Layna Dewell, News9.com
OKLAHOMA CITY – When it comes to Class 5A football in the state of Oklahoma, it's hard to pinpoint one side of the state that boasts the highest number of talented teams.
With stiff competition popping up all across the state, the competition within each of the four districts is even greater and results in some impressive play under the lights on Friday night.
But as always, it's a new year and although two of the state's best are from the east side of the state, there are contenders all across the Sooner State waiting for their chance at a gold ball.
What Happened Last Season:
First things first, let's review how last season ended up. The 2010 5A state championship came down to two teams from Tulsa; Booker T. Washington and East Central.
Booker T. Washington went 13-1 on the season and claimed the school's second gold ball in the past three seasons.
East Central on the other hand rounded out the season at 12-2 as the state runner-up after a 32-3 loss at the hands of Booker T. in the championship game.
During the race for the state title, both teams handily escaped the competition scoring a combined 112 points in the quarterfinal and semifinal games alone.
But for East Central, they would be held to its lowest scoring affair in the biggest game of the season.
In the state championship game the Hornets kept the Cardinal's offense on lockdown. The only points scored by East Central would come off a field goal in the first quarter, and besides that, it was all about the senior shutdown by Booker T.
One of the most notable shutdowns made by the Hornets was holding East Central senior Daunte Burge to 26 carries for 123 yards.
Booker T. Washington finished the game with a total of 402 yards, with 275 of that rushing and 127 through the air.
Some Insight Into 2011's Top Teams In 5A:
So the big question, can Booker T. repeat in 2011? Well, chances are yes. Head coach Darrell Hall won the title in his first year with the program and with although the Hornets only return two true starters on offense, there are a handful of junior and seniors with post-season experience to help Booker T. to another successful season.
That being said, Booker T. has no room to rest easy. Those Cardinals they beat in the state championship game are hungry for a rematch and have high expectations for 2011. Let's face it, since 2003 East Central has been to the 5A championship twice and the semi-finals five times--impressive. That experience is hard to come by especially when you consider the fact that you also return six starters this season. The Booker T. vs. East Central game on September 16 will be a must watch.
But not so fast, remember that line about big competition across all of Oklahoma?
Enter Guthrie, McAlester and Lawton MacArthur.
The combination of these five teams makes for stiff competition and although many of them won't meet until the playoffs, those games are easy to look forward to this season.
Guthrie headlines district 5A-1 after going 11-2 last season, and the Blue Jays return multiple three-year starters including quarterback Bryan Dutton, Blake Belcher and on defense, the school's all-time leading tackler Landry Chappel. Also for the Blue Jays look for Luke Davis who played receiver last year, but will most likely be seen in the running back position this year. One thing about Guthrie is that they have a host of pure athletes, with 17 of their starters competing in at least two high school sports. Look for the Blue Jay's annual district rivalry against Carl Albert to be one of the best games of the season.
McAlester put up back-to-back ten win seasons the past two years and returns an impressive 19 starters this season. Look for the Buffaloes to make a deeper run in the playoffs than they did last year after losing in the quarterfinals to Lawton MacArthur. In the quarterback position Tony Kiefer returns for his third year after tallying more than 7,000 yards of offense. The Buffalos also return four of the five starters on the offensive line and ten starters on defense. Class 5A-3 should be a close race as McAlester faces defending state champion Booker T. Washington in district play as well.
Lawton MacArthur returns eight starters this season, and after putting up key numbers on both sides of the ball, they bring quite the firepower from the south. Although the high powered offense may be without quarterback Dylan Warner this season, but they return two key receivers in Tyrone Turner and Quinton Paras. Last year on defense the Highlanders allowed just over 14 points per game and they look to players like Austin Payne, Mike Thomas and Jacob Warner to name a few. MacArthur will have its hands full with Duncan in 5A-2 play.
Players to Watch:
Class 5A has a plethora of talent bursting from this class which makes it hard to narrow it down, but here are a few that standout from the rest.
Blake Belcher, Guthrie – This 6'6 270 pound offensive lineman has been an integral part of the Blue Jay's offense. His size and strength make him a tough competitor. Blecher is currently being recruited by six schools including the University of Tulsa, Kansas, Arizona State and Stanford.
Damian Gibson, Tulsa East Central – As a two-way starter for the Cardinals, this 6'3 220 pound tight end/defensive end has high expectations for his senior season. He broke through at the end of last year and finished the season with 109 tackles. Gibson is being looked at by colleges like OU, Arkansas and Tulsa to name a few.
Michael Thomas, Lawton MacArthur – This University of Tulsa commit stands 6'0 and weights 216 points at cornerback for the Highlanders and his size and impressive speed don't go unnoticed. Last year he collected 61 tackles, three interceptions, one sack and two defensive touchdowns and you can expect even more from this senior in his final high school season.
Games to Watch:
September 16—East Central at Booker T. Washington
This clash of the reigning state champion vs. state runner up will be one to see. East Central will surely have a chip on its shoulder after the beating it took in the state title game. Regardless of being in different classes it's all about the bragging rights.
October 14 --Guthrie vs. Carl Albert
This is one of both teams most highly anticipated games each year and with a close district race expected it may be the deciding factor in 5a-1
November 4 --Booker T. Washington vs. McAlester
This game is sure to be a dandy, and may decide the winner of district three.
New Head Coaches in 5A:
El Reno- Shawn Mason
Northwest Classen-Lloyd Smith
Tulsa Rogers-Gary Tuell