Stillwater went winless last season when quarterback Braxton Noble suffered a dislocated shoulder in his non-throwing arm.
Noble is back this season as a junior and looks to be healthy for the Pioneers.
“We were seeing some things in the way he was progressing as a quarterback that had us really excited, really optimistic about the remainder of the season,” Stillwater coach Tucker Barnard said. “Losing him definitely hurt us. Anytime you lose the quarterback, it's a big deal. We did the best we could trying to make things work after that.”
Noble threw for more than 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns in his four-plus games.
The Pioneers also return key skill players like senior King Williams, who can play running back, receiver and quarterback, and junior receiver Brandon Prather.
“I half-jokingly tell the offensive coordinator all the time I don't care how he does it, just score 49 points all the time and I'll be happy,” Barnard said. “He gives me a funny little grin about that.
“We think that there's going to be a lot of things that we can do this year.”
BRONCHOS LOOKING FOR POSTSEASON RETURN
Missing the playoffs has become a rarity at Bethany, and the Bronchos want to make sure it stays that way. After finishing 4-6 last season and missing the postseason, Bethany returns a strong core of young but experienced players who want to go back to the playoffs.
The offensive backfield of quarterback Kyle Duke and running back Tino Vann remains intact from last season, and Dalton Stout is the top returning wideout.
Blaine Coffee anchors a defensive front that should be much improved as well.
JOHN MARSHALL YOUNG BUT EXPERIENCED
Kalen Love and Kaleel Bowden are a couple of names that John Marshall fans will become quite familiar with this season. Both players will be in the backfield of first-year coach Rashaun Woods' I-formation offense.
And both will play a major role in the middle of the defense at linebacker.
Across the board, Woods will have an experienced team, with several players who have been in starting roles since they were freshmen and sophomores.
Cashion counting on young defenders
Cashion coach Lynn Shackelford will have a few seniors to rely on defensively, but he'll need some young players to step into key roles this season if the Wildcats want to contend for the District A-3 championship.
Jesse Lyon, John Pope and Caleb Cogburn provide the senior leadership in the Wildcats' 3-4 defense, while younger players like Peyton Maroney, Kyle Robinson and Austin Temple have the chance to make significant contributions.
YOUNG TALENT TO LEAD NORTHEAST
With just 23 players on the team to start the season, and few upperclassmen, Northeast will rely on several young players this season.
“We are a day care team,” said coach Kenny Blair, whose team coming off a 1-9 season in Class 2A. “We're very inexperienced, but the bright side is it's a young group that is playing together. We are still much more ahead of where we were last year, and more mature. I'm very proud of the guys I have out.”
The Vikings remain talented up front — lead by 6-foot-1, 260-pound junior Jervis Hollingsworth.
“I think I have a good offensive and defensive line,” Blair said. “Hollingsworth will help lead the offensive line, and we have Jordan Buckner at center that I think will really be good as a freshman.”
Six-foot, 235-pound senior running back Elliot Basco gives the Vikings a big presence to run behind Hollingsworth and Buckner.
In the passing game, Northeast hopes to utilize 6-foot-3 sophomore Richard Gray as its top receiving threat.
CENTENNIAL TRYING TO BUILD PROGRAM
In the past three seasons, Centennial has built a basketball powerhouse — winning two state championships.
Coach Don Willis is trying to transfer that success onto the football field.
“It's mainly a basketball school right now,” said Willis, whose team is coming off a 3-7 season in Class 3A. “All the kids are focused on being the next LeBron James, and we're trying to turn that mentality around so they know its OK to play more than one sport.”
With several athletes at the school focusing on basketball, number of players has been a concern for Willis.
“I've only got about 32 guys out right now,” Willis said. “These kids are just going to have to suck it up, and get in shape. They've got to be prepared to go both ways.”
The Bison are looking at quarterback/defensive back Malcolm Mitchell Jr. and receiver/defensive back Cornelius McKiver as possible two-way standouts.
“Malcolm has worked hard so far this season, and is doing a good job,” Willis said. “Cornelius is another good athlete for us. We'll definitely rely on him, too.”
CRESCENT'S CRONISTER LOOKING TO LEAD WAY
Crescent senior running back Michael Cronister is entering his third year as a starter and is looking to help the Tigers make an even deeper playoff run this season.
“He's a great running back and an impact player,” Crescent coach J.L. Fisher said.
Cronister rushed for 1,052 yards and 12 TDs last season. At 5-foot-8 and 175 pounds, he has rushed for 2,172 yards in his career.
COYLE BREAKING IN NEW FIELD
For the first time in program history, Coyle will play its home games on school property this season.
The Bluejackets, who had their first season of football in 2004, have played their home games at Langston University's W.E. Anderson Stadium in past years.
“We've got a brand new field we'll be breaking in this season and this will be our first year having a goal post on Coyle school property,” said coach Shane Weathers, whose team is coming off an 8-3 season in Class B.
Coyle will be lead by Weathers' son, Ryan Weathers, at quarterback. The senior will have talented skill position players around him, but will also have an inexperienced offensive line.
“We've got several seniors, and some pretty good skill players,” Shane Weathers said. “Ryan has been good for us, and I look forward to him excelling this year. We have young linemen, our oldest is a sophomore. We'll have to bring them along, but I think they'll be fine.”
*Perkins-Tryon coach Lloyd Wertman has been running the wishbone seemingly since the offense was invented, but don't be surprised to see the Demons use a little more variety in their offensive schemes this season.
*Crossings Christian looks to play its first ever home game in Week 3 against Apache in its brand new stadium. The Knights were scheduled to open at home against Burns Flat-Dill City the first week of the season, but the stadium will not be ready.
*Oklahoma Christian Academy will be adapting to a new system under first-year coach Grey Powell, and the Eagles will rely on the leadership of four-year starters Josh Easter (RB/DB) and Alan Garner (QB/DE).
*OKC Patriots seniors Bryce Daniels (QB/DB) and Daniel Nimmo (WR/DB) will lead a young team as the only returning starters in coach Rusty Stone's first season.
*OKC Legion quarterback Johnson Miller returns after a solid sophomore campaign in the program's first season. Legion coach Darin Miller said he intends to get his son out on the edge to open things up.