NORMAN — As high school football practices get underway this week, most teams can only speculate as to where they stack up against the top competition.
One thing for certain, Jenks and Tulsa Union are the favorites in Class 6A-I until someone ends the 18-year dominance of the Tulsa-area powerhouses. Still, the “best of the rest” debate is a popular topic in 6A-I, and Norman North has as good of an argument as any.
The Timberwolves return one of the state’s top players at quarterback in Oklahoma State commit John Kolar. Surrounding the dual-threat senior is an experienced line and talented all-purpose back Z’Quan Hogan on an offense that averaged more than 40 points per game last season.
But if Norman North is ready to compete with the best, its defense must show drastic improvement from a season ago. In five games against 6A playoff teams in 2013, the Timberwolves gave up 41 points per game.
“We’ve got to continue to grow and get better, but we’ll certainly be more experienced defensively, and that should help us on the field,” said Norman North coach Wade Standley. “The key to playing defense for us is getting turnovers and third-down stops. That’s what we’re going to look to do.”
As Standley alluded to, one bright spot from last season is the experience gained while breaking in 10 new defensive starters. Seven of those starters are returning this season.
“We had a bunch of young guys playing last year, including myself, but we’re coming back now experienced and healthy,” said senior linebacker Trevor Magee. “We’re just ready to get it going. We want to be the leading defense in Oklahoma.”
Senior defensive end Kaden McClellan took the defensive expectations a step further, saying “We’re going to be the leading defense in Oklahoma.”
With the transition to the new 16-team Class 6A Division I, Standley knows it won’t take long for the Timberwolves to find out where they stand.
In the first seven weeks of the season, Norman North will face six teams that made the playoffs in 2013, and eight of its 10 total opponents finished .500 or better.
“There’s no question that the schedule will be much tougher,” Standley said. “There’s no off weeks in this schedule. It’s extremely competitive. I think we’ve put ourselves in position to compete, but that’s just for where we are right now. We’ve got to build on that every week.”
Norman North will open the season on Sept. 4 against crosstown rival Norman High.