KINGFISHER — Last year, Grant Newton had a lot of jobs for Kingfisher.
He was a part-time quarterback, especially valuable in running situations when the Yellowjackets needed tough yards.
Defensively, he started at safety, where his size and hard-hitting nature made him one of the team's more valuable defenders.
But this year, Newton has one job: Be the best quarterback he can be. Now, both Newton and the Yellowjackets are reaping the benefits as they prepare for the Class 3A state title game against Blanchard at 7:30 Friday night at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater.
“Grant is getting all the snaps, and that has helped him become more comfortable,” coach Jeff Myers said. “We have the luxury of not having to use him on the defensive side of the ball, and that helps keep him fresh for offense.”
More than that, Newton, 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, gets to spend more time preparing for the job of quarterback.
“Not being on defense during the game,” Newton said, “I get to talk to the offensive coordinator about what we're going to do about my reads and what the offense is going to do when we go back out there, instead of just walking from one side of the ball to the other.”
And it helps during the week, too.
“I'm watching and studying more film, and learning, where last year, I was preparing for defense, too,” Newton said. “I've been a lot more ready for the game, and it's a lot easier to read and see things. I'm a lot more comfortable than I've ever been.”
While Newton was the running half of the quarterback duo with Bryce Hyatt last year, he has sharpened his passing skills, too. He completed his first eight passes in the semifinal win over Seminole last week.
He finished 12-of-15 for 113 yards and rushed for nearly 200 yards, including the game-clinching 73-yarder.
As a whole, the Yellowjackets hope experience pays off this week, facing a team playing for its first state title since 1979.
Many of the current Kingfisher players were at least on the team, if not seeing significant snaps, during Kingfisher's last state finals trip in 2010, a loss to Heritage Hall.
They came into this year's playoffs knowing the kind of effort it takes to get to the big game, and that has paid off, especially when they had to travel one of the toughest roads to the state finals, with Tuttle, Stigler and Seminole in the way.
“That experience helped a lot,” said Landon Nault, who was the starting running back as a freshman in 2010. “Getting there and falling short gave us the motivation to get there again, and we know how to do it, so we're gonna go get the job done.”