– BY MICHAEL KNIGHT
Defending Champion/Team To Beat
It’s no secret that the Wagoner Bulldogs have been the golden boys of Class 4A and nothing has changed as we enter the 2017 season. However, the Bulldogs will have to find someone to replace All State quarterback and safety Malcolm Rodriguez. The Bulldogs won’t be hurting for playmakers. They return star receiver Nikia Jones as well as linebacker Patrick Curley. The Bulldogs carry a lengthy winning streak into the season and have no intentions of letting go of their top spot.
When you think Cascia Hall football, most people immediately jump to the “Blue Swarm” defense. However, the Commandos could be led by their offense with nearly everyone back from last year’s semifinal team. Leading the way for Cascia will be quarterback Dalton Abney, who threw for nearly 2,000 yards last year. Tanner Swab is also a playmaker to watch as he makes an impact on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.
Clinton has gone through a bit of a youth movement and it’s been a few years since the Red Tornadoes were considered contenders headed into the season. However, that youth has turned into experience and Reade Box heads into 2017 for his first full season as Clinton’s head coach. Clinton has plenty of momentum after last year. They started the season 2-2 and would turn things around, winning 8 straight games and making it all the way to the 4A semifinals.
Heritage Hall’s move up from 3A to 4A didn’t have an impact on the Chargers’ winning ways. Heritage Hall extended their win streak all the way to 38 games before they were stunned by Cascia Hall in the quarterfinals. Three-year starter Blake Adams returns at quarterback and he has plenty of experienced playmakers around him. The Chargers are ready for the season to start so they can begin a new winning streak.
Last year, Hilldale made the jump up to Class 4A after being very successful in 3A. The change in competition didn’t slow down the Hornets. Hilldale went 11-1 and captured the district crown. In their 11 wins, they won every game by over 20 points. The Hornets were upset by Clinton in the quarterfinals. However, Hilldale has some new faces on both sides of the ball. But if last year taught us anything, it’s that we shouldn’t underestimate what the Hornets can do on Friday nights.
Storylines To Follow
Casey Thompson Coming To Newcastle
Newcastle went 1-9 last year and has a first year head coach in Jeff Brickman. However, there’s plenty of reasons to be excited if you’re a Racers fan. Brickman comes over after spending the last two seasons as offensive coordinator at Southmoore. Also making the move over from Southmoore is star quarterback Casey Thompson. The Texas commit has been dominant in 6A-D1 in the passing and running game under Brickman. Now they’ll bring their firework display to Newcastle and introduce it to Class 4A. Thompson has thrown for over 50 touchdowns and ran for over 30 touchdowns in his career so far. While Thompson will have to get acquainted with his new teammates, the expectations are legitimate. Newcastle could have an exceptional bounce back season.
Oolagah Tired Of Silver Trophies
If you’re an Oologah fan, this might feel like opening up old scars. Feel free to move on and skip this storyline. Oologah has made it to the last three consecutive state championship games and all three times the Mustangs have walked away with the silver ball. All three occasions have seen the Mustangs run into district rival Wagoner. After losing the regular season meeting in 2014, Wagoner has won five straight against the Mustangs. Oologah will be looking to get back to the title game once again and if Wagoner isn’t standing in their way, all the better. However, the Mustangs will have a lot of talented players to replace this fall. They’ll need a new quarterback after the graduation of Casey Base. They also need to replace the best defensive player in the state last year in defensive end Brock Martin.
Wagoner Chasing History
Wagoner has won three consecutive Class 4A state championships and have a winning streak that has reached 37 straight games. The Bulldogs now set their attention on chasing not only a fourth consecutive gold ball, they’re chasing history too. They’ll make history if they win a fourth state title in a row, not too many programs have been able to accomplish that. However, they’re getting closer and closer to the state record for most consecutive wins by an 11-man football team. Ada set the record in the mid-nineties when they won 42 consecutive games. The overall state record which will more than likely never be touched is 92 straight wins by 8-man powerhouse Shattuck. If Wagoner starts out the season 6-0, they will be the new owners of the record. And Wagoner isn’t shying away from wanting that record.
Players To Watch
Blake Adams – Quarterback/Safety – Heritage Hall
Heritage Hall’s Blake Adams has been making an impact for the Chargers forever. He’s going into his third season as starting quarterback and fourth season as starting safety. On offense, Adams has been surgical with his precision in the passing game. For his career, he’s completing 65% of his passes with 59 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions. He also has 229 tackles and 10 interceptions on defense.
Casey Thompson – Quarterback – Newcastle
When Casey Thompson officially enrolled at Newcastle and became apart of the Racer football team, he immediately became the top player in Class 4A. That’s just the way it is when you’re dealing with a true dual-threat quarterback that can put up video game numbers in just three quarters. You add that he’s working with his old OC and Thompson will bring the fireworks.
Mikey Winston – Running Back – Hilldale
Hilldale had zero problems when they made the move from Class 3A up to Class 4A. All the Hornets did was go 10-0 during the regular season. A big reason for that was running back Mikey Winston. He’s not the biggest running back in the state but his numbers are huge. He ran for a state-leading 42 touchdowns. He was a workhorse for the Hornets with over 300 carries.
Nikia Jones – Wide Receiver – Wagoner
Wagoner has had an absolute star during their three-year run and it’s wide receiver Nikia Jones. The Wagoner standout has caught 39 touchdowns in his career and has totaled over 2,500 yards receiving. For his career, Jones has averaged an astounding 20+ yards per reception. He’s been a match-up nightmare since he was a freshman and that will continue this fall.
Rusty Rudd – Wide Receiver/Safety – Fort Gibson
Rusty Rudd did a little bit of everything for Fort Gibson last season and you can expect much of the same this fall as the Tigers try to get back to the Class 4A playoffs. Rudd has emerged as one of the top ranked athlete prospects in Oklahoma’s 2018 class. Whether it’s on offense or defense, Rudd has the chance to make plenty of plays and became a household name this year.
Mark Your Calendars
September 22 – Cascia Hall AT Wagoner
Plenty of people know about the Oologah-Wagoner rivalry but don’t forget about Wagoner’s run-in’s with Cascia Hall. The Bulldogs have bounced Cascia out of the playoffs the last two years in the semifinals. These are the two top ranked teams and the district crown might be up for grabs before October.
September 22 – Heritage Hall AT Clinton
These two teams used to square off in non-district play. Last year, Heritage Hall moved up to 4A, and were put in Clinton’s district. The Chargers have won three straight against the Red Tornadoes. Clinton turned things around after last year’s loss, winning eight straight with a trip to the semifinals.
October 6 – McLain AT Wagoner
On paper, this game isn’t very interesting. Over the last three years, Wagoner has beaten McLain by a combined score of 141-6 with two of the wins coming in shutout fashion. However, if Wagoner is unbeaten coming into this district match-up, they’ll be playing for the state record of 43 straight wins.
October 13 – Oologah AT Wagoner
Third game featuring the three-time champion Wagoner Bulldogs. The next chapter of the Oologah-Wagoner rivalry will take place the week after Wagoner has the chance to set the record. Oologah can get a little revenge by ending the record streak a week after Wagoner got it.
October 20 – Heritage Hall AT Newcastle
Newcastle went 1-9 last season but the Racers have high expectations with new head coach Jeff Brickman and transfer quarterback Casey Thompson. By this date, we’ll know how good Newcastle can be. But can they contend for a district crown? This game will give a good answer for that.
Prediction For Title Game With Champion
Wagoner Over Cascia Hall
It’s so difficult to make a prediction for Class 4A that doesn’t include the Wagoner Bulldogs. It’s still up for debate whether or not they’ll have another perfect season going but you can’t make a good enough argument not to pick Wagoner to win another state championship. However, for the first time during Wagoner’s dominant stretch, they’ll take down someone other than Oologah. But it’ll be a familiar foe. Cascia Hall has a lot of underrated firepower coming back this fall and they have one of the best head coaches in the state in Joe Medina. Cascia Hall has been close to upsetting Wagoner in the past and it’s not crazy to think they could do it again. But until Wagoner gets beat, you can’t go against Dale Condict and his Bulldogs when a state title is up for grabs.