MUSKOGEE — Miami takes the first step in a brutal eight-week stretch when it travels to Hilldale Friday, Sept. 1 for the 2017 season opener.
The Hornets are ranked sixth in The Associated Press 4A preseason poll.
From there, the Wardogs face No. 1 Wagoner in Week 5, fourth-ranked Tulsa Cascia Hall in Week 6 and No. 5 Oologah in Week 8.
“We’ve got to go out, execute and just do the little stuff really, really well,” said Andrew Rice, who will be making his debut as the Wardogs’ head coach.
Hilldale returns the bulk of a team that ran the table in the regular season but lost big to eventual state champ Heritage Hall in the Class 3A quarterfinals.
“They have a bunch of guys that have been competing for a while and they can finally see that stuff pay off,” Rice said. “They beat Wagoner in a half-game last week, so they will be ready to go.”
Senior back Mikey Winston again will be the key to the Hornets’ offense.
He had 2,140 yards on 342 carries and 43 touchdowns, including 274 yards and a pair of scores against Tulsa Metro Christian.
“We need to keep him in the box and not let him get loose,” Rice said. “If we can keep him boxed up and force them to throw it … that’s what we are going to try to do.”
Miami’s roster includes 10 seniors — wide receiver-defensive backs Lane Giles, Garrett Moore, Caden Friend, Corbin Hernon and Nathaniel Wilkerson, linebacker Justin Giles and linemen Garrin Randle, Caiden Gower, Callan Cox and Raymond Sharp — as well as 17 sophomores and 20 freshmen.
The Wardogs hope to beef up an offense that had 1,351 passing yards and only 663 yards rushing.
Junior Caden Folks is the leading rusher back, having netted 229 yards and two touchdowns on 46 attempts.
Jay Porter, a 6-0, 180-pound freshman, takes over at quarterback for Kameron Jinks, who threw for 3,653 yards and 29 touchdowns in three seasons as the Dogs’ starter.
Miami opens the home portion of the schedule Friday, Sept. 8 against Verdigris.