In the fourth season for Oklahoma teams to play on Zero Week, the Poteau Pirates will be giving that a try for the first time.
The Pirates will play their first-ever Zero Week match-up with a home game against El Reno, a 5A school. Since it will be the Pirates' first time to play on Zero Week, coach Forrest Mazey said things had to go much faster than expected in the preseason due to the early game.
"It puts everything in a bind," Mazey said. "For us, it's kind of an anxious feeling because you're a week behind, you've got to put everything into high gear. ... Once we get into the games, I think a weight will be off our chest a little bit to where we can get into a routine to where we can get things done."
Mazey also pointed out some things, both good and bad, which distinguishes playing games on Zero Week compared to having generally started a season on Week 1.
"I think there's some disadvantages because you don't get the two scrimmages for conditioning and more game-ready reps, but I think it is an advantage because there's a bye somewhere in there," Mazey said. "For us, we're fortunate to have it between non-district and district."
Although El Reno is an unfamiliar opponent to the Pirates, Mazey actually has a bit of knowledge about the Indians, who finished 5-5 last season.
"Back in the late '90s, they were (dominant), I'll be honest with you," Mazey said. "They were competing for state championships and I played with a lot of those kids in college, so they have a tradition and they have a really, really good coach (Charles Atchison).
"I think they went from two wins to 5-5 in his first year, so that speaks volumes on what he's able to do and when you watch them on film, they're coached well, so we'll have our hands full obviously, because they're going to have tradition and they're going to be wanting to prove themselves, especially against us. But that's everybody."
The Pirates, who went 7-4 and suffered a tough overtime loss to Wagoner in the opening round of the 4A playoffs last season, will return seven starters on both sides of the ball. Among the returning starters include senior quarterback Jett Pitchford, who threw for nearly 1,500 yards and 17 touchdowns last season, junior tailback Easton Francis, who accounted for nearly 2,500 yards of total offense and 39 TDs his sophomore year, and senior defensive end Gunnar Thompson, who led the Pirates in tackles with 83 to go along with eight sacks.
Today's game will also be the first of six regular-season home games for the Pirates, who are at home again on Aug. 31 against Durant.
"We've got a good home slate this year and usually, we're pretty tough at home," Mazey said. "So hopefully, that plays in our hands, but we've got to be prepared and we've got to play to the best of our abilities every Friday night that we're out there."
Poteau has also gotten some pre-season attention across the state. The Pirates are favored to win 4A by OKPreps.com, and the VYPE pre-season magazine ranked Poteau No. 5 in 4A.
Keota at Weleetka
The Lions, who finished 9-3 a season ago and reached the second round of the B playoffs, are attempting to go farther this season, which includes the fact they return six starters on defense.
Keota will receive a big challenge right off the bat with a road game at Weleetka, ranked No. 10 in B by VYPE, although the Outlaws are coming off a 5-6 campaign in 2017.
Oaks at Gans
The Grizzlies, who won three games a season ago, are under the direction of a new coach, Eric Douthit, who has installed a two-back power running game on offense. On defense, Gans will utilize a 3-3 odd-stack scheme as four starters return to the fold.