The Checotah Wildcats are coming off a 10-2 season and a second round playoff exit at the hands of Beggs.
The Wildcats’ return 13 starters and three players who saw significant playing time but there will be a huge hole to fill with the departure of Caleb Knight. Knight was the lone two-way starter at quarterback and linebacker.
“We have several options,” said CHS coach Chad Hendricks. “We have several young guys stepping up and are really battling it out.”
The Wildcats have a three-way battle going on to see who will be taking the snaps when the season kicks off. Hendricks is leaving it “open.”
Hendricks, in his second year at the helm, says the offense will “stay the same and do what we do.”
Deshay Bear returns in the backfield and looks to take on most of the carries going in to his senior campaign. Bear was nominated for newcomer of the year after rushing for 580 yards.
Defensively, Checotah are looking for some key players to emerge at the linebacker and cornerback postions.
“We have a solid core, but we have to stay healthy and have just a little bit of luck,” added Hendricks.
The Panthers are preparing for a drastic change offensively from a year ago where they finished with an 8-3 mark and a first-round playoff loss to Lincoln Christian.
The last two seasons, the Panthers have used the legs of the quarterback and will have more of a dropbck pocket passer this year with receiver turned quarterback Dylan Bryant. Bryant has experience at quarterback, but never at the varsity level.
Junior running back Trace Jackson is a “dual threat” coming off a 1,000 plus yard season in total yards.
For coach Chris Risenhoover the offensive line will be the key, returning four out of five starters.
“We will be more diverse with Jackson throwing the ball,” said Risenhoover. “ We plan on airing it out a lot more.”
Defensively for the Panthers, they only return three starters with the anchor of that defense at the linebacker spot in junior Quontez Jim. Risenhoover says Jim “is one of the most talented players in the district.”
The Panthers will be young in the secondary and Risenhoover plans on “trusting a few freshmen with plenty of snaps” from an undefeated junior high team.
“We are looking forward to watching a young team grow with talented players who will be around for several years,” said Risenhoover.