By John Martin
Now that the typical Oklahoma summer is sending temperatures soaring into the high 90’s, surely it’s time to start thinking about football.
In barely three weeks, Oklahoma high school and junior high football teams are allowed to take to the practice field and conditioning areas for what is called “limited” practice or a lack of full pa
ds and no contact.
But the Panthers of Harrah, the Yellowjackets of Choctaw and the Longhorns from Jones will be able to enjoy just four days of that before full contact practice begins on Friday, Aug. 12.
Usually intrasquad practices are held after the first week of practice with scrimmages against other teams the second week. However, the newly installed Zero Week allows teams to schedule a regular season game on the weekend of Aug. 25-26-27.
Both Jones and Harrah are taking advantage of the Zero Week with the Panthers journeying to neighboring McLoud for their season opener while Jones will open its 2016 season on the road against Oklahoma Christian School in Edmond.
The upcoming season will be the first in the two-year cycle of changing districts for Oklahoma High School football teams which changed the schedules of all local teams.
CHOCTAW: The Yellowjackets are again in District 6A II which includes the next 16 largest schools in 6A after the Super Conference 6A I is formed. Carry over teams from the past two years include Lawton, Midwest City, Choctaw, Stillwater, Putnam City West and Enid.
New teams in the district include Putnam City, down from 6A I and Deer Creek, up from 5A.
Lawton was the district champion and joined Midwest City, Choctaw and Stillwater in th
e playoffs. However, all four teams were eliminated in the first round by the Eastern powers.
No reason to believe that the same four teams will again contend for the district crown, but Lawton Ike and Deer Creek will be much stronger than Lawton Ike and U. S. Grant, which didn’t even play a full district schedule.
District 6A II-2 teams include defending state champion Bixby, Sand Springs, Tulsa Washington, Bartlesville, Muskogee, Sapulpa and Ponca City with Capitol Hill inactive for the next two years.
HARRAH: The Panthers were the only 4A-2 squad to survive the first round of playoffs last season and Harrah was eliminated in the semifinals by Poteau. The new district has been revamped with McLoud and Bristow dropping down to Class 3A, Glenpool moving up to 5A and Santa Fe South dropping its football program altogether.
The OSSAA didn’t do the Panthers and the rest of 4A-2 any favors replacing those four teams with Bethany, Blanchard, Cleveland and Tulsa Central with Harrah, Ada, Tuttle and Tecumseh the holdovers. Harrah, Ada and Tuttle joined Bristow as the playoff qualifiers.
In 4A-1 which the local teams will face in the first round of the playoffs, Clinton, Weatherford, Elk City and Cache return as playoff contenders along with Chickasha, Elgin, defending 3A champion Heritage Hall and Newcastle joining the mix.
JONES: The Longhorns reached the Class 3A semifinals last year and appear poised to make another serious run for the gold ball. They will get an early test, facing Lincoln Christian in a non-district game the second week of the season.
Lincoln reached the state finals, eliminating Jones in the semifinals, before losing to Heritage Hall in the championship. Heritage Hall has been bumped up to Class 4A for the next two years.
In addition to Jones and playoff qualifier Douglass, the Longhorns District 3A-II also will include Bethel, Little Axe, McLoud, Prague and Star-Spencer, allowing the Longhorns to compete in four non-conference games, including Harrah and Hennessey in addition to Oklahoma Christian and Lincoln Christian.