By Kenton Brooks
Phoenix Sports Writer
Hilldale, Wagoner and Stigler have something in common today and it’s not pleasant.
All three schools are packing up their high school football equipment for the season after losing in the playoffs this past Friday night.
However, the coaches and key returning players on each squad are already turning their attention to the 2013 season.
For Hilldale, its season ended with 42-0 loss to Blanchard in the Class 3A quarterfinals. The Hornets could only manage 113 yards of total offense in being shut out for the only time this season.
“They outplayed us on both sides of the ball,” coach Chad Kirkhart said. “We didn’t run the ball effectively and we didn’t throw it very well. In turn, they were able to run and pass equally as well. They’re as good as any team we played this season.
“When you get shut out and give up 42 points, you’re not going to win any of those battles.”
But Kirkhart and the Hornets are also encouraged about next season.
“We’ve got some good kids with good experience back,” he said.
Six starters return each way from the team that had the best season in school history with an 11-2 record and that reached the third round of the playoffs.
Quarterback Chandler Puckett leads the returnees. He completed 76 of 159 passes (47.8 percent) for 1,227 yards and 13 touchdowns in his junior season.
“I’m excited about next year as we’ve got a lot of talent coming back,” he said. “I just can’t wait. When you’re a senior, you want to be a leader.
“The work starts in the off-season. I want to get bigger, stronger and faster.”
It’s hard to imagine that Wagoner’s Lawrence Evitt needs to be stronger after an impressive junior season in which he ran for 2,982 yards and 35 touchdowns. But that’s what he’s thinking about as he looks forward.
“I want to have the best season of my life,” he said. “I’m looking forward to a wonderful season. I’m also going to try to step up and be a leader.”
Like Hilldale, Wagoner’s season ended at 11-2. The Bulldogs lost 24-14 to Anadarko in the 4A semifinals, spoiling their chances for a repeat of a state championship.
“I’m very proud of this team how we fought back from adversity,” coach Dale Condict said. “Being 11-2 is a respectable season.”
Mistakes are what brought the Bulldogs’ season to an end. It started when Evitt’s first touchdown was called back because of a holding penalty and a bobbled handoff kept Evitt from scoring.
“We’ve just decided it wasn’t meant to be for us,” Condict said. “We had a chance to stay in the game, but we didn’t take advantage.”
Condict will welcome back seven offensive and six defensive starters back. Naturally, he’s optimistic.
“We ought to be pretty good,” he said. “Our junior class is really strong as we have 25 kids in it. It’s a very good group for us.”
The Wagoner coach knows Evitt will be a target for opposing defenses in 2013.
“I just want Lawrence to keep everything in perspective as he’s going to start at zero next season,” he said.
Stigler’s Seth Sandlin also starts at zero after rushing for 1,144 yards and 16 touchdowns in his junior year. He’s already set goals for his senior season.
“It’ll be great,” the 6-foot-1, 215-pounder said. “I want us to be district champs and make another run for the state title.”
The Panthers’ run this season ended with the 41-12 loss to Kingfisher in the 3A quarterfinals.
“Honestly, they were really a good team and physical,” Sandlin said. “They also played downhill. They were good tacklers and we didn’t make the big plays that we usually do.”