With just under a week until football practice starts, I can't get any more excited about the upcoming football season.
There is a ton of local talent ready to showcase their skills every Friday night.
As we prepare for game night here at the News-Star, we've discussed several games that are must-see each Friday. Along with those games, there are players who will make some noise this season.
On offense we will start with the glamorous quarterback position.
Heath Hunter, Sr., Shawnee High School
Heath returns for his senior campaign as the area's leading passer. Heath finished with 2,357 yards and 18 touchdowns last season. His arm strength appears to be well above average and with two of his main targets in Scout Cawvey and Trent Skinner returning, their chemistry will be beneficial. According to qbhitlist.com, Hunter is the eighth ranked gunslinger in Oklahoma.
Cade Hammond, Sr., Seminole High School
Hammond is one of the first players that came to mind for a must watch list. Despite missing a few games late last season due to a concussion, Hammond finished with 1,284 yards and threw 13 touchdowns. Currently he’s ranked fifth on the qbhitlist.com ranking system for Oklahoma prep quarterbacks. The Chieftains return plenty of weapons for Hammond's senior season and his numbers should be some of the best in the area.
Gunner Smith, Jr., Bethel High School
Smith has been the Wildcats quarterback since half way through his freshman season. Despite learning on the fly, Smith had some good numbers last season, including a six touchdown performance against Star Spencer. Smith threw for just over 1,600 yards last season, tossed 14 touchdowns and added four more on the ground.
With many schools utilizing multiple players in the backfield, coming up with names at this position was the toughest on the offensive side of the ball.
Damien Dye, Sr., McLoud High School
With a good season Dye has a chance at Redskin immortality. He trails his coach Rusty Hall in the record books for the all-time leading rusher in McLoud history by 1,600 yards. Dye reminds me an awful lot of Warrick Dunn. He runs hard every play even if there's no daylight. For his size, Dye is one of the toughest pound-for-pound in the area.
The Seminole backfield
When looking at the Chieftains, I couldn't pick just one of their backs. Senior Jamon Dennis and junior Cameron Gunville are the Seminole version of thunder and lightning. Having one good back is great, but Mike Snyder has two legit options. That entire offense is going to be scary. The two-headed monster combined for 1,848 yards and 26 touchdowns. Gunville led the duo with 978 yards and Dennis led the Chieftains in rushing touchdowns, crossing the goal line 14 times.
Tre'Juan Shaw, Sr., Shawnee High School
Shaw enters his senior season at the starting running back for the Wolves. Shaw split carries last year and still finished with 866 yards on the ground and recorded six touchdowns. As far as 6A backs go, Shaw is a bit undersized, but is strong and fast enough that if he can find a hole he's can pick up serious yards.
With the days of three yards and a cloud of dust all but forgotten, receivers and tight ends play a much bigger role in high school offenses.
Trenton Skinner, Sr. Shawnee High School
Looking at his numbers from last year, he was Hunter's go to receiver with 741 yards and four touchdowns. Watching Skinner play in the seven-on-seven at Meeker, he seemed to be Heath's go-to guy, with Wes Welker-like potential. Skinner looked like a kid who isn't afraid to go over the middle and make plays away from his body.
Jake Schultz, Sr., Prague High School
One look at Schultz and you can tell he's a football player. The now 6'3” 220-pound athlete will offer whoever is playing quarterback at Prague a legit threat anywhere on the field. One of the most memorable games I covered was Shultz torching Bethel for six receptions, 292 yards and five touchdowns. With the added inches and weight, it's expected that Schultz will play more tight end this year. Add his above average speed, don't be surprised if he leads the area in receiving this year.
Tyler Jones, Jr., McLoud High School
When I watch Jones play, he reminds me of a Percy Harvin-type player. The kid can do it all on the field. He played receiver, ran the ball on occasion and even filled in at quarterback. He wasn't a week one starter on offense, but as the season progressed Jones found himself playing both ways every Friday night. On offense, Jones had 278 yards receiving and caught two touchdowns. He was also a playmaker on defense recording 21 tackles and had one interception.
Saybion Battles, Jr., Seminole High School
Looking at some of the summer camp highlights, Battles is going to give opposing defenses trouble. Single coverage is not an option when it comes to the junior receiver. He has big time speed and you can't teach that. He was not a big option in the Mike Snyder offense last season, however his tape this summer proves he possesses the ability to make plays.
Devin Acklin, Jr., Bethel High School
Acklin returns as Bethel's leading receiver. As a sophomore he put up very respectable numbers. He totaled 690 yards and three touchdowns. Acklin was a playmaker on defense, recording 65 tackles, two interceptions and one sack. He also added one blocked kick on special teams. As a kick returner Acklin added three more touchdowns.
Scout Cawvey, Jr., Shawnee High School
Cawvey has big play potential every time he touches the football. That is evident in his performance against Guthrie last season. The then-sophomore torched the opposition for four touchdowns in the first week of the season. Cawvey finished the season with 676 yards and nine scores.
Dillon Morris, Sr., Tecumseh High School
Despite Morris only catch seven balls for 80 yards last season, he's one of the players that have the most upside on this list. Talking to coach Ty Bullock, Morris is one of the most selfless guys on the team and will play every snap all out even if his number isn't called. He didn't light up the stat sheet last year, but was essential in the Tecumseh running game that eclipsed 3,000 yards last season.
These next guys don't always get the recognition they deserve. They aren't the ones scoring touchdowns or converting third and shorts. They keep the quarterbacks upright and open the holes for backs to pick up extra yards.
Sergio Garcia, Jr., Shawnee High School
Garcia is everything you want in an offensive lineman. He's big, strong, and knows what he's doing. Shawnee has been fortunate to have some very good lineman over the last couple years and Garcia is in line to continue that trend. Coming in at 6'5” and 300-plus, Garcia is just the guy coach Billy Brown needs to shore up the offensive line as Shawnee enters their first season at the 6A level.
Dalton Cooper, Sr. Prague High School
Cooper is another guy that looks the part. If you need a lineman, the 6'6” 290-pound senior is a guy that is one of the most physical players on the field every Friday night. A kid that plays to the whistle every snap is just what coach John Graham needs up front.
Caeden Shirey, Sr., Tecumseh High School
The 6'1” 275-pound wrestler just so happens to be one of Tecumseh's best football players. Coach Bullock raved about his nastiness on the gridiron. The stalwart of the Tecumseh front line tore his ACL early in his high school career and rebounded to start all 10 games for the Savages last season.
Brandon Hadl, Sr., McLoud High School
Hadl follows the trend of big athletes on the offensive line. McLoud offensive line coach David Heath says Hadl is a kid that understands concepts and schemes and is exactly what the Redskins need from their offensive line. He's a two-way player that will need to step up his game if McLoud wants to win games at the 4A level.
As the season rolls along, more players will be added to the watch list and ultimately the News-Star will release a Best of Preps All-Area Team at the conclusion of the season.