– BY MICHAEL KNIGHT
OKPreps will have wall to wall coverage of the 2018 playoffs. We kick things off with our playoff preview series. Breaking down the bracket, checking out the contenders and giving you some players to watch. You’ll also hear from coaches with our OKPreps Scene Setter Podcasts.
John Marshall Bears
John Marshall completed their rebuilding journey by capturing the state championship last season. The Bears have turned into a powerhouse under head coach Rashaun Woods. The memories of this program before Woods took over just a few years ago are quickly slipping away as the Bears win more and more games. Behind running back Devonte Lee, the Bears captured the gold ball in a low-scoring affair over Beggs. With Lee in the backfield, you knew the Bears would have a shot in any game they were in. Coming into this season, they had to begin life without Lee as the workhorse back is now a freshman at Nevada. This offense has become a completely balanced attack and is one of the top scoring offenses in the state. However, because of a brutal district that included Heritage Hall and Kingfisher, John Marshall finds themselves as the three-seed and will have to go on the road in the first round.
TEAM TO BEAT
Heritage Hall Chargers
The conversation has to start with Heritage Hall when you talk about the team to beat in Class 3A. Heritage Hall captured the Class 4A state title a year ago. And in 2014 and 2015, their last two years in 3A, they won back to back state titles. In fact, Heritage Hall hasn’t lost to a 3A team since 2013. And since the start of the 2014 season the Chargers have lost just three games total. So when you talk about Heritage Hall, you’re talking about a team and a program that truly expects to win and expects to bring home another state title. This year is no different for the Chargers. They opened up the season on the road against a Millwood team that is one of the best in the state, regardless of class. They lost a highly competitive game to the Falcons in week one but have rattled off nine straight wins. They come into the playoffs as district champion, winning over top five teams John Marshall and Kingfisher. This isn’t a perfect Heritage Hall team by any means, but would you pick against them?
MARQUEE 1ST ROUND GAME
John Marshall (8-2) AT Plainview (8-2)
We mentioned how brutal the district that John Marshall was in. The Bears are the defending state champions, have one of the top offenses in the state and are by no means a typical three-seed. Plainview has to feel fortunate that they’re playing at home but they’re probably not too happy that they get the defending champs in the first round. Plainview is always one of those perennial powers that finds their way into the playoffs and win a few games. In fact, Plainview has won at least one playoff game in their last eight appearances in the postseason. However, John Marshall doesn’t care about history. They’re back into the playoffs, looking to defend their state championship. The first round draw is a tough one for both teams, but that’s what’s great about the playoffs.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Chase Ricke – QB – Lincoln Christian
Lincoln Christian has a long line of great quarterbacks and junior signal caller Chase Ricke might be the next in line to add his name to that list. The junior QB had a breakout season last year as a sophomore and he’s only gotten better this year. After throwing for 25 touchdowns a year ago, he’s thrown for 30 touchdowns as Lincoln enters the playoffs. The Bulldogs have weapons all over the offense and Ricke is they key that starts the engine.
Conner Carey – RB – Heritage Hall
Heritage Hall already had a dangerous weapon at running back with Billy Ross. However, the Chargers now have a serious 1-2 punch in their backfield with Ross and the emergence of Conner Carey. The senior has been a breakout star for the Chargers. Running for over 1,000 yards and 16 touchdowns. He’s also a threat in the passing game, catching 7 touchdowns on the season. He’s scored 24 total touchdowns this year. He had zero last season.
Jerod Leviston – QB – John Marshall
We mentioned how John Marshall has one of the top scoring offenses in the state and a balanced attack. However, believe it or not, it’s been quarterback Jerod Leviston who has done the majority of scoring for the Bears this year. After relying on the running game the last few years, Leviston has been one of the top passers in the state, throwing for well over 30 touchdowns on the season. He has weapons around him, making this offense very dangerous.
Jett Sternberger – QB – Kingfisher
Kingfisher is another one of those perennial powers that are used to playing in big games and are used to make deep runs into the playoffs. Leading the way for the Kingfisher offense is quarterback Jett Sternberger. The Kingfisher senior will have the opportunity to play either college football or basketball as he’s being recruited for both. But up first, he wants to wrap up his high school football career with a gold ball.
Trey Kiser – RB/LB – Sulphur
Sulphur’s Trey Kiser is one of the most complete players in the state. He is an absolutely dynamic running back but if you ask the coaches around Sulphur, they believe he’s better on the defensive side of the ball. Kiser has ran for back to back 2,000 yard seasons. Kiser and the Bulldogs have hopes for a deep playoff run and contend for the state title. Kiser has the ability to completely change the playoffs on both sides of the ball.
Cascia Hall Back In The Fold
Cascia Hall is one of several teams that has dropped back down to Class 3A and they’re once again back in the playoffs. No matter what class they’re in, Cascia Hall always finds their way to the postseason. In fact, with Davis missing out on the playoffs this year, Cascia Hall is now the active leader in the state, making their 32nd consecutive appearance in the playoffs. They’re two away from matching Davis and Thomas all time record of 34.
Because of the district shuffling and Class 3A dropping back to a 32-team class, we don’t see a single rematch from last year’s playoff in the first round this season. For the first time since earlier in this decade, the 3A champion will only have to win four games, instead of five, to bring home a gold ball. Despite the shakeup, it’s still odd that we don’t have a single rematch in the first round. However, it is refreshing to see how it’ll shake out.
Seminole Gold Ball/Record Chasin’
Seminole is once again in the playoffs and they have their sights set on winning a state championship. However, if they’re fortunate enough to bring home a gold ball, that won’t be the only monumental achievement. With four more wins, Seminole head coach Mike Snyder would become the state’s all time leader in wins. Seiling’s Bruce Hendrickson holds the record at 363. Snyder currently sits at 360. Four wins and Snyder will have the record, and the gold ball.