OKLAHOMA CITY – The Douglass Trojans will begin this season as defending 4A state champions for the first time since 1977, but a slew of graduations may leave this year's title up for the taking.
Douglass will still have the spotlight at the beginning of the season, thanks to a showdown against Texas powerhouse DeSoto in Dallas Cowboys Stadium in the first week of the season. That game will take place on a Monday, which will force Douglass to play its first two games in the span of five days.
The strange start to the season could only magnify the Trojans' list of concerns. Their offense last season centered on running back Aliston Cobb, who shredded defenses for 2,448 yards – including 240 yards in the state championship game – and 32 touchdowns on 216 carries.
Cobb since has graduated, along with starting quarterback Shon Bridges and top receivers Marcus Caddell and Donnell Ward. No current Trojan attempted a pass last year, and their leading returning receiver had only seven catches.
Douglass does have a talented running back waiting to take over the offense in Diontay Washington. In his sophomore season last year, Washington rushed for nine yards per carry on his way to more than 1,000 yards and 14 touchdowns.
However, the Trojans do not have a proven secondary option who can do for Washington what he did for Cobb last year. For a team that ran the ball nearly 500 times last season, that will need to be one of its first priorities.
But Douglass is not the only team being forced to replace its offensive leader. The Wagoner Bulldogs came up just shy of their first championship in school history, but they took a significant hit with the loss of quarterback Prince McJunkins.
McJunkins and the Bulldogs were nearly unstoppable last season, lighting up scoreboards and blowing past defenses. They averaged 44 points per game in district play, and their closest game in the first three rounds of the playoffs was a 41-10 drubbing of Catoosa in the semifinals.
Wagoner cruised into the championship game with a perfect record, but finally met its match against Douglass. An interception in overtime sealed a loss and ruined possibly its best chance at earning a Gold Ball.
McJunkins passed for more than 2,000 yards and 33 touchdowns while throwing only three interceptions last year, but his on-field production is not the only thing Wagoner will miss. McJunkins also was the leader of the entire team, and that void could take time to fill.
The other major contender for the 4A throne, Glenpool, also will have to deal with the loss of its biggest star. Isaac Maselera will be donning Oklahoma State orange this year, and his departure will leave a big hole on both sides of the ball.
But the Warriors have been the most consistent performers in Class 4A for years. They have won nine or more games in each of the last four years, which included a state championship and undefeated season in 2008. If there is any team that can capitalize on a wide open field this year, it's Glenpool.