Q – Now that the playoffs are underway, who is your lock to win a state title and who is your upset alert pick to win a state title?
Brad Heath – LOCK Stillwater / UPSET ALERT Claremore
Most people will say Bixby is the easy pick to win a title this season. They could be right. Bixby, Owasso, Union, and Jenks could be in the semifinals making 6AI an all-east tournament. But Bixby is not my lock. I’m staying away from 6AI. Let’s talk about Class 3A and the potential of an all-private semifinals with what could feature Lincoln Christian, Heritage Hall, Cascia Hall, and Holland Hall, assuming the Dutch can get past Perkins-Tryon. So, who is my lock? Stillwater. They have a win over Muskogee in the final regular season game, 30-20 and will likely face them in the finals. I’ll take Stillwater for another gold ball, Alex.
Now, let’s talk about my UPSET ALERT pick. This one took some thought. I think I found that team in Claremore. Class 5A has some dawgs, no doubt, but Claremore can score with the best of them. They play physical and they are not intimidated. The beat Sapulpa, 48-47…they can win the close game. They face Elgin next and the winner of Del City v Guthrie. Not an easy road, but that’s how the Zebra’s like it.
Derrick Smith – LOCK Wagoner / UPSET ALERT Gore
Dale Condict has the Bulldogs primed to bring another championship back to Wagoner. Last week, quarterback Kale Charboneau broke the school’s single season passing yardage record that was previously held by Malcom Rodriguez. On the defensive side of the ball, the tradition of a stout defense continues. The Bulldogs opponents this season have averaged ten points per contest.
The Gore Pirates almost completed the perfect season a year ago but fell just short by losing in the championship game by just four points. After losing 21 seniors to graduation, the team had a lot of spots to fill in order to contend. While they are carrying two losses with them this season, the Pirates have used a strong defensive unit to help lead them this season. They have outscored their opponents by an average of 23 points per game, with four of their wins being shutouts. Keep an eye out for this team to pull a possible upset or two, all while eyeing a return to compete for the gold ball.
Bill Huddleston – LOCK Carl Albert / UPSET ALERT Idabel
As far as a lock to win…”there’s only 1″…I use those three letters to correlate with the often used claim at Oklahoma University…the one “lock” to win a state championship in my opinion…the Carl Albert Titans, a team that not only has won 20 straight games, it’s also a program that has won the Class 5A crown six of the last seven years while filling the trophy case with their 17th gold ball a year ago. Xavier Robinson (Sr.), Kevin Sperry (Jr.), Trystan Haynes (Jr.) are offensive heroes, while the Titans Caden Davis (Jr.) and Easton Harless (Sr.) are just two of the defensive juggernauts that have recorded a team total of 26 sacks amidst forcing 20 turnovers this fall. Altogether Carl Albert has outscored their 11 opponents this season 541-19, an average winning margin of 36-plus points per contest. With their proven talents including multiple Division I recruits, when the 2023 football season is complete…all the teams in Class 5A will remember…the night they played the Titans.
As for my upset pick to shock the experts to win a state title would have to be the Idabel Warriors. Most of Oklahoma has all but crowned the Washington Warriors to walk through the playoffs and celebrate with a second straight Class 2A championship. Tucked away in the southeast corner of Oklahoma, Idabel has remained undefeated (10-0) racing past their opponents with speed and size; outscoring foes 436-120 by combining an explosive offense paced by the skills of Waylon Phillips (Sr.) Ravian Larry (Jr.) and Martrail Lopez (Jr.) while AJ Smith (Sr.), Chris Golston (Sr.) and Mack Dixon (So.) and teammates wreak havoc defensively. It may be a long shot, but then it’s a long 250-plus mile drive from Idabel to Edmond, the site for the 2A championship contest on Saturday, December 9th. It’s just my hunch that coach Scott Pratt’s Idabel Warriors are poised to win the McCurtain County school its first ever state championship in football.
Bryce McKinnis – LOCK Bixby/Fairview / UPSET ALERT Del City/Guthrie
The defending state champions in A, 2A, 3A, 4A, 5A and 6A-I are a combined 65-0 heading into the second week of the playoffs, each ranked No. 1 in its respective class. There’s good reason to believe any or all of these teams could repeat, but the largest of those, Bixby, and the smallest, Fairview, have been the most dominant this year. The Spartans, going for their eighth title in nine years, have scored an outrageous 536 points this year and have only won by less than 20 once. Fairview has put up an even more astounding 681 points, including 62 in last week’s first-round win over Hobart, and hasn’t allowed more than 22 points in a game this year.
My upset pick is whoever wins this Friday between Del City and Guthrie in the 5A quarterfinals. If Carl Albert manages to win championship No. 18 this year, it will be the most earned title in the state.
Chris Cox – LOCK Carl Albert/Bixby / UPSET ALERT Guthrie/Prague
I have two locks. Carl Albert in 5A and Bixby in 6A-1. From day one I have believed they are the two best teams in all of Oklahoma, regardless of class. I think that’s still the case and both are essentially locks to win state championships. Both are filled with talent and have great coaches. If someone other than those two teams win state, it would be a true shocker.
I also have a couple of upset potentials. The first is Guthrie in 5A. I know I just said Carl Albert was a lock to win 5A, and I believe that, but Guthrie took the Titans down to the wire. Also, any team that has 7 shutouts on the year can win on any given day. My other upset is Prague. It’s hard to say an 11-0 team winning is an upset but it seems a lot of people.
Aaron Kauk – LOCK Bixby / UPSET ALERT Elgin
Part of the reason that everyone loves sports so much is the idea that anyone can win any game on any day. That’s why this question is so intriguing. Is there ever truly a ‘Lock”? 1991 UNLV, 1980 USSR Hockey, Mike Tyson in Japan against Buster Douglas, and the 2022 Cushing Tigers would say no. In the 2023 high school football season I say yes. There’s one team that’s won 9 of the last 10 State Titles in the classification they’ve participated in. The one they didn’t win was a loss in the finals. That team is the Bixby Spartans. Even a jump into 6A-1 hasn’t derailed the Spartan Train. This season they’re 10-0 and pummeling anything in their way toward a 10th title. Bixby has beaten their 10 opponents by an average of 61-10. That’s domination at a level few teams have ever seen in Oklahoma high school football history.
My upset pick will come from a classification that most people will bring a lock to the table. Class 5A has been Carl Albert’s world and everyone else has just been living in it. This season has been much of the same with the Titans being able to boast one of the most talent rich rosters in recent memory. Chances are Carl Albert wins their 18th championship in school history to move into a tie for 2nd with Jenks, one behind Ada’s 19, but I don’t think that’s as sure a thing as some others around the state. My pick for an upset champ comes from Southwestern Oklahoma. The Elgin Owls have been Oklahoma’s best kept secret this season. Elgin blew through 5A-1 with ease. Only Lawton Mac has put double digits on the board against Elgin’s defense. The Owls have rolled on offense scoring just under 50 a game. They won their first district title since 1986. They have an incredibly tough road to get to UCO and a probable finals matchup with Carl Albert, but they’ll be battle tested along the way.