AFTON — Now comes the hard part: an encore.
Afton ran roughshod through its Class A competition, going unbeaten during a championship season.
But 16 players, most filling key positions — including all-stater Wil Amos — were lost to graduation.
Amos now is at Emporia State (Kansas) University and head coach Zach Gardner is now at Miami.
Fred Peery, assistant head coach, defensive coordinator and strength and conditioning coach at McLoud, now is the man in charge.
Peery, who was head football coach at Wellston from 2011 to 2013, had been at McLoud since 2014.
Over the past 10 years, Peery has been part of programs that finished as a Class 2A runner-up in 2008 (at Chandler), was a semifinalist in 2004 (Seminole) and reached the quarterfinals in 2005, 2006 and 2007.
He’s just the third head coach at Afton in the last 20 years.
Jerry Springer was head coach from 1998 to 2006 and Gardner logged a 99-33 record in 11 seasons at Afton.
Afton went 10-0 during the regular season, rolling to the District A-7 title.
Their closest call was a 22-20 win against Rejoice Christian in Week 6.
Then in the playoffs, Afton rolled 48-7 over Savanna, 40-14 against Cashion in the second round, 30-6 over Minco in the quarterfinals and 52-7 against Thomas in the semifinal round.
During a 44-12 win over Crescent in the championship game at Owasso, Amos had 418 yards and five touchdowns.
The Eagles took a big step in retooling on both sides of the football on Friday, Aug. 17, during a scrimmage at Quapaw.
“We did good in the first part of the scrimmage,” Peery said following Afton’s only pre-season tune-up.
“The second part we didn’t do so good. I think we got wore down,” he said.
This will be the only scrimmage for the Eagles, who suited up only 19 players.
They are idle until Friday, Aug. 31 when they host Barnsdall.
The other non-district games on the schedule include Tulsa Webster and Salina.
Afton opens District A-6 with Commerce, which has dropped down from 2A for at least the next two seasons.
“Sometimes you have guys starting in that first scrimmage who start in the first game and sometimes they might not start until later on in the year,” Peery said.
“I had a senior playing sam (strong side) linebacker and we go into the second game he’s not getting it done, so I bring in a freshman. That freshman winds up starting at linebacker for the next four years,” Peery said. “Nobody knew.”
The Eagles return a number of players who got playing time once a game got out of hand.
Rebuilding the offensive and defensive lines has been a priority.
“We are very young and very inexperienced,” he said.
Peery said there are several positions that were still up for grabs when this story was written.
“There are a couple where we’re pretty confident who will start, but there are some jobs at a couple of the key spots that are still up in the air,” Peery said.
Brett Fuser will be a two-way starter, filling the shoes of Amos at quarterback.
Weston Amos, Wil’s younger brother, will be at linebacker.
Braeden Gaines returns at left offensive guard and linebacker.
Peery said Cole Mikesell would be used at multiple positions, primarily at defensive end.
Brandon Coombes has been penciled in at defensive end and Teegan Maupin is projected as a two-way starter.