– 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 Class A 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.
If you take a look at the preseason rankings, you may notice one team missing. The defending champion Afton Eagles. Afton was simply dominant behind the play of 2017 OKPreps Player Of The Year, Wil Amos. However, Amos has graduated and Afton also has a new head coach in charge. Despite being the defending champions, Afton will be considered an underdog heading into the 2018 season. The Eagles will still be competitive, but having to replace a player like Amos is always a tough task.
Team To Beat
Crescent fell short to Wil Amos and Afton in last year’s state championship game. As they turn the page and look at the 2018 season, the Tigers expect to be in the mix for a state championship again this season. It all starts under center as Crescent’s Hunter Bowers returns at quarterback and could end up being one of the top players in Class A football this fall. We’ve seen individual performances be good enough to carry a team the last few years. Bowers definitely has the potential to put up that kind of performance this fall. A tough district will make the road to a state championship a little bumpy for the Tigers.
At this point, you just have to pencil in Cashion as a contender every year. The Wildcats have established themselves as a perennial powerhouse in Class A football. The Wildcats return plenty of playmakers, including their quarterback Griffin Lamb. The Wildcats always have one of the top offenses in Oklahoma and having an experienced quarterback returning will give them a boost. The Wildcats find themselves in a tough district that also features rival and preseason #1 Crescent. However, the Wildcats will prove to be one of the top teams in Class A football.
Way out in the panhandle of Oklahoma, Hooker had a breakout season and was one of the top teams in Class A last year. Because of their location, Hooker can fly under the radar but that won’t be the case this fall after a 12-2 record a year ago and a run to the Class A semifinals. The Bulldogs bring back their quarterback and this offense expects to put up some big numbers as they head into this season. The only regular season setback was a shutout loss to eventual district champion Thomas. The Terriers are kings of district play with 50 district titles. However, the Bulldogs will be hungry to add their own district title to the trophy case.
Rejoice Christian Eagles
Rejoice Christian has been a team on the rise since their move up to Class A. Injuries really hurt the Eagles and their pursuit of a state championship last season. However, they bring back a wealth of experience on both sides of the ball and if they stay healthy, they could end up making a deep run. The Eagles will get a boost by the graduation of Afton’s Wil Amos. Afton knocked off Rejoice Christian in a close and competitive game during the regular season. Rejoice heads into this season as the favorite to capture the district crown and winning the district title could set them up for a deep playoff run.
Brandon Tyler returned to Oklahoma after a few seasons in Arkansas. He took over a program at Gore that was hungry to turn things around. After several losing seasons, the Pirates went 8-3 and made it to the playoffs. As they head into this season, the Pirates return a lot of key players and will look to take the next step as a true contender in Class A. The Pirates are just a few years removed from a winless season, however, they have the talent to compete in an absolutely wide open Class A. Last year’s bounce back season could end up being the first step to a possible state championship run this fall.
Storylines To Follow
New Champion Destined To Emerge
Here’s a crazy stat for you as we head into the 2018 season. In the last ten seasons, Class A has had ten different state champions. Based on that, you can definitely make the argument that Class A has had the most parity over the last few years. In fact, the last time Oklahoma had a class go ten years with ten different champions was Class 5A from 1987-1996. While Class A has their share of teams that are routinely playoff teams, we still haven’t seen one team dominate with multiple championships over a short period of time. And as we head into the 2018 season, it looks like we’re destined to see this current streak reach 11 seasons with 11 different state champs. When you look at the top ten rankings, none of the teams currently ranked have won a title in the last ten years.
Zaven Collins, Wil Amos, Who’s Next?
Part of the reason Class A has had the parity we’ve seen in the last decade is because of some of the stars we’ve seen recently. In 2016, Hominy captured a state title behind the performance from Zaven Collins. Last year, Afton brought home the gold ball and it was also in large part because of the performance from Wil Amos. Collins was a finalist for the OKPreps Player Of The Year award after his impact on offense and defense. Last year, Amos was our selection for the OKPreps Player Of The Year award after running for over 3,000 yards and was truly unstoppable on the football field. So who’s up next? Will we see another player emerge to carry his team to a gold ball?
Players To Watch
Andrew Crow – Athlete – Rejoice Christian
Andrew Crow has been a dynamic player for Rejoice Christian during the last two seasons. Whether it’s on offense or defense, Crow is a big reason why Rejoice Christian has become a major contender in Class A. If Crow can have another big season, look for the Eagles to make a deep run.
Griffin Lamb – Quarterback – Cashion
No surprise here, you have to look out for whoever is under center at Cashion. Typically one of the top passing teams in Oklahoma, last year was no different. Quarterback Griffin Lamb had a breakout season and will be looking for even more with a talented roster around him.
Hunter Bowers – Quarterback – Crescent
In 2016, Zaven Collins led Hominy to a title. Last year, it was Afton’s Wil Amos throwing on the Superman cape. This year, look for Crescent’s Hunter Bowers to possibly be that guy for the Tigers. Bowers is an absolute beast for the Tigers and can have an impact on the game in multiple ways.
Jacob Bruce – Running Back – Hulbert
After a breakout sophomore season where Hulbert’s Jacob Bruce ran for over 2,000 yards, he backed that up with another season with over 2,000 yards. Now, Bruce will be chasing some rare history as a player who could end up having three straight seasons with 2,000 yards rushing.
Tommy Smith – Running Back – Gore
Gore head coach Brandon Tyler certainly deserves his share of credit for turning around the Gore football program. However, you can’t do it without talent. Leading the charge in that department is running back Tommy Smith, who had a breakout season a year ago.
Mark Your Calendars
August 24 – Wynnewood AT Minco
We’re kicking things off in week zero with this marquee non-district match-up. Perennial powerhouse Wynnewood travels to Minco. Wynnewood has lofty expectations and Minco is looking to continue their recent run of success. We could end up seeing this match-up again in November.
September 14 – Apache AT Mangum
Before these two teams go into district play, they will square off in week three. If you look at the preseason rankings, both teams are ranked and both teams expect to contend for a gold ball this fall. The winner here will take some much needed momentum into district play the following week.
September 14 – Crescent AT Cashion
This rivalry clash will take place in week three and just about every team will still be participating in non-district play. However, because Class A has two districts with nine teams, this is actually a district opener for Cashion and Crescent. Both teams have state championship aspirations this fall.
September 28 – Hulbert AT Gore
It will still be early in the season but the district championship could be on the line here as Hulbert and Gore will square off. Both teams are ranked in the preseason top ten. Both teams have dynamic running backs to look out for. Whoever wins this game will have a boost for the rest of the season.
October 18 – Commerce AT Rejoice Christian
With Afton having to replace Wil Amos, the road to a possible district championship is a little less bumpy for ranked teams Commerce and Rejoice Christian. The district title might be on the line when these two teams square off for this Fall Break match-up in October.
Prediction For Title Game
Cashion VS Crescent
They’re scheduled to meet in week three to kick off district play. We believe these two rivals will square off again nearly three months later with a state championship on the line. Both teams have dynamic players on both sides of the ball. Both teams also have recent experience of deep playoff runs to the state title game. Cashion fell short a few years ago while Crescent lost to Afton in last year’s title game. Like all teams in Class A, each team will have to avoid the injury bug. However, if that happens, don’t be surprised to see these two teams elevate their game to championship levels throughout the season.
Be sure and listen to the OKPreps Class A Preview Podcast to find out who we think will be taking home the gold ball in December.
August 2nd: Preseason Rankings
August 3rd: Preseason All State Team
August 4th: 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 12th: 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
Today: Class A Preview
August 17th: Class A Preview Podcast
August 18th: Top Out Of State Games