year. Gilbert, who tossed 26 touchdowns and five interceptions in 2013, is a threat on the ground, too, rushing for 707 yards and 13 touchdowns during his junior year.
For the Eagles and their first-year coach Todd Fulps to make a run at a title, Gilbert will have to continue his success and help develop a fresh receiving corps.
“There are five or six kids that we’re trying to rotate through (at wide receiver) who have no experience,” Fulps said. “(Gilbert has) been able to help them just by being there.”
To help take some pressure off Gilbert, Summit Christian has seniors Nathan Hornbeak, as the primary option, and Jake Ryon returning to the backfield. They combined for 589 yards and six touchdowns last year.
Summit Christian will have to stay healthy if it wants to keep experience on the field. About half of its roughly 25-man roster consists of seniors before its depth dwindles to underclassmen. … Gardner believes Afton running back Garrett Gaines has the potential to be one of the top running backs in any class in the state. Gaines ran for 1,094 yards and 16 touchdowns last year. … Fairland is still looking for a starting quarterback and is dealing with the injury bug at key positions, especially on the offensive line. … Ketchum and Quapaw make the move down from 2A-8 to A-7 with some experience against some of their new district foes. Ketchum defeated Fairland and Foyil and lost to Afton last year, and Quapaw went 0-2 against Afton and Fairland.
District A-7 Coaches’ Poll
1. Afton (11-2)
2. Rejoice Christian (11-1)
3. Fairland (4-6)
4. Summit Christian (9-2)
5. Ketchum (3-7)
6. Quapaw (1-9)
7. Foyil (1-9)
*Last year’s records in parentheses