The Guthrie Bluejays will travel to Langston University on Friday for their annual scrimmage against the Bishop Kelley Comets.
Both Guthrie and Bishop Kelley enter the season with high expectations, as both are ranked inside the Top 10. The Comets are fresh off a state semifinal appearance in 2018, finishing with double-digit wins for the first time since 2009. With a veteran group returning this season for Coach JJ Tappana, the Comets are the favorite to win District 5A-3 and are poised to make another deep run in the playoffs.
With the Bluejays opening up the regular season next Friday, here are a few things to keep an eye on as they take on the Comets:
1. Offensive Line
The Guthrie Bluejays will replace every single player along the offensive line from last season. Last year, the line helped pave the way for an offense that averaged 271 yards and 36.3 points per game. While replacing an entire unit is never easy, Guthrie has high hopes for the incoming group.
With Cody Hickman (6’3, 350), Davon Moore (6’4, 290), Blake Swartz (6’3, 295), Macen Campbell (6’3, 250), Jaret Dean (5’8, 190), Matthew Lingerfelt (6’1, 185), and Sam Wilhelm (6’2, 210), the Bluejays will have the size to open up holes in the run game and protect the quarterback in the pocket. The Bluejays feel like they have seven players that can rotate along the line to keep legs fresh over the course of a game. Facing a 3-4 Comet defense this Friday, the Bluejay big men will get to solidify their spots on the field, as Bishop Kelley features one of the best defensive lines in the state.
2. Guthrie’s Defense
The Bluejay defense in 2018 was as opportunistic as we’ve ever seen. Guthrie forced over 30 turnovers last season, including 18 in the first four games of the season. Guthrie loses some key players along the defensive line in David Scott, Campbell Leach and Donminic Goosby, but return a talented group at linebacker and in the secondary. The Bluejays will get an early test to see where they stack up against one of the top-tier teams in 5A this Friday.
Bishop Kelley will once again have a big offensive line, highlighted by 6’4, 265-pound Matt Nogalski. The Comets return quarterback Stephen Collins, running back Zach Middleton and tight end Cooper McMurray. If the Bluejays can limit the big yardage plays against the Comets like they did a year ago, it could mean the defense is on track to repeat their performance from last season.
3. New Quarterback
The Guthrie Bluejays will be breaking in a new quarterback this season. Jackson Waddell, a three-year starter who missed only one snap in his 34 games as Guthrie’s starting quarterback, is gone due to graduation. Enter Kaiden Ballard-Stevenson. The sophomore quarterback enters 2019 as the starter. Ballard-Stevenson saw brief time at the position last season, rushing for 60 yards and three touchdowns and 11 carries. He is a mobile quarterback that can keep defenses honest any time he drops back to pass. He’ll get a crash course test this Friday against the talented Comet defense. Bishop Kelley returns 10 starters from last year’s team that held six teams to seven points or less and gave up an average of 13.4 points per game in 2018.
The Guthrie High School freshmen will start at 6 P.M., junior varsity at 7 P.M., and the varsity concluding the scrimmage at 8 P.M.
The Bluejays will open the season next Friday when they host Enid High School at The Rock at 7 P.M.