Bears set to battle difficult District 5A-1
Entering the 2018 season, the Noble Bears looked to weather a difficult schedule and make the playoffs for a third straight year, but the Bears fell short of the playoffs with a 4-6 record, 2-5 in a difficult District 1 in Class 5A.
“The biggest thing for us last year was the shift in district that put us in a situation where you knew there were six playoff-quality teams and only four would get in,” Noble head coach Greg George said. “Not only did we play in a tough district, but we also didn’t help ourselves. We didn’t play as well as we needed to play in key games and that was the difference last year.”
The road to the playoffs in 2019 will not be a cakewalk either as the Bears’ schedule features playoff teams in Ada, Piedmont, Duncan, El Reno, Altus and Ardmore.
“When you look at those first three games of district play (Duncan, El Reno and Altus), we have to win at the very least one of those games,” George said. “If you want to make the playoffs in this district, you have to beat some of these peer programs. We didn’t do that last year and that’s why we missed the playoffs. Our kids learned from it and look forward to this year.”
The quarterback position will be in transition after two-year starter Hayden Lingle graduated following the 2018 season. There will be a battle for the position for 2019 as senior Austin Fisher (5’8, 155) and sophomore Trevor “Chili” Lorenz (6’3, 160) vie for the starting job. George says last year’s backup is the favorite to be under center week one.
“Right now, Austin is our starter, going through spring ball and pad camp. He just has that feel for the offense, but they’re both competing,” he said. “We expect Austin to have a good year for us. He is multidimensional, and that’s a change for us because the last five years, we had pure drop-back passers. Having the quarterback run game will be something very different for us offensively, and we look forward to it. I will say, even if Trevor (Lorenz) doesn’t start there for us, he will contribute somewhere else for us because he’s just a football player.”
The backfield saw contributors Bryan Henager, James Robison and Umane Willhoite graduate, but lead senior back Gavin Yeager (6’2, 210) returns looking to have better fortune on the injury front this season.
“We expect big things from Gavin this year,” George said. “He was banged up for a few games last year and he never really got to take off like we were hoping, but this year, we are hoping the quarterback run game benefits him and can open up some running lanes. When you have that extra element of misdirection with the quarterback run game, it really makes it hard for defenses.”
The receiving corps is led by returning starting seniors Antywan “Jay” Smith (5’10, 160) and Ezra Elkins (5’8, 160), while sophomore Trevor Wardrip (6’0, 165), junior Gabe Hudson (6’1, 170) and junior Korbin Hughes (5’10, 150) will get the opportunity to also contribute in the passing game. George says he expects Smith—who will also start at cornerback—to be the playmaker of the group.
“We need him to have a big year,” he said. “We need one of those 1,000 yard seasons from him, and we are expecting him to deliver on our expectations.”
The offensive line is led by seniors, including guard Hunter Largent (6’2, 315), center Kyle Huse (6’0, 250) and tackle Brody Sturges (6’5, 235). They appear to be one of the strong points of the offense. While all three of the seniors will be important pieces to the line, George says Largent sets the tone for the group.
“He’s the guy who makes things go up there, and he’ll play college football at some level,” he said. “He’ll be the bell cow of the group, but all of our seniors will be key to our success because they will lead by example and help the younger linemen along the way.”
The defensive front seven was one of the strong points of the 2018 defense. Gavin Yeager, Hunter Largent and Brody Sturges will contribute on the front in addition to what they give the Bears on offense. Other names to watch for are seniors Devry King (5’10, 185), Sam Sendelbach (5’9, 195) and Dawson Wright (6’0, 220), in addition to juniors Brandon Cartwright (5’9, 195) and Robert “Shawn” Gillespie (5’10, 175).
Senior Jay Smith will play both ways as he mans the top cornerback spot, while junior Gabe Hudson and sophomore Trevor Lorenz will play safety.
Noble opens the 2019 season at home against Newcastle on Sept. 6 and the Bears start district play on Sept. 27 against Duncan.– BSM