Mark Rodgers takes a look at his pre-season state champion picks and reevaluates the high school landscape as we head into district play this weekend. Click to see if he’s changed his mind in the race for the Gold Balls!
Class 6A-Division I
Pre-season pick - Bixby
Current choice - Bixby
Team to watch - Moore
The Spartans have shown little if any weakness. Owasso’s Cole Adams kept things close in week zero with seven catches. Take away that half and Bixby has mauled opponents by a count of 168-10. Loren Montgomery’s program is as good right now as any in America. Union has emerged as the primary candidate to challenge the Spartans' domination. Transfers Shaker Reisig and D.J. McKinney has given the Union offense a huge boost. Is it enough to hang with Bixby? We won’t know until a potential state title game tilt. Moore cruised through its non-district schedule with ease. The Lions are a big favorite in the MooreWar and might be on the same level with eastern powers Broken Arrow and Jenks. Quarterback Denver Wolf is poised and confident as a third-year starter.
Class 6A-Division II
Pre-season pick - Deer Creek
Current choice - Deer Creek
Team to watch - Muskogee
Deer Creek has reloaded. The Antlers' trip to the finals was no fluke in 2021. A program replete with depth answered any questions by going on the road and winning against Mustang. Stillwater also has a pair of impressive wins against Greenwood, Arkansas and Norman High, adding a 6A Division-I pelt to their resume. Choctaw should have quarterback Steele Wasel back for its game with Deer Creek on October 7th, that matchup should give us more clarity on the title chase. Muskogee sophomore quarterback Bird Ficklin is one of the most exciting players in the state. The Roughers already have more wins (3) than in 2020 and 2021 combined (2).
Pre-season pick - Bishop McGuinness
Current choice - Bishop McGuinness
Team to watch - Coweta
My thoughts that this is the best classification in the state top to bottom are confirmed. Potential second-round matchups will have all the trappings of championship games. Bishop McGuinness has lived up to expectations. Quarterback River Warren looks more polished than he did a year ago. A big and powerful offensive line has remained healthy. The number of elite contenders in the Class is staggering. Del City has a dynamic offense with plenty of NCAA level talent. Guthrie rallied to defeat Class 4A heavyweight Tuttle on the road to record its fourth win. McAlester, Collinsville and Grove all have unblemished records. The most interesting challenger might be Coweta. Quarterback Carson Laverty has fit right in for an offense with playmakers at every position. Crazy that one of a terrific trio in 5A-3 (McAlester, Del City or Coweta) will open the playoffs on the road.
Pre-season pick - Poteau
Current choice - Cushing
Team to watch - Tuttle
Only three teams have made it to district play undefeated; Newcastle, Cushing and Bethany. This one seems wide open. Cushing’s prolific offense hasn’t disappointed. Quarterback Blaze Berlowitz has the arm to guide the Tigers to their first state title since 1961. Poteau stumbled against an up and coming Metro Christian team in week two. The Pirates are still one of many that have a chance to win a state championship. Tuttle almost entered district play unscathed but ended up with a quality loss to 5A contender Guthrie. The Tigers district opener against Bethany this week will give one team a big leg up in the 4A-2 title race. Don’t sleep on perennial contenders Wagoner and Clinton.
Pre-season pick - Lincoln Christian
Current choice - Lincoln Christian
Team to watch - Metro Christian
Lincoln Christian came up just short against Arkansas powerhouse Shiloh Christian for its only non-district loss. The Bulldogs have the appearance of a team ready to ascend to the top spot after finishing runner-up the past two seasons. Metro Christian might be right on Lincoln’s heels. The Patriots journeyed east for a pair of quality wins at Poteau and Prairie Grove, Arkansas. Quarterback Kirk Francis led the Patriots to the 2020 Class 2A state title and threw touchdowns to five different receivers in the win over Prairie Grove. Watch out for Stigler and Verdigris. The Panthers and the Cardinals are a combined 7-0. Verdigris looks like a prohibitive favorite in 3A-4 with two-time defending champion, Holland Hall, sitting at 0-3.
Pre-season pick - Washington
Current choice - Washington
Team to watch - Rejoice Christian
Washington looked like the definitive choice in Class 2A. Loaded with depth and title game experience, the Warriors were a pretty clear choice a month ago. Now the picture doesn’t seem quite as clear. Washington hasn’t lost but some games have been closer than expected. Then there’s Rejoice Christian. Washington eliminated Rejoice in last year’s quarterfinals. Quarterback Chance Wilson is the biggest recruiting miss I’ve seen in a while. Still committed to I-AA Montana St, Wilson has thrown for 1,440 yards in three games against a loaded non-district schedule. He’s a Division-I talent and should have multiple offers at that level. The Eagles find themselves in the absolute toughest district in Class 2A. Vinita, Claremore-Sequoyah and Pawhuska all join Rejoice in 2A-8. Vinita and Claremore-Sequoyah are rolling teams and the Huskies are certainly dangerous after a move up from Class A.
Pre-season pick - Ringling
Current choice - Ringling
Team to watch - Hominy
If you want to talk about culture, Phil Koons teams certainly have one. Koons doesn’t have the biggest roster in Class A, but he will for sure have one that’s tough. The Blue Devils are 3-0 and probably won’t be challenged until the playoffs in this sprawling classification. There are several teams that look like potential state champions. Hominy quarterback Jaxon Woods is a dual threat with a versatile supporting cast. The Bucks have their best team since winning the title in 2016. But are they good enough to get past Tonkawa in the district? The Buccaneers are just three years removed from winning Class A and can again. Tonkawa eliminated Fairview in last year’s quarterfinals. The Yellowjackets are back and equally good on both sides of the ball. Coach Brandon Tyler’s Gore Pirates should sail into the playoffs undefeated with an experienced group, hoping to jump into the fray with this group of every year title hopefuls.
Pre-season pick - Balko-Forgan
Current choice - Dewar
Team to watch - Oklahoma Bible Academy
Balko-Forgan was the recipient of a lopsided loss to Class C powerhouse Waynoka and is in a district race that will see a very talented team sit home from the playoffs. Laverne and Shattuck are still top notch. Turpin and Hollis are unbeaten and much improved. What a race for the top spot in B-1. Dewar reloaded with several new faces, some from different places. The Dragons are my choice to replace the Bulls as the favorite but there are several other teams capable of winning the Gold Ball. Oklahoma Bible quarterback Bodie Boydstun is one of the best in a class with talented quarterbacks. The Trojans knocked off an excellent Seiling team this past Friday.
Pre-season pick - Timberlake
Current choice - Timberlake
Team to watch - Waynoka
The Tigers have won 29 of their last 30 games and merit staying as the choice to win the Class C championship. Waynoka has moved into the Tigers district this year and might be too close for comfort. The Railroaders have looked rock solid with big wins over Balko-Forgan and Okeene. Mark down October 7th on your calendar when Timberlake and Waynoka tangle at Helena. Tipton is a perfect 3-0 after dropping down from Class B and Maud is also a perfect 3-0 after revitalizing its roster with a group of Seminole transfers.