Commerce's retooled Tigers will get a challenge right out of the chutes Friday night when they face Colcord in a battle of top-ranked teams.
The Tigers, making their debut under Mitchell Crittenden, were 10th in The Oklahoma Associated Press' pre-season Class A poll. Colcord is 14th in 2A.
"It will be a big challenge for us - we'll see where we're at," said Crittenden, who succeeds Rick Trimble as the Tigers' head coach. "Colcord is a one-back team and they throw the ball a lot. There's always that big-play potential hanging there. We would like to control the football and keep their offense off the field."
"I have a lot respect for Commerce," Colcord head coach Bud Simmons said. "I think they are a good team. They still have a lot of talent. They graduated a lot of guys, like we did. Both of us are different teams now. I look at the match-up to be pretty even in almost every area. At least I hope it is. I don't know where we're at right now. It's hard to tell."
Mikey Morgan will make his debut at quarterback for the Tigers. He's missed much of the pre-season with an ankle injury.
"He's probably not 100 percent right now, but he will start," Crittenden said. "Mikey will play, but we're going to try to control the situations. He's a tough kid, a competitive kid. My concern with kids like that is sometimes they don't tell you how bad it's actually hurting. We'll have to watch him real close."
While Morgan is back, three other starters are questionable. Danny Crittenden and Bryson Sullivan didn't suit up for the Tigers' scrimmage at Verdigris last Friday, then Jordan Glover was shut down after aggravating an ankle injury.
"We will let them go as long as they can, then pull the plug," Mitchell Crittenden said. "It's an important game for us. We play them all to win, but it doesn't count as far as our district standings and the playoffs. We're going to be smart, too. We want to be ready for that fourth ballgame and not finished for the year."
The return of Morgan means Jimmy Brock can return to running back, where he will be teamed with three-year starter James Sullivan.
The Hornets also will be breaking in a new quarterback. Dustin Weaver succeeds Ryan Keenom, who now is at Northeastern State University.
"We won 10 games and he's was a big reason why," Simmons said. "We're a young team, obviously not the same as we've been the past few years. We've improved each week."