OKLAHOMA CITY – The Cherokee Chiefs won their first Class B state title in school history last season, but will have a tough road to climb if they want to repeat.
Quarterback Justin Schanbacher – nephew of head coach Bryce Schanbacher – led the Chiefs to an average of 48 points per game and a perfect record. Only one of Cherokee's games was remotely close all year, a 38-32 win over Caddo in the playoffs.
Schanbacher since has graduated, leaving a gaping hole in the offense. The only players Cherokee has to replace him are untested and unproven. If the Chiefs are able to replace Schanbacher's offensive production, they could threaten for another Gold Ball. But that's a big "if."
Meanwhile, the only team to challenge the Chiefs last year may also be the best candidate to dethrone them this season. The Caddo Bruins return all of their main talent on both sides of the ball, but their window for winning a championship may quickly be closing.
The Caddo offense will be anchored by quarterback Dillon Proctor, who accounted for more than 2,500 yards and 38 touchdowns last season. His main targets will be receivers Ty Miller and Ryan Miller, and all three of them are seniors.
Proctor and Miller also will lead the defense, along with linebacker Cullen Whisenhunt, yet another senior. That defense could end up being the key to Caddo's season. The Bruins lost three games last year, but in two of those losses scored at least 28 points.
Caddo will benefit from plenty of talent and experience on both sides of the ball, as well as knowledge that this could be the program's best chance at winning a Gold Ball, something the Bruins never have done.
Class B also will need to watch out for the resurgence of the Garber Wolverines. After winning back-to-back state championships in 2008 and 2009, the Wolverines suffered a letdown last year.
Garber went 5-5 and missed the playoffs, but had to deal with replacing several key pieces. This season the Wolverines will not have such concerns, with their only major loss being sack artist Derek Maly.
The majority of the offense – including quarterback Jordan Avants and receivers Jeremy Smith and Eric Killman – will return for the Wolverines, who also added move-in senior Ryan Creed to the receiving corps.
The offense will be able to put up points, but the defense could be a cause for concern. Garber allowed a whopping 42 points per game in its five losses last year and gave up more than 35 points in two of its wins.
Avants will also be the anchor on the defensive unit, but he will need much more help this season. If the Wolverines are able to limit the explosiveness of their opponents, they could make some noise in the playoffs.