1. Is it a foregone conclusion that Owasso and Union will be the only contenders for the district title?
It’s very likely, but that’s not necessarily the case. Putnam North’s offense, with nine returning starters, compares well with Owasso and Union. Putnam North has an advantage over those schools with a returning starter at quarterback — Aaron Norment (5-foot-10, 215, Sr.), who threw for 2,201 yards and 21 touchdowns last season. Whether Putnam North can become a serious contender will depend on how quickly a young defense comes together.
“For us, it (district title race) goes through Union,” Owasso coach Bill Blankenship said. “But I expect it to be a lot more interesting than most people want to give it credit for.”
Union visits Owasso in a district opener Sept. 27. Union won last year’s meeting 21-0 after Owasso won their battle for the 2017 state title.
2. Union’s Kyler Pearson is the best receiver in 6AI
Pearson has been offered by and is committed to Kansas, but has often been overlooked by other major colleges because of his size (5-8, 155 pounds). Overshadowed by Jenks’ final-play winning touchdown in last year’s semifinals, Pearson made a great go-ahead TD catch with 20 seconds left. Union coach Kirk Fridrich on Pearson, who had 57 catches last year: “What he’s done in the offseason has definitely helped him, he’s got a lot more confidence with the way he carries his body around. He was a really good receiver last year, he put on some good weight, and strength. I wouldn’t trade him for anything. He’s such an outstanding slot receiver, he’s going to make a lot of plays for us. He’s really hard to cover as an underneath guy, I’m not really sure you can. Defenses will have to find ways to handle his quickness.”
3. Who will be this year’s surprise team in the district?
Is there any team that can make a jump similar to Putnam North going from 3-7 in 2017 to 8-3 last season?
Mustang, with new head coach Lee Blankenship, would be the top candidate after going 4-6 last year. Blankenship led Beggs to the 3A state final in 2017 and got Bartlesville going in the right direction last year.
Norman North, which has been to two state title games in this decade and was the 2016 district champion, is another candidate as Justin Jones enters his second season there. Jones led OKC McGuinness to a pair of 5A state finals. The Timberwolves, 2-8 last season, have eight starters returning on offense. Moore and Southmoore also are teams on the rise.
Potential breakout players
Andre Dollar, Mustang
A 6-foot-6 tight end, he already has offers from Liberty and Southern Mississippi going into his sophomore season. Moved in from Naples, Florida, when his father, Sam was hired during the offseason as the Broncos’ defensive coordinator.
Haydon Grant, Owasso
A Tulsa commit, he had 43 tackles and four sacks last year, but could really be a dominant defensive end this season.
Jake Roberts, Norman North
The 6-foot-5 and 235-pound senior tight end is committed to North Texas after decommitting from Tulsa. Last year, he caught nine passes for 98 yards and a TD.
Listed in district coaches’ projected order of finish
1. Owasso Rams
Head coach: Bill Blankenship (3rd year, 18-6)
2019-20 ADM: 2,937.13
2018 record: 7-5
District titles: 1967, ’72, ’82, ’86, 2012.
State titles: 1974, 2017
Top players: Dawson Adams, S (5-10, 170, Sr.); Kelan Carney, WR (5-10, 165, So.); Cole Dugger, QB (6-1, 170, Sr.); Trey Goins, WR (6-3, 185, Jr.); Haydon Grant, DE (6-4, 225, Sr.); Isaiah Jacobs, RB (5-11, 208, Sr.); Mario Kirby, TE (6-3, 225, Sr.); Duece Mayberry, CB (6-0, 170, Sr.); Emaud Triplett, LB (5-10, 215, Jr.)
Notable: The Rams have three players returning who had more than 30 catches last season — Carney, Goins and Kirby. ... Nondistrict opponents are Bentonville (Arkansas) West, Fayetteville (Ark.) and Broken Arrow.
2. Union Redskins
Head coach: Kirk Fridrich (13th year, 138-22).
2019-20 ADM: 4,632.01
2018 record: 9-3
District titles: 1959-60, ’63-’64, ’66, ’80-’84, ’91, ’98-2011, ’13-15, ‘17-18.
State titles: 1963, 2002, ’04-05, ’08-11, ‘16.
Top players: Gabe Cantu, C (6-4, 295, Sr.); Trent DeSmet, QB (6-2, 200, Sr.); JD Geneva, QB (6-3, 200, Sr.); Mason Givens, L (6-0, 255, Sr.); AJ Green, RB/DB (6-0, 190, Jr.); Jake Henry, L (6-4, 275, Sr.); Jojo Nichols, DB (5-10, 175, Sr.); Kyler Pearson, WR (5-9, 160, Sr.); Jake Rogers, LB (5-11, 200, Sr.); Ja’Quan Sanders, DB (5-10, 175, Sr.)
Notable: Pearson, who played at Putnam City as a sophomore, has 97 catches over the past two seasons. ... Nondistrict opponents are Mansfield (Texas) Lake Ridge, Broken Arrow and Jenks.
3. Putnam North (8-3)
Angelo Bell (6-2, 190, Sr.) is a big-play receiver who scored on 13 of his 40 catches last year for coach Ryan Laverty’s Panthers.
4. Moore (5-6)
The Lions, coached by Brad Hill, are trending up after reaching the playoffs the past two years for the first time since 2005. Kansas commit Daniel “Deuce” Hishaw Jr. (6-0, 220, Sr.) returns at quarterback after producing 2,609 yards and 29 TDs last season.
5. Mustang (4-6)
Senior quarterback Hayden Conrad (6-6, 210) triggers the Broncos’ spread offense that also features running back Khari Brown (5-10, 160, Sr.)
6. Norman North (7-4)
Returning starters include QB Jackson Reamauldo (6-2, 180, Sr.) and RB Blaine Martin (5-8, 172, Sr.), who rushed for 674 yards last season.
7. Southmoore (3-7)
Coach Jeremy Stark’s SaberCats showed a three-win improvement last year and could do that again this year as they return 14 starters, including five offensive linemen. Jaedyn Scott (6-2, 200, Sr.), the QB the past two years, moves to wideout.
8. Edmond North (0-10)
The Huskies, coached by Tanner Roof in his third season, have not had a winning record since 2013.