There is just something different about receiving something in the mail.
Whether it is an electronic device, clothes, kitchen utensils or even action figures, we all have that one thing we impatiently track as it ships to our location.
Our mailbox provides some sort of excitement you can’t get from buying something at a store.
Several favorites come to my mind, but for 11 years running, there is one thing that trumps them all come mid-July.
That item, of course, is the VYPE Pigskin Preview.
If you love high school football like me, you understand my excitement.
I have picked up this publication — otherwise known as the “Bible” of Oklahoma football — every year since 2009, and it is always money well spent.
The 2019 edition is packed from cover-to-cover, providing information on 368 teams and the state’s Division I colleges — Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Tulsa — in only 256 pages.
Although great, the VYPE Pigskin Preview isn’t perfect.
With the massive magazine being published so early in the summer, it is hard to get fully accurate information (more on that later).
That is why the Progress sports correspondents and I will work hard in the coming month to get previews prepared with all the latest roster updates and more.
For now, though, here are some highlights and surprises for the eight teams in our coverage area.
MR. FOOTBALL OKLAHOMA
Every year, VYPE selects who it considers to be the top high school football players in the state and pits them against each other for the right to be named Mr. Football Oklahoma.
Contestants are split by region (OKC, Tulsa, SW Oklahoma, NW Oklahoma, North Oklahoma, NE Oklahoma, 3 Rivers and SE Oklahoma), and fans vote for their favorites throughout the season.
Polls open on Aug. 1 for the first round of online voting at VYPEOK.com.
Claremore is well-represented, landing three players on the NE Oklahoma list — Jace Hightower, Quentin Skinner and Dylan Kedzior.
Hightower, who recently committed to Air Force, returns as the Zebras’ running back after rushing for 1,138 yards and 10 touchdowns on 187 carries, averaging nearly 100 yards per game and 6.1 yards per carry.
Skinner emerged as one of the area’s top receivers and defensive backs in the past two seasons. The senior will open the season with 588 yards receiving and six touchdowns for his career to go along with 10 interceptions.
Kedzior hit his stride in a similar fashion, logging 1,508 yards receiving and 16 touchdowns on 91 receptions since 2017.
His numbers were down his junior year because of opponents’ awareness of him, but Kedzior still managed 36 catches for 506 yards and five touchdowns.
Austin Woods of Verdigris is the only other Rogers County player in contention for Mr. Football Oklahoma.
Woods was a force on the line for the Cardinals last season, earning himself several Division I offers. The 6-foot-7, 265-pound lineman committed to Arkansas State late last month.
Despite all the talent returning for the Zebras, coach Jarrett Hurt’s squad is unranked in the VYPE preseason top 10 poll.
The publication doesn’t even have Claremore finishing in the top two of District 5A-4, placing it third in the standings behind Collinsville and Tahlequah.
That is not too outlandish considering both those teams defeated the Zebras last season, but them missing the top 10 is a bit jarring, especially when seeing who made the list.
The top three — Carl Albert, Bishop McGuinness and Bishop Kelley — are fine prognostications. After that is when the misinformation I mentioned comes into play.
VYPE has MacArthur ranked fourth, which shouldn’t be the case. I’ve covered the Highlanders the past two seasons while working at The Lawton Constitution, and they aren’t a top 10 team.
VYPE based that ranking on Mac’s returning players, but that’s just the thing. Most of the players mentioned were seniors last season.
The team went 4-6 last season and lost most of its starters to graduation. Certainly not top-four worthy.
I’m not saying Claremore is a top four team, but it should be in the top 10.
Not to mention Hightower (ATH), Skinner (DB) and Kedzior (ATH) were all named to the All-VYPE 5A team.
That is more representation than seven of the top 10 teams.
Regardless, if VYPE’s standings come to fruition, the Zebras would be in for another first-round matchup with Edison and a third-straight meeting with Carl Albert in the quarterfinals.
That isn’t a result Claremore wants to relive.
Elsewhere, quarterback Charlie Murdock was listed as a ‘Hometown Hero’.
VERDIGRIS, SEQUOYAH, INOLA
Coach Travis East’s squad could make some noise in Class 3A.
Coming off a 5-6 season, Verdigris comes into 2019 ranked No. 8 in the VYPE preseason poll.
To add to the hype, the Cardinals are slated to finish second in District 3A-4. Berryhill, ranked No. 4, is expected to claim district supremacy for the fourth-straight year.
However, Verdigris would have to avenge double-digit losses to Cascia Hall and Locust Grove to land in such a good position.
The Cardinals surrendered 33.5 points per game to the Commandos and the Chiefs in 2018.
If Verdigris can best those foes and hold its lower-tier opponents to minimal scoring opportunities, it could very well host a playoff game for the first time since 2012.
Helping the Cardinals reach new heights will be Woods and Sloan Roller, who are listed on the All-VYPE 3A team as an offensive lineman and a linebacker, respectively.
If VYPE’s predictions are correct, Verdigris will entertain No. 10 Stigler in the opening round of the playoffs before matching up with defending champion Heritage Hall in the quarterfinals.
Sequoyah and Inola are in District 3A-4 as well.
VYPE predicts the Eagles’ struggles to continue after their 0-10 outing last season, placing them last in the league.
Sequoyah wasn’t totally spurned, though.
Senior receiver and cornerback Mason Hassell was named a ‘Hometown Hero’, making him an intriguing player to watch in 2019.
The Longhorns, led by All-VYPE 3A selectee Jeremiah Womack (LB), were somehow left off the district predictions all together, so I took the liberty of placing them in the fourth slot.
If these standings are correct, Inola would visit No. 3 Lincoln Christian in the first round.
AROUND THE AREA
Rogers County has several other teams to account for, led by Oologah and Catoosa.
The Mustangs are the only one to receive a preseason ranking, coming in at No. 10, but both are slated to make a run at the postseason.
Catoosa has two representatives on the All-VYPE 4A team — offensive lineman Dylan Ward and designated athlete Johnny Treeh — while Oologah’s lone selection comes in the form of offensive lineman Bonner Pennington.
Gavin Phillips, listed as a running back, receiver and strong safety for the Indians, earned a ‘Hometown Hero’ honor.
Oologah was picked as third in District 4A-3 behind Wagoner and Bristow, and Catoosa was picked to place fourth.
In this scenario, the Mustangs would travel nearly four hours to challenge No. 6 Broken Bow, while the Indians battle No. 4 Poteau.
Moving on to Class 2A, there isn’t much to say about Chelsea.
The Dragons went 0-10 last season, and VYPE expects a similar outing in 2019, picking them to finish last in District 2A-4.
Foyil’s finish in Class B is probably the most shocking prediction of all Rogers County teams.
Despite losing only one District B-8 game last season and tallying an 8-3 record, VYPE expect the Panthers to have a significant fall from grace.
Not only did VYPE leave them out of playoff contention, it anticipates a last-place finish in the district standings.
Sure, Foyil lost most of its starters from last season, but it defeated district opponents by a combined margin of 260-74, and 56 of those surrendered points came to Class B runner-up Regent Prep.
I don’t think those teams Foyil so thoroughly dismantled last season will be able to completely flip the script on the Panthers.
My guess is VYPE based its ranking on Foyil’s 6-44 record from 2013-2017 rather than last season’s results.
At least VYPE had the decency to select Stone Platt as one of its ‘Hometown Heroes.’ Platt is expected to play a major role in the Panthers’ run game this year.
Regardless of whether you agree with these predictions, one thing is certain.
The VYPE Pigskin Preview marks the early beginning of football season, and this fanatic can’t wait for the festivities to begin.