Three storylines

Hoping to reload

Collinsville’s Cardinals are favored to repeat as District 5A-4 football champs, but coach Kevin Jones said it’s likely going to be an uphill battle.

Jones said the district will be “very competitive” and the Cards lost 18 seniors from their 12-1 state-semifinal team, not to mention quarterback Cole Dugger, who decided to play his final season at Owasso.

“We’ve gotta stay healthy,” Jones said. “Ever heard that before?”

It’s a common refrain in a collision sport, but the Cards still have some thoroughbreds in the stable.

Brayden Burd rushed for 1,049 yards and 15 touchdowns last year and Payton Russell and Gage Tacker each had more than 80 tackles. Tacker also had seven sacks.

Wearing stripes

Claremore has enough offensive weapons to scare anyone and veterans return from the only defense last season to hold explosive Edison running back Sevion Morrison under 100 yards.

But it also matters what’s up front, and coach Jarrett Hurt will have five new starters on the offensive line and four on the defensive line. If the new guys can hold their own, the Zebras could improve on last year’s 7-5 record and quarterfinal finish.

Jace Hightower rushed for 1,138 yards and 10 TDs last year, Dylan Kedzior and Quentin Skinner caught five TD passes each and Mason Hayes had 126 tackles.

Tiger tales

Tahlequah has the firepower to stay in the thick of things until the Tigers host Claremore for the final regular-season game on Nov. 8.

Running back Dae Dae Leathers and quarterback Tate Christian combined to lead the Tigers to the school’s best record (9-2) in 27 years.

Leathers rushed for 1,588 yards and 19 TDs, and Christian threw for 1,434 yards and 15 TDs.

Players to watch

Sam Algea

Memorial, LS/OLB/RB, 5-9, 190, Sr.

Has started every game since his freshman year as a long-snapper and also plays a utility role for the Chargers. Has collegiate recruiting interest, coach Brian Worrell said.

Blake Corn

Tahlequah, OL/DL, 6-0, 235, Sr.

Had 11 tackles for loss and six sacks, helping lead Tigers to their best record in 27 years. Had 53 total tackles. Was third in the shot put in the 5A state track meet.

Jayden Garner

Skiatook, WR/CB, 6-1, 175, Sr.

Versatile speedster had 695 yards in combined rushing and receiving yards and 11 TDs last season. Also averaged 22 yards on kickoff returns and intercepted two passes.

TEAM CAPSULES

1. Collinsville Cardinals

Head coach: Kevin Jones (10th year, 68-34)

2019-20 ADM: 802.6

2018 record: 12-1

District titles: 1959, ‘68, ‘78-79, ‘86, ‘88, ‘93, 2000, ‘13’ 14, ‘18

State titles: none

Top players: Brayden Burd, RB/LB (5-10, 195, Sr.); Payton Russell, RB/FB (5-11, 21-, Sr.); Gage Tucker, DB (6-2, 210, Sr.); Zac Robbins, OL/DL (6-2, 255, Sr.); Isaac House, OL (6-5, 275, Sr.); Cole Kuykendall, CB (5-9, 155, Sr.); Eli Benham, CB (5-8, 150, Jr.)

Notable: Baylor Weathers, a junior, and Andrew Carney, a sophomore, were battling for the starting QB job. … Collinsville’s 12-0 start last year was its best in 40 years. … Burd was a 5A state track qualifier in the 100 meters. … Russell was a standout shortstop on the Cards’ 5A state-semifinal baseball team.

2. Claremore Zebras

Head coach: Jarrett Hurt (4th year, 20-15)

2019-20 ADM: 1150.4

District titles: 1959, ‘61, ‘63, ’69, ‘70, ‘72, ‘77, ‘81, ‘90, ’93, ‘94, ‘99

State titles: none

Top players: Dylan Kedzior, WR (6-1, 205, Sr.); Jace Hightower, RB (5-9, 180, Sr.); Quentin Skinner, WR/DB (6-4, 170); Charlie Murdock, QB (6-3, 205, Sr.); Mason Hayes, LB (6-1, 195, Sr.); Conner Aaron, OLB (5-10, 185, Sr.); Thomas Mason, DE (6-2, 200, Sr.); Ryan Conner, P (5-11, 160, Jr.); Christian Gotcher, K (5-7, 160, Jr.); Brooks Sherl, DB (5-11, 165, Jr.)

Notable: Kedzior has 16 career TD receptions. … Hurt was head coach at Skiatook for six seasons (2000-05). … Connor averaged 36 yards per punt and Gotcher was 5-for-7 on field goal attempts last season. … Aaron had 77 tackles and Mason had 74. … Claremore has not made a semifinal appearance since Larry Coker was coach in 1977.

3. Tahlequah Tigers

Head coach: Brad Gilbert (7th year, 39-38)

2019-20 ADM: 1203.0

2018 record: 9-2

District titles: 1946, ’51, ’75, ’83, ’88, ’89, ’90, ‘91

State titles: none

Top players: Blake Corn, OL/DL (6-0, 215, Sr.); Dylan Parish, LB (5-11, 195, Sr.); Dae Dae Leathers, RB (5-7, 185, Sr.); Kobey Baker, WR/SS (5-8, 165, Jr.); Jaxon Jones, WR (6-3, 165, Sr.); Tate Christian, QB (6-3, 165, Sr.); Qua’shon Leathers, FS (5-10, 160, Jr.); Hayden Napier, OL/DL (6-0, 235, Sr.); Trae Patrick, CB (5-10, 155, Sr.)

Notable: Parrish had a team-leading 97 tackles and eight TFL’s last season. … Jones caught five TD passes and averaged 19.1 yards per catch. … Baker had 28 receptions as a sophomore and was a state qualifier in the 5A long jump.

4. Skiatook Bulldogs

Head coach: Vance Miller (12th year, 65-57)

2019-20 ADM: 707.3

2018 record: 7-4

District titles: 1949, ‘50, ‘52, ‘69, ‘73, ‘74, 2014, ’15, ‘17

State title: 1974

Top players: Levon Walker, OT/DT (Sr.); Jayden Garner, WR/CB (Sr.); Cash Cooper, WR (Sr.); Alex Goekler, OL (Jr.); Forrest Johnson, OC (So.); Josh Taylor, CB (Jr.); Alex Johnson, RB (Jr.)

Notable: Miller has juniors Josh Taylor and Brian Pollard, sophomore Joe Overstreet and freshman Mason Willingham vying for the QB job, and “no frontrunner yet,” he said. … Pollard had 38 tackles last season and Taylor had 33 tackles and two interceptions. … Bulldogs host Collinsville on Nov. 1 in the 96th renewal of the Highway 20 War.

5. Pryor Tigers

Head coach: Kenny Davis (1st year)

2019-20 ADM: 768.5

2018 record: 3-7

District titles: 1957, ‘69, ’78, ‘79, ‘82, 2011

State titles: none

Top players: Trapper Gilstrap, QB/CB (5-10, 180, Sr.); Jacob Wood, RB/OLB (6-1, 190, Sr.); Christian Johnson, OT/DE (6-2, 210, Sr.); Jeff McGouldrick, OG (6-0, 210, Sr.); Same Sherrer, OC (6-0, 215, So.); Nate Silkey, OG (6-0, 215, Jr.); Cooper Williams, OT/DE (6-2, 225, Jr.); Josh Gore, WR/CB (6-3, 175, So.); Bobby Belew, WR/FS (5-10, 165, So.); Garrett Mitchell, SS/WR (6-0, 185, Sr.); Brooks Miller, TE/LB (6-1, 190, Jr.); Conner Castleberry, LB (6-0, 175, Sr.)

Notable: Davis has eight returning starters on offense and seven on defense for his first season. … Mitchell will be a four-year starter on defense and three-year starter on offense. … Tigers are seeking their first winning season in five years. … Pryor visits Claremore on Nov. 1 in the 95th meeting of old Verdigris Valley rivals. …

6. East Central Cardinals

Head coach: Kevin Gordon (4th year, 6-24)

2019-20 ADM: 1139.4

2018 record: 4-6

District titles: 1953, ’54, ’55, ‘56, ‘79, 2002, ’03, ’04, ’05, ’06. 07, ’09, ‘10, ‘12

State titles: 2005

Top players: Darius Williamson, RB/LB (6-0, 210, Sr.); Deterrian Fields, OL/DL (6-4, 312, Sr.); Ezekial Hearn, OL/DL (6-2, 270, Sr.); Sir Littlejohn, QB/CB/WR (5-10, 165, Sr.); James Joseph, OL/DL (6-2, 290); Jabari Washington, TB/DB (5-11, 170, Sr.); Jaden Humphrey, TE/DL (6-0, 220, Sr.)

Notable: Cards’ record in 2018 was their best in five years. … Gordon said Williamson is eager to make up for lost time after missing much of last season with a high ankle sprain. … The powerful Fields had 50 pancake blocks last season and 15 solo tackles in limited defensive action.

7. Memorial Chargers

Head coach: Brian Worrell (2nd year, 4-6)

2019-20 ADM: 939.6

2018 record: 4-6

District titles: 1964, ‘70, ‘71, ’80, ’81, ‘82

State titles: 1980

Top players: Sam Algea, DE (5-11, 220, Sr.); Josh McDill, WR/FS (5-9, 175, So.); Alex Jaurez, OG/DT (6-0, 250, Jr.); Elvis Grayson, LB (5-10, 230, Jr.); Kaden Walker, QB (6-2, 280, So.)

Notable: Worrell, a Nathan Hale graduate, coached Chargers defensive backs for seven seasons before taking the helm last year. … Chargers will host Claremore for a rare noon game on Oct. 17, first day of Fall Break.

8. Will Rogers Ropers

Head coach: Parker Childers (1st year)

2019-20 ADM: 840.0

2018 record: 0-10

District titles: 1945, ’60, ’64, ‘73

State titles: none

Top players: Jamison Wortham, MLB (6-0, 200); Micah Fields, TE/DE (6-3, 190, Sr.); Kenneth Shaw, RB/DB (5-8, 165, Sr.); Carlos Lopez, DE/TE (6-1, 160, Sr.); Rashaun Jamison, WR (6-2, 145, So.); Shayton “Gator” Cosar, QB (5-10, 170, Sr.); Chalo Hernandez, RB/OLB (5-7, 170, Jr.); Chauncey Fowler, OLB (5-6, 180, Sr.); Damien Bonner, WR/DB (5-10, 175, Sr.); Marcuric Demry, RB/WR/CB (5-7, 150, So.)

Notable: Wortham led the Ropers in tackles and TFLs last season. … Childers, who previously coached at Thoreau Demonstration Academy, replaces Marlon Houston Jr., who guided the program as interim coach for one season.