– BY MICHAEL KNIGHT
It’s August and it’s time for football season! Over the next three weeks, we’ll have daily content on OKPreps previewing the 2018 football season. We continue our preview series with the 6A-D1 Season Preview. Get a breakdown on all the top contenders, storylines to follow, players and games to watch and who we have making it all the way to the championship game.
Defending Champion/Team To Beat
Bill Blankenship captured another state championship and only furthered his legacy as one of the best football coaches in Oklahoma history. Before the 2017 season, people expected Blankenship to breathe new life into an Owasso program that had been injury-plagued and coming off a 3-7 season. It was apparent early on that Blankenship had done just that. The Rams opened the season with a 48-10 win at Jenks and immediately opened up eyes around the state. However, it wasn’t just the addition of Blankenship. The Rams had one of their more talented teams in recent memory. They had the state’s top college prospect in Josh Proctor, as well as defensive lineman Courtre Alexander and safety Wayne Jones, who each signed with power five schools. The Rams would avenge a regular season loss to Union by knocking off the Redskins in the title game. They enter this year as the new team to beat, but finding replacements for those key defensive pieces and a revamped offensive line will be the top priorities to defending the gold ball they worked so hard to capture.
Broken Arrow Tigers
The Broken Arrow Tigers are tired of being asked the same question before every season. Is this the year? It’s no secret by now, Broken Arrow is without a doubt the state’s largest school, and yet the Tigers are still searching for the school’s first state championship in football. They’ve been close at different points in this decade but the hunt for gold is still on. However, this season, it feels somewhat different. First off, the Tigers’ coaching staff is solid and their won’t be a feeling out period this year after two new coordinators joined the staff last season. Then you look at the roster and try to find an area that can be considered a weakness. The only position the Tigers don’t return experience and talent is the quarterback spot but other than that, you point out the holes in this team. Running back Noah Cortes and wide receiver Matt Kaiser are talented skill guys. The offensive line is anchored by All American Andrew Raym. The defense is full of future D1 athletes at every level. In fact, this could be the most talented defensive unit that Broken Arrow has had. But that brings us back to the question at the start. Is this FINALLY the year? On paper, it looks like it very well could be. However, as we’ve learned, this game isn’t played on paper.
Until something completely changes, Jenks has always, and will always be a team you have to consider as a contender. Yes, the Trojans may look a little different after legendary head coach Allan Trimble retired. The offense may look a little different as well after offensive coordinator Dub Maddox became Victory Christian’s head coach. We’ll dive into the Keith Riggs era starting a little bit later. So it’s been a little different this offseason for the Trojans. This group is no stranger to adversity. They started the 2017 campaign 0-4 and were in a very unfamiliar position. The Trojans regrouped and would capture the district title and make another semifinal appearance, before losing to eventual state champion Owasso. A very bright spot for the Trojans will be the guy under center. Ian Corwin heads into his third season as the Trojans’ signal caller. That familiarity will be something that the Trojans lean on in the early part of the season that features another brutal non-district schedule. Joining Corwin in the backfield will be running back Noah Hernandez. Another experienced playmaker that will provide a spark in the Trojan offense.
Rounding out the top contenders is last year’s state runner-up and another usual suspect in these discussions. Union returns the majority of their starters for another run at the state title. This senior group is extremely talented, deep and experienced. On offense, the Redskins will be led by their QB/RB duo of Peyton Thompson and Darius Boone Jr. While Thompson has to find some new receivers after AK Wilson and CJ Moore graduated, Thompson does have one of the top running backs in the state sharing the backfield with him. The defense has future D1 talent at all three levels. Led by Darrias Murdock and Isaiah McGuire, the defensive line shouldn’t experience a drop off now that Jordan Kelley is at OU. Trae Thompson and Elijah Tomlin are two of the more underrated linebackers in the state. And the combination of AJ Green, Cam Watts and J.T. McCloud gives Union one of, if not the fastest defensive backfields. It also shouldn’t be overlooked that Union has the best kicker in the state. Not only is Noah Rauschenberg accurate, but the football fires off his foot. He routinely puts kickoff’s into the end zone, limiting what opponents can do in the return game.
So many teams could be picked as a darkhorse heading into this season. The westside appears to be somewhat wide open right now. But more on that later. For now, let’s look at the Broncos as a possible darkhorse this year if some things fall their way. Mustang returns just about everyone on the defensive side of the ball and will lean on that defense early on. The offense still has plenty of holes to fill from last year but that defense is talented enough to keep them in just about every game. After three straight seasons that saw Mustang go 8-4 and make it to the 6A-D1 semifinals, the Broncos missed out on the playoffs all together last year. Mustang has established themselves as a program that rarely gets put down, and if they are down, they’re not down for long. Look for Mustang to bounce back and potentially return as a challenger in 6A-D1.
Storylines To Follow
New Era Beginning At Jenks
Yes, a new chapter in Jenks football will begin this fall. And yes, you can expect the Trojans to continue their tradition of excellence. However, if your new head coach Keith Riggs, this fall is going to be unlike anything that he’s ever experienced. The Trojans had unprecedented success under hall of fame coach Allan Trimble. They not only became the best program in Oklahoma but one of the best football programs in the country. Now, that new chapter must begin and Riggs will be looked at to continue the winning tradition. However, Jenks returns plenty of talent and will once again be one of the top teams in 6A-D1. Jenks should still stock up on that blonde hair dye for a playoff run in November.
A new era is not only beginning at Jenks but it’s beginning in Oklahoma period. From 1996-2016, Class 6A and more recently 6A-D1 was owned by Jenks and Union. During that 21-year stretch, the Trojans captured 13 state titles and Union would bring home 8 of their own. Two decades ago, nobody envisioned this streak lasting. Even a decade ago people would say it was only a matter of time before somebody knocked off the old guard. Now the gold ball remains in the Tulsa metro area but in a new home north of the old familiar faces. Owasso is now the top dog in Oklahoma and it’s opened up the conversation about what it will take for other 6A-D1 programs to take that next step towards the mountain top.
Wild Wild Westside
Every single season, the question is asked about which team from the westside can knock off any of the Tulsa-area powers. And before most seasons, the answer is pretty clear. One or maybe two teams have emerged as legitimate threats to 918 supremacy. However, as we head into the 2018 campaign, your guess is as good as our’s. Perennial westside powers Norman North and Westmoore were hit hard by graduation. Mustang has one of the better defenses in 6A football but there are plenty of question marks on the offensive side of the ball. Edmond Santa Fe looks like the most talented team on paper but still have to prove it on the field. And you also have to look at Moore as a serious threat after they made it to the playoffs and return plenty of talent. The playing field out west being wide open should make for some entertaining Friday’s.
Players To Watch
Daniel “Deuce” Hishaw – Quarterback – Moore
Moore’s Deuce Hishaw had a breakout season that nobody saw coming in 6A-D1 last season. Because of Hishaw’s dynamic ability at quarterback, the Moore Lions returned to the playoffs after a long postseason hiatus. Hishaw was a threat to throw and run the ball a season ago. As he progresses, the Lions will continue to become more of a threat in 6A-D1.
Darius Boone Jr. – Running Back – Union
This time last year, Union’s Darius Boone was on this same list as a player to watch. Once Boone became the main guy at running back, he put up monster numbers. Union has a history of using multiple running backs throughout the season. However, Boone showed in the second half of the season and during the playoffs that he can handle the majority of the carries.
Ian Corwin – Quarterback – Jenks
Jenks quarterback Ian Corwin is a rare three-year starter for the Trojans, let alone a three-year starter at QB. Corwin has put up big numbers over the last two years but the Trojans have fallen short of the ultimate goal of a state title. Corwin will have a new offensive coordinator, and he has to replace go-to receiver DJ Wagoner, but the expectations will remain the same.
Isaiah Jacobs – Running Back – Owasso
Owasso running back Isaiah Jacobs is primed to be one of the breakout stars of the 2018 season. Jacobs was used as a backup to Bryce Cabrera last season. However, Jacobs will step into Cabrera’s role this fall. Plugging in Jacobs to that role could end up being an improvement. He definitely has playmaker in his DNA. His older brother Josh is a running back at Alabama.
Noah Cortes – Running Back – Broken Arrow
Broken Arrow is littered with talented players that could qualify for this list. However, we’re looking at running back Noah Cortes after his stellar junior campaign. Cortes proved that he could be an absolute workhorse at the running back spot for the Tigers. As BA continues to work in a new quarterback, Cortes is more than capable of carrying the Tiger offense.
Mark Your Calendars
August 24 – Union AT Broken Arrow
So we won’t have the spotlight of this match-up being on ESPN this season. However, you should still get your popcorn ready as these two teams kickoff the season. You can make the argument that Broken Arrow and Union are the two most talented teams in Oklahoma this season. If that ends up being true, this game will be one of the more entertaining games in 2018.
September 7 – Jenks VS Union
Do we really need to explain this one? Jenks-Union is without question one of the top high school football rivalries not only in Oklahoma but in the country. Despite the fact that for the first time since 1996, neither team is a defending state champion, this is always a must-watch game. Last year’s Backyard Bowl featured plenty of fireworks as Union outscored Jenks 59-40.
September 7 – Mustang AT Edmond Santa Fe
It’s talked about every year, including in this preview, which team from the 405 will emerge? When you look at the rankings, Edmond Santa Fe and Mustang are the two top ranked teams from the OKC area. Those two teams will face off early on this fall. While things can certainly change between then and the end of the year, the winner of this game will have plenty of confidence.
September 21 – Jenks AT Broken Arrow
While most eyes will be on the Owasso-Union match-up, this game is just as important in the big picture of 6A-D1. Just like that Owasso-Union match-up, the winner of this game will be in the driver’s seat to become the district champion. As mentioned earlier, Broken Arrow on paper looks extremely talented but has to prove it on the field. A win over Jenks will open some eyes.
September 21 – Owasso AT Union
This one is just as self explanatory as the Jenks-Union game. In last year’s regular season meeting, all eyes were on this match-up as Owasso coach Bill Blankenship returned to Union where he was head coach for nearly 15 years. The game met expectations as they played a double overtime thriller that ended with Union narrowly beating the Rams 44-41.
Prediction For Title Game
Owasso VS Union
Immediately following their double overtime thriller in the regular season, we tweeted out to sign us up for a rematch. Let’s run this one back one more time. As we learned last year, you can’t look at the regular season meeting and assume the outcome. The regular season meeting featured fireworks and was high-scoring. The complete opposite was the case in the championship game. Whoever loses the regular season meeting will have a more difficult time making it to the title game but we believe we’ll see the sequel between these two growing rivals. Last year, it appeared obvious even in September that these two programs would be squaring off for a gold ball. This year, that crystal ball is a little more cloudy. Broken Arrow could very well find themselves in this spot if everything comes together for the Tigers. It might be a predictable pick, it might be the safe pick, but nothing is boring about this potential rematch for the title.
Be sure and listen to the OKPreps 6A-D1 Preview Podcast to find out who we think will be taking home the gold ball in November.
August 2nd: Preseason Rankings
August 3rd: Preseason All State Team
Today: Class 6A-D1 Preview
August 5th: Class 6A D1 Preview Podcast
August 6th: Class 6A D2 Preview
August 7th: Class 6A-D2 Preview Podcast
August 8th: Class 5A Preview
August 9th: Class 5A Preview Podcast
August 10th: Class 4A Preview
August 11th: Class 4A Preview Podcast
August 12th: Class 3A Preview
August 13th: Class 3A Preview Podcast
August 14th: Class 2A Preview
August 15th: Class 2A Preview Podcast
August 16th: Class A Preview
August 17th: Class A Preview Podcast
August 18th: 8-Man Preview
August 19th: Top Out Of State Games