– 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.
It’s tough to replace a Player Of The Year and continue your success. Afton went undefeated on their way to a state championship a season ago. Quarterback Wil Amos ran for over 3,000 yards and 45 touchdowns, leading the Eagles to a gold ball and winning the OKPreps Player Of The Year award. Amos graduated and the Eagles were in rebuild-mode this season. They’re the only defending champion that did not make the playoffs this year. They went from an undefeated season last year to nearly going 0-10. They beat up on Ketchum in week ten to avoid going winless.
TEAM TO BEAT
Cashion is no stranger to being in this position heading into the playoffs. The Wildcats have been the team to beat before but have fallen short of the ultimate goal. However, heading into this year’s postseason, it feels different with this Cashion team. In the past, the Wildcats have relied on offense to outscore teams. This year, they’re outscoring teams and then turning around and shutting them down on defense. In previous seasons, the Wildcats have gotten far in the playoffs but their roster numbers dwindled. This year, the Wildcats have more depth than ever before. Not to mention, the Wildcats don’t have to worry about running into an Afton team that has ended their season the last two years. Another item working in Cashion’s favor is the bracket itself. Cashion’s road to the title game is on the much favorable side of the bracket.
MARQUEE 1ST ROUND GAME
Minco (8-2) AT Apache (7-2)
The majority of these marquee match-up’s in the first round center around one dynamic. Loaded districts. Districts that feature two, three or even sometimes four teams that find themselves ranked in the top ten at various points of the season. That’s the case here as Minco, one of the top teams in Class A, finds themselves as a not-so-typical three-seed and hitting the road to take on Apache. Minco dropped an early game to Crossings Christian and a late game to Cashion, both of which are ranked in the top five. Because of those losses, that sets up a great first round match-up that is certainly worthy of being a quarterfinal game in Class A. Apache fell to Ringling in a district title clash to fall to the two seed.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Andrew Crow – RB/DB – Rejoice Christian
Rejoice Christian senior Andrew Crow has had a season to remember for the Eagles. He’s put up monster numbers on offense, defense and special teams. However, what’s more impressive than the numbers is the fact that Crow has sat out the second half of the majority of games this year. Unfortunately for the rest of Class A, Crow is well rested heading into the playoffs.
Griffin Lamb – QB – Cashion
Cashion has a balanced offense, a stingy defense and they feel like this is their best shot at winning a title. Making the offense go has been quarterback Griffin Lamb. he is one of the best passers in the state and is basically another coach out on the field for the Wildcats. Cashion has certainly had their share of strong teams, but Lamb and this year’s bunch might top the list.
Jacob Bruce – RB – Hulbert
As he heads into Friday night’s first round match-up, Hulbert running back Jacob Bruce is less than 300 yards away from becoming the state’s all time leading rusher. He’s also closing in on another milestone. He’s less than 200 yards away from 3,000 yards this season. That’s only been done a handful of times ever. Afton’s Wil Amos accomplished that last year.
Ryker Hughes – RB – Morrison
When you get down to the smaller classes, like Class A, an injury can make or break your season. Luckily for Morrison, an injury to star running back Ryker Hughes has healed and he appears good to go as Morrison looks to take back the top spot in Class A. When he’s healthy, Morrison has been one of the toughest running backs to slow down over the last few years.
Zach Hale – QB/DB – Christian Heritage
Christian Heritage had to fight to get into the playoffs and they did just that in a week ten win over Crescent. Leading the way, as he’s done all year was Zach Hale. The quarterback and defender has put up some monster numbers on both sides of the ball for the Crusaders this year. If he continues that, Christian Heritage could end up being a sneaky dark horse.
New Champion To Emerge
We wrote about this storyline before the season started and it could end up holding true as we get closer to crowning a new state champ. And when we say new, we mean a team that hasn’t won recently. Class A has had the most parity in Oklahoma over the last decade. In the last ten years, ten different schools won the gold ball. No school won more than one. That trend could end up continuing with some of the favorites falling into that category of not having won a title in the last decade.
Preseason #1 Misses Playoffs
Not only did the defending champions miss out on the playoffs, the team they beat in the title game is not in the playoffs. Crescent was our preseason number one ranked team and they find themselves on the outside looking in on the playoffs this year. After battling in a brutal district, it came down to a loss to Christian Heritage in week ten that kept Crescent from getting into the playoffs.
Who’s The Next Zaven Collins, Wil Amos?
In the last two seasons, Class A has been dominated by superstars. The 2016 champion Hominy Bucks and 2017 champion Afton Eagles were carried to the gold ball by superstars. Hominy had Zaven Collins and we witnessed Wil Amos bring gold back to Afton. As we look towards the 2018 playoffs, will we see another individual performance go above and beyond all the others to claim a state championship?