High school football doesn’t return in full until next week, but rest assured.
While we wait for the entree, there are three local games tonight that will serve as a temporary appetizer.
Sequoyah travels to Miami looking to end an 11-game losing streak, Inola visits Class 3A No. 2 Lincoln Christian and in the Progress Game of the Week, Claremore Christian hosts Foyil in a battle of the only two eight-man teams in Rogers County.
Here is a look at what to expect from the Week Zero slate.
GAME OF THE WEEK
FOYIL AT CLAREMORE CHRISTIAN
Jonathan Hall can already feel the pressure.
Although Foyil finished 8-3 in 2018 and reached the Class B playoffs, the first-year coach is taking over a rebuilding project.
The Panthers graduated 11 players from last year’s 23-man roster. Among those departing was quarterback Lloyd McKnight.
Meanwhile, former coach Lance Williams decided to step away from football to focus on his responsibilities as principal.
Despite all the unknowns, Hall likes the look of his team heading into the season opener against Claremore Christian.
He does, however, expect a much closer game than last year’s 50-6 thumping of the Warriors.
“I don’t want to sound too arrogant, though I think we have a solid team,” Hall said. “I’m not overlooking anybody. I’m just trying to take it one week at a time and see what I can do.”
Hall hasn’t seen anything from the Warriors yet because they don’t have preseason scrimmages, but if they are anything like last season, he said his team will have its hands full.
“That taught us that we need to be disciplined in our defense,” Hall said. “We have to think boot, counter, reverse every time.”
That might be a little easier this year with the absence of do-it-all player Mason Mullins, who now plays college ball in Texas.
Mullins, who helped Claremore Christian win the Heartland Christian Athletic Association Class 2A championship last season, led the Warriors with 80 yards rushing in last year’s meeting.
Claremore Christian was a bit luckier in terms of using film for pregame preparations.
Foyil scrimmaged Wesleyan Christian last week in Bartlesville, providing Warriors coach Ryan Mullins and his staff an opportunity to see the Panthers live before game day.
“I know they graduated a lot of seniors off a really nice squad last year, but I think their fullback (Gus Spence) is coming back,” Ryan Mullins said. “We’ve seen them a little bit, and we pay attention to schools around Rogers County anyway, so we’ve known for a number of years what they run. There’s a lot of double-tight stuff and some single-split stuff.
“But with a new coach, you’re never quite sure.”
SEQUOYAH AT MIAMI
As Sequoyah headed home from the Rogers County Rumble last Friday, coach Rob Gilbreath noticed something different about his team.
There was no sulking. There was no brooding disappointment radiating throughout the bus.
The Eagles didn’t hold Oologah and Catoosa scoreless during their 30-minute scrimmages, nor did they find the end zone themselves.
Sequoyah did, however, tally some timely goal-line stands in both exhibitions. That is a feat last year’s team, which surrendered 42.2 points per game, probably wouldn’t have accomplished.
To Gilbreath, the difference is simple.
“I think the difference is those kids realized, ‘Hey, we just went up against Oologah — which is huge, by the way — and held our own,’” Gilbreath said. “The same with Catoosa. ‘Hey, these are two 4A teams that were in the playoffs last year, and we competed with them.’ I think they were really shocked. They didn’t really know what they could do. That proved if you can bond together as a team, you can compete with those bigger teams. It’s all about effort, playing with heart and not quitting.
“I think they’re having more fun. The camaraderie is better now, and there’s no griping and arguing, and there’s no not showing up at practice. It’s a different atmosphere. I think they trust each other, they’re having fun with each other and they’re more dependable than they were last year.”
He hopes those attributes will carry into the Eagles’ season opener at Miami tonight.
Last season, Sequoyah dropped a 24-10 decision to the Bulldogs, but Gilbreath said the result was a bit misleading.
“I actually felt like we had the better team, but mistakes and turnovers cost us the game,” Gilbreath said. “This year they might be a little better than us, but in the first game, whoever makes the least amount of mistakes will probably get the win. We’re pretty evenly matched.”
The Eagles’ seemingly improved defense will be in for a battle again, for Miami returns its starting quarterback, three huge offensive linemen and a triple-threat rushing attack.
“They have their quarterback returning, and they’re really big offensive line wise,” Gilbreath said. “I’d say their skill kids are average at best. Their strength is definitely their offensive and defensive line.”
Quarterback Gavin Payton has shown the ability to run and throw the ball, and he has plenty of protection from Jackson Satterwhite (6-foot-5, 285 pounds), Trenton Spunaugle (6-1, 295) and Clay McCormick (6-0, 225).
Expect Payton, as well as the backfield trio of Jay Porter, Casey Perry and Gabe McCleary to run behind the big guys early and often.
Gilbreath said he isn’t sure which back will get the most carries because they all have different strengths.
“I’ve seen all of them have great runs, so I don’t know who is going to be the main one they play against us,” Gilbreath said. “One is a little faster, one is a little bigger and stronger and runs harder and one is more shifty.”
Look for Seth Swingle to make some plays with his hands at the receiver spot for Miami. He is also a starting cornerback.
As far as Miami’s defense, Gilbreath said he believes his offense can take advantage of some glaring weaknesses.
He put some new offensive schemes in the playbook to confuse the Bulldogs, but he also anticipates them doing the same thing.
“They’ve shown like three different running plays, and that’s it,” Gilbreath said. “It’ll be a battle of game plans, a battle of who gets tired and who doesn’t and a battle of who makes mistakes and who doesn’t.”
INOLA AT LINCOLN CHRISTIAN
Facing the preseason No. 2 team isn’t the greatest draw for a season opener.
Inola looks to improve from its 5-5 campaign in 2018, while Lincoln Christian aims to move one step closer to the Class 3A title game after being ousted in the semifinals by eventual champion Heritage Hall.
The Bulldogs finished with an 11-2 record last season, defeating the Longhorns, 50-0, in the season opener.
Inola didn’t fair well against Lincoln Christian in the two years prior to the shutout loss, either, losing by a combined score of 130-70.
Check the Progress next week for a full season preview on the Longhorns.