Coach Brad Ballard’s Tigers return plenty of firepower from last year’s 14-0 state title team. Triston Truelove rushed for 1,621 yards and 16 touchdowns last season. He should have another big season as the Tigers have returning starters on the offensive line. Tuttle also returns receiver Parker Ross, who caught 49 passes for 890 yards and 10 TDs. Linebacker Zane Vasquez, who had 118 tackles last season, leads the defense. Tuttle ended a 13-year title drought last year with a 35-28 win over Bethany in the final. Of 4A coaches polled, 82% predict Tuttle will achieve state championships in consecutive seasons for the first time in school history.
World All-State quarterback/safety Sam Brandt did everything but win a state title last year for the Bronchos, who went 12-2. He passed for 2,615 yards and 27 TDs, and also rushed for 1,262 yards and 14 TDs. On defense, he had 76 tackles and seven interceptions, including five in the playoffs. Ben Lawson, with 571 yards, is the top returning receiver for coach Jon Arthur. Linebacker Brodey Claborn, who had 125 tackles, leads the defense.
Coach Dale Condict’s Bulldogs, 10-2 last year, have a realistic shot at winning their fifth state title in the decade. A streak of three state titles in a row has been followed by quarterfinal exits the past two years. Hopes are high in Wagoner for a return to glory. The Bulldogs have seven returning starters on each side of the ball, including quarterback Sawyer Jones and safety Drew Mills, who had 106 tackles last season.
Coach Jeff Craig said his Lions (9-3 last year) will be young, but talented and fun to coach. They will be led on offense by running back Bryce Madron, who rushed for 1,743 yards and 32 TDs last season. Logan McKay and Jacob Maston lead a solid linebacking corps.
Greg Werner returns for his second stint as the Pirates’ head coach. He was there in 2012-14 and led them to the state final in ‘13. Werner inherits a team that went 12-1 and returns Easton Francis, who has rushed for 1,400 yards in each of the past two seasons. The Pirates will have an experienced defense that includes Jayden Mankin and Dontay Warren in the secondary.
The Red Tornadoes, coached by John Higbee, return half of their 22 starters from last year’s 11-2 team that was their best since winning a state title in 2012.
Coach Reagan Roof’s Eagles, with top Class of 2021 college recruit Ethan Downs, again seem on the verge of a breakthrough year. They went 7-4 — their fifth consecutive season of either seven or eight wins, but lost to Bethany in the playoff opener for the second year in a row.
For the second consecutive year, the Hornets have a new coach as David “Pookie” Blevins moves from Locust Grove, replacing Greg Werner. Blevins inherits a young 9-3 team that could start 12 sophomores. The Hornets have one of 4A’s top linemen, Devin Brandt, and adds QB Melchesidech Porter, who moved in after going through spring practice at Owasso.
The Mustangs, after Chad Weeks was elevated to head coach in Week 2, rallied from a 1-4 start last year to finish 5-6 and reach the playoffs. Junior quarterback Blake Salt has a solid receiving corps led by Chase Gibson, Brennan Davis and tight end Travis Rogers.
Coach Brent Jones’ Purple Pirates, 9-2 last season, have speed and experience. Players to watch include running backs DJ Overstreet and Jalen Fullbright, and lineman Braden Fullbright.
Games to watch
Oct. 11: No. 2 Bethany at No. 1 Tuttle
A rematch of last year’s title game. Tuttle also won the regular-season meeting, 30-7.
Oct. 17: No. 9 Oologah at No. 3 Wagoner
Oologah won 18-15 in overtime last year after losing to Wagoner in three state title games from 2014-16.
Oct. 25: No. 4 Blanchard at No. 1 Tuttle
Tuttle won 35-21 last year after Blanchard prevailed 23-14 in 2017.
Players in the state's top 25
Sam Brandt, Bethany, QB/DB, 5-10, 175, Sr.
Ethan Downs, Weatherford, LB/RB, 6-4, 240, Jr.
Other players to watch
Cleveland, QB, 6-1, 180, Jr.
Completed 161-of-268 passes for 2,334 yards and 33 TDs last season.
Wagoner, RB/DL, 5-11, 210, Jr.
In 2018, had 83 carries for 746 yards and nine touchdowns. On defense, had 63 tackles, including 16 for losses.
Fort Gibson, RB/DB, 5-9, 180, Sr.
Had 235 carries for 1,668 yards and scored 18 TDs last season. Also had 53 tackles.
Some of the quotes Sports Columnist Guerin Emig gathered in his four-part series on the 1999 OU football team.