– BY MICHAEL KNIGHT
Spring football practice opens up across the state on Monday. Programs will return to the field and throw on the pads for the first time since hanging them up last fall. While we still have a few months before the 2018 season kicks off, it’s never too early to start looking ahead. Here, we look at some of the top storylines facing some top programs heading into the 2018 season. Stay tuned to OKPreps over the next two weeks as we’ll have video coverage from across the state, visiting with some of the top teams.
Keith Riggs Era Begins At Jenks
Several top programs across the state will have new head coaches as they open the 2018 campaign. However, none of the programs compare to what Jenks has done over the last two decades. And for the first time since 1995, the Trojans will open up the season with a head coach other than Allan Trimble. Last week, Keith Riggs was promoted to take over the Trojan football program. He’s been an assistant at Jenks since 2003. He was most recently the defensive coordinator.
Riggs takes over a Jenks program that has been built into a monster by Allan Trimble. Last season, Jenks renamed the stadium after their longtime coach. Trimble announced in April that he was going to officially retire from Jenks in June. Trimble was diagnosed with ALS in 2016 and knew it was time for someone else to feed the monster he had created. 22 seasons, nearly 250 wins and 13 state championships later, the Trojans will have a new man in charge of the program.
You always hear stories about how you don’t want to follow a legend if you’re a coach. It never quite works out for the next guy. However, Riggs will be no stranger to what awaits him as the man in charge. He’s witnessed first hand what it takes over the last 15 seasons. Nevertheless, the next chapter in the book on Jenks football begins now.
Millwood Primed For Historic Season
The Millwood Falcons were an unstoppable machine last year, on their way to a second straight state championship and second straight 14-0 season. The Falcons will have to replace some key pieces off of last year’s team but they return plenty of firepower for this year. And this year’s team will have the chance to do something that hasn’t been done in Oklahoma. No high school football team has ever had three consecutive perfect seasons.
Now, this record is dealing with high school football after the mid-40’s. Records on football in Oklahoma before World War II are somewhat sketchy, depending on where you get them. However, since the 40’s, no team has had three straight perfect seasons. The only exception to that is Morrison and Shattuck. Those two teams each had winning streaks of over 80 games. But that was playing 8-man football. The great Ada and Jenks teams in the 90’s, never went unbeaten in three straight years. Even more recently with Wagoner, the team that won 48 consecutive games, they didn’t have three straight perfect seasons. Millwood has the chance to accomplish that this fall.
And it would be unwise to pick against the Falcons. Despite the losses to some valuable players, Millwood returns the top running back in the state in Marcus Major. They also will feature the top receiver in the state in Demariyon Houston. The Falcons also bring back Daniel Howard, the Falcons’ swiss army knife. Howard played a variety of positions last year and he ended the year at quarterback when Trell Wilson suffered an injury.
The Falcons closed out the 2017 season with one of the more impressive stretches in recent memory. They won their final seven games by a combined score of 358-7. That featured six straight shutouts before giving up 7 points in a 42-7 championship win over Washington. Millwood’s 2018 campaign will surely present more challenges. With 3A dropping to a 32-team class, some really strong programs head down to compete in 2A. Not to mention that Millwood’s championship opponent Washington is now in their district. Oh and a new team on Millwood’s non-district schedule is powerhouse Heritage Hall.
Class 3A Gets A Makeover
As mentioned above, Class 3A will have a completely new look as we head into the 2018 season. 3A will join 4A and 5A as a class with only 32 teams. Because of that, a lot of teams have been knocked down from 3A to 2A and from 2A to Class A. However, 3A will also feature some heavy hitters making their way down from Class 4A. Reigning 4A champion Heritage Hall returns to 3A after a two-year stretch in 4A football. When we last saw the Chargers in 3A, they reigned supreme, winning back to back championships in 2014 and 2015. Joining the Chargers is fellow private school power Cascia Hall. The Commandoes return to 3A where they were very successful earlier in this decade.
Defending champion John Marshall will have their work cut out for them as they head into this season. Just competing in their district will be tough enough. They are in a district with Heritage Hall and a Kingfisher team that returns a wealth of talent on both sides of the ball. The 2018 season begins a new cycle for teams in new districts and new classes. For Class 3A, it’s a brand new day with nearly half of the teams competing for that elusive gold ball.
Power Shift In 6A-D2 (Sorta)
In the first four years since the split in Class 6A, the eastside has owned both classes of 6A. However, 6A-D2 is starting to see a bit of a power shift that started last season and could continue this fall. Lawton and Midwest City made runs to the semifinals. Stillwater returns a wealth of talent and Putnam City could end up being a challenger once again.
Bixby captured the first three state championships before Booker T Washington knocked off the Spartans in the title game last year. Make no mistake, the Hornets will be the favorite to win the gold ball again as we head into the season but you can’t overlook Lawton, Midwest City and Stillwater when you consider the talented players that are returning for both teams. Before last year, Lawton was the only westside team to win a playoff game since the split in Class 6A. That changed last year and it could end up continuing this fall.
Carl Albert-Bishop McGuinness Part III Coming Soon
While 6A-D2 might be seeing a shift of power heading west, Class 5A has been owned by the west side over the last few seasons. More specifically, they’ve been owned by Carl Albert and Bishop McGuinness. The two district rivals have met in the last two state championship games and the Titans captured the gold ball on both occasions. As we head into spring football and look ahead to the 2018 forecast, it’s hard to pick a team other than these two to be playing for the gold ball come December.
Carl Albert has to replace Player Of The Year candidate Jason Taylor II, who did just about everything for the Titans last year. However, they return perhaps the best QB/RB duo with Ben Harris and Rabbit Taylor. McGuinness will have a new head coach after Justin Jones left to take over at Norman North. However, the Irish return Dominic Richardson, who was one of the best running backs in the state last year, until his season was cut short by a leg injury.
Some eastside teams have made a run in Class 5A over the last few seasons but it’s no secret that the west is where Class 5A is won. And until a team from the eastside makes a run and knocks off Bishop McGuinness or Carl Albert, or both, that gold ball is going to stay under a 405 area code.