All but one starter returns from an 11-1 team and the Wildcats are on a mission. They feel they underachieved last year by going out in the second round of the playoffs. Caden Harrell rushed for eight TDs and had 66 tackles, helping lead a defense that allowed only 13.4 points per game. Senior WR/DB Alex Nabavi had five TD receptions and five interceptions.
2. Rejoice Christian
Riley Walker threw 22 TD passes last year, helping lead the Eagles to their first semifinal appearance in 11-man football. He is 23-3 as the starting QB over two seasons. Gage Barham, Cole Hill and Caden Ward combined for nearly 900 receiving yards and LBs Nate Anderson, Zach Hair and Clint Hurst combined for nearly 300 tackles.
It’s all about family in the midway city. In his 14th season as head coach, Chris Elerick’s twin sons, Grant and Drew Elerick, led the Tigers into the playoff quarterfinals. Grant threw 38 TD passes, Drew had 103 tackles and Gage Parrick had 50 receptions and 94 tackles.
At any other school, an 8-4 record would mean you’ve had a great season. Not at Thomas, which owns 10 gold balls and more district titles (50) than any Oklahoma school. The Terriers’ experience level will be higher in 2019 and they should be better.
Mike Kirtley guided the Bucs to their third goal ball in his 16 years at the helm. He isn’t ruling out a repeat, although many standouts must be replaced. Among the returnees, Parker Miller had an interception in the Class A final, and Joby Jauregui developed into a difference-maker as an aggressive, 170-pound defensive lineman.
QB Bryce Drummond will be surrounded by playmakers as the Huskies try to build on last year’s 6-5 breakthrough. Cade McNeil caught 10 TD passes, Easton Kirk averaged 6 yards every time he touched the ball and Hunter Reed had 173 tackles. Speedy outside receivers Evan Frye and Mason Gilkey combined for seven medals at the Class A state track meet.
7. Crossings Christian
Jacob Snyder rushed for 889 yards and 14 TDs and made 100 tackles, helping lead the Knights to the best record (10-3) in their short football history.
Coach Brandon Tyler has the program on an upswing. The Pirates were within an eyelash of the district title last season and their nine wins were the most in 18 years. Weston Shanks threw 18 TD passes, and James Dover averaged almost 7 yards per carry.
9. Christian Heritage
The Crusaders finished fourth in their district but won four straight in the playoffs before falling to Tonkawa in the title game. Their best three players are gone, but seven starters return on each side of the ball.
Blake Gonzales takes over at QB after rushing for 1,041 yards and 17 TDs last season. LB Jaden Chandler forced three fumbles, recovered five and totaled 45 tackles.
Players to watch
Quapaw, LB/DE, 6-2, 245, Sr.
Weight-room devotee squats 500 pounds and benches more than 300. Had 102 tackles and five sacks last season. Chosen for the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl, Jan. 20 in AT&T Stadium.
Barnsdall, RB/DB, 5-10, 165, Sr.
Accounted for more than 1,500 all-purpose yards and 14 TDs in his third season as a starter. Has more than 4,000 career yards and 35 TDs. Credited with 4.58 speed in the 40-yard dash.
Hominy, OL/DL, 6-5, 300, Sr.
Powerful inside man had 32 pancake blocks and 63 tackles last season. Also into Osage tribal dance and track and field. Was 2A state discus champ as a sophomore and runner-up as a junior.
Games to watch
Sept. 6: No. 7 Crossings Christian at No. 2 Rejoice Christian
Eagles won a squeaker last September in Oklahoma City and beat the Knights again in the Class A quarterfinals.
Sept. 27: Mounds at Liberty
This is the 51st meeting between the small-school rivals. Mounds has won the last seven and leads the series 30-19-1.
Oct. 4: No. 6 Pawhuska at No. 5 Tonkawa
Tonkawa won at Pawhuska 13-12 last year and went on to capture the gold ball. This could decide the District A-7 title.
Some of the quotes Sports Columnist Guerin Emig gathered in his four-part series on the 1999 OU football team.