By Ryan Horton
Choctaw High School football is going to look different this season.
While Yellowjacket fans can expect to see a mentally and physically tough squad that’s been four years in the making, Choctaw’s schedule will also look like something brand new.
“We’re really excited. This is the best Choctaw has looked in my tenure here. We’ve been building for this season,” said fourth-year head coach Jake Corbin. “We feel like we have the most depth we’ve ever had.”
That well-conditioned lineup will be put to the test as the Yelowjackets head east this season.
To cap last season, the Yellowjackets claimed a Class 6A-II state quarterfinal victory and advanced to the semifinals for the first time since 1965. In a semifinal with Stillwater, Choctaw fell ending a five-game win streak.
Choctaw finished No. 3 in District 6A-II-1 behind their only division losses, Stillwater and Del City.
Now, a district changeup has Choctaw heading to District 6A-II-2.
CHS and Putnam West moved to 6A-II-2 this season, while Northwest Classen and U.S. Grant slid into the west district. Additionally, Putnam North joined the west district, while Putnam City Original moved up to 6A-1.
Choctaw’s district road games include Booker T. Washington, Bixby and Putnam West, while the Jackets will host Ponca City, Muskogee, Sand Springs and Bartlesville.
“We know they’ll be a handful, but we feel pretty strong,” said Corbin. “The teams on both the east and west are good. Traveling is not ideal for our fans, but it is what it is. We look forward to playing some different opponents.”
In addition to different district challengers, Choctaw added three out of state contests to make up their non-district play.
The Jackets open the year against a trio of Arkansas powers including a trip to Springdale Sept. 4, then the Jackets host Van Buren Sept. 11, before traveling to Greenwood Sept. 18.
“No one wanted to play us. People around here were ducking us so we had to play somebody. Obviously, moving to the east side threw us off because we can’t cross play any of those teams in our district. For a long time, we only had nine games,” explained Corbin about scheduling the Arkansas opponents. “Our usual opponents didn’t want to play us, and the teams in our district wanted us to go east. That’s fine, I take that as a compliment. We look forward to it.”
6A-II-2: Bartlesville, Bixby, Choctaw, Muskogee, Ponca City, Putnam West, Sand Springs, Tulsa Washington.
6A-II-1: Deer Creek, Del City, Lawton, Midwest City, Northwest Classen, Putnam North, Stillwater, U.S. Grant.
Sept. 25 Booker T. Washington: When Choctaw broke a 30-year playoff drought, Booker T. Washington was waiting in the first round. In 2014 and 2015 Tulsa Washington ended Choctaw’s football season. In total, CHS is 0-4 against Booker T.
Oct. 2 Ponca City: The last time CHS faced Ponca City was 2009. That year the Jackets claimed a 38-31 win that made the Jackets victorious over Ponca two consecutive seasons. Historically, Choctaw and Ponca City are 3-3 overall.
Oct. 9 Bixby: Bixby, a team that has made the 6A-II final every year since the class was created in 2014, is looking for a third straight District 6A II-2 title. Since 2014 they’ve claimed five state titles and taken runner-up once. They’ve never faced the Jackets.
Oct. 15 Muskogee: A regular power in the east, Muskogee will be expected to battle for one of the four playoff spots. Last season the Jackets faced a new football opponent in Muskogee. The Jackets claimed a 29-21 victory, which was the first playoff win for CHS in 38 years.
Oct. 23 Sand Springs: Choctaw beat the Sandites in 2016 and 2017 improving the Jackets to 4-2 in the series.
Oct. 30 Putnam City West: A familiar opponent came east with the Jackets. Choctaw has defeated Putnam West the last three season. In the last 14 meetings, Choctaw has won all but three contests, and each of those three losses were decided by three points or less.
Nov. 6 Bartlesville: A new opponent for Choctaw football. The last time Bartlesville claimed a district crown was the same year Choctaw earned their only state title, 1960. Last year they managed wins over Sand Springs and Ponca City.
Choctaw High School’s coaches believe their offense is up to the task of producing results against any opposition.
The Yellowjackets have been working to reshape the program for years, and the coaching staff says extra work put into year-round mental and physical conditioning has CHS poised to be a serious contender in Class 6A-II.
“This is the best Choctaw has looked in my tenure here. We’ve been building for this season,” said fourth-year head coach Jake Corbin.
Like last season, Choctaw will be focused on an aggressive style of play focused on securing touchdowns.
Choctaw’s offense will be in the hands of sophomore quarterback Steele Wasel.
As a 14-year-old freshman, Wasel served as the varsity backup QB last year. That role got him needed Friday night experience, and offseason work since then has him in peak condition.
Now a confident 6-foot-3, 215-pound sophomore, Wasel is expected to deliver as an elite talent in the QB spot.
“We’re young at the QB position, but really talented. He’s worked tirelessly between last season and now. In the weight room, film room and football field he’s done the work. He’s always up here throwing, and his work ethic is contagious,” said Corbin. “Even though he’s a sophomore, he seems older than that because of his maturity level. He will have some sophomore mistakes, but his upside is huge.”
With a deep team of athletes, Corbin has potential backups, but he expects Wasel to handle the bulk of the snaps.
“Anytime you’re starting a sophomore at quarterback finding a backup becomes tough as it messes with the natural progression. He’s an elite skillset, and we feel like he doesn’t have a whole lot of holes,” explained Corbin.
At running back CHS will have several young and explosive athletes.
Leading the RBs will be junior CJ Smith and sophomore La’Trell Ray.
“CJ got quite a few carries a year ago. We look forward to him having a breakout year. He’s extremely fast and never loses yards. He’s a great kid, worker and teammate. We look forward to him having a huge year for us,” said Corbin. “We also La’Trell Ray. He had a breakout year on the freshman team a year ago. We look forward to him having a big year. He’s fast and slippery. He moves in and out of spaces really well.”
Choctaw will be replacing tight end Jeff Roberson, who went to Oklahoma State, this season.
Coaches believe sophomore RJ Jackson has what’s needed to fulfill the high standards expected in the tight end position.
“He’s another sophomore, but he started 12 games for us as a freshman a year ago. RJ will be a Power 5 kid,” said Corbin. “He has a great combination of power, size and intelligence. He works hard and is very athletic.”
The Jackets return two talented seniors to play outside receiver, Chase Jackson and Wes Zeigler.
Jackson, a Texas Christian University commit, returns after a big junior season.
“Chase is coming off of a year leading 6A in receiving yards and touchdowns,” said Corbin. “A great kid and extremely explosive. He’s a walking touchdown every time he touches the ball. He’s been able to put on about 15 pounds of muscle and had a huge offseason. He’ll continue to show why he’s a Power 5 kid. He’s a stud.”
Zeigler, an explosive speedster, is expected to have a big senior year.
“Wes might be the fastest kid in the state. He was solid for us a year ago, and he’s added muscle and has a better understanding of the offense now,” said Corbin. “I expect great things, and can’t wait to see what develops with him.”
As usual, Choctaw has a deep roster of talent ready to play receiver.
Highlighting the receiver corps are two basketball standouts, Terrell Davis and Jax Burchett.
“We have kind of a newcomer in Terrell Davis. We got him out from basketball. He’s an extremely twitchy kid and a really good basketball player. He hasn’t played football in a few years, but he’s picking it up extremely quickly. His look is familiar in that he’s a walking touchdown. He’s explosive and has a knack for football even though he hasn’t played in the last couple years,” said Corbin.
“Jax Burchett is another basketball kid coming out for football. He had a fantastic spring and summer.”
Coaches say there is a long list of hard working and fast learning young players expected to get play time including sophomores Jax Smith, Carson Brakhage, Broox Haithcock and Conner Stover.
Choctaw’s ability to score begins with the offensive line.
“We have a lot of guys battling it out for spots. We have a lot of depth, and are really young for the most part,” said Corbin.
The O-line will be highlighted by junior Cade McConnell at left tackle, while there’s a long list of young players looking to make names for themselves.
“He has multiple Power 5 offers. He’s a junior at 6-foot-6, 280 pounds. He’s had a huge offseason transforming his body. He’s so athletic, big and long. He is poised to have an enormous year. I think he is poised to be one of the hottest prospects in the state. He’s an absolute stud and works so hard,” said Corbin. “Other guys in the mix will be Alton Robinson, Gabe Gaines, Ethan Isenhower, Justin Brown, Cage Butler, and Daven Evans. We just feel like we have a ton of depth at the offensive line position. I look forward to those guys continuing to battle it out to determine the starting five.”
Choctaw High School’s coaching staff believes they have the power and speed needed to make big stops this season.
Fourth-year head coach Jake Corbin says his team is at a physical level never seen before in Choctaw, and he’s ready to put them to work.
“They’re in the best shape they’ve ever been in their lives,” said Corbin. “We feel like we have the most depth we’ve ever had. That’s kind of our theme this year. We feel like we’re super loaded on defense.”
That deep roster is expected to cause serious problems for any offense, and the Jackets will test that on a stacked District 6A-II-2 schedule.
Choctaw will have a stacked secondary lineup looking to make big plays.
The Jackets have a long list of capable athletes ready to play cornerback and safety, but at the top of that list is University of Oklahoma commit Jordan Mukes.
“Jordan will be at corner and play some safety as well. Jordan’s had a great offseason and is up to 205 or 210 pounds. He can really move. He works, acts and moves like a Division I kid,” said Corbin.
Mukes is joined by some other talented seniors and a long list of young Jackets looking for a shot.
“Senior Chris Parker started for us as a sophomore. He moved to Georgia, but now he’s back. Senior Robert Ellis was an eight or nine game starter for us a year ago. He’s battling there again. He’s added muscle and speed in the offseason as we’re looking for great things out of him. Another guy who will battle for it is Jordan Thompson. He’s another senior looking for a corner or safety spot,” said Corbin.
“Younger guys battling for the safety position include sophomore Reed DeQuasie, junior Spencer Boles, and senior Gabe Lopez. We look forward to big things from them. We have a tremendous amount of depth at that position.”
Choctaw fans can expect to see Donnie Wingate and Ethan Rone make some big stops this season.
“Donnie Wingate will be a three-year starter for us, and his first year moving to backer. He’s about 222 pounds and shredded muscle. He looks a lot like a kid we had a year ago, Jeff Roberson.
They look like body doubles, and he’s looking to have a great year. He has multiple offers and is looking to make a great senior year,” said Corbin. “Ethan Rone, a junior, also returns at linebacker.
He’s a tough and physical kid. He can do multiple things for us.”
Jacket fans should also keep an eye on DeSean Brown, Elijah Wilder and Bolton Hawkins.
“For an outside backer hybrid position, we do we’ll be looking at DeSean Brown. He started seven games for us a year ago. He’s long, lean and up to about 215 or 220 pounds. A year ago, he started for us at 175. He’s huge and fast, two things you like,” said Corbin. “Senior Elijah Wilder is 6-foot-4, and 210 pounds. He’s another kid that’s played a lot for us. We’re very long on the outside.
Those guys can get to the quarterback and still cover other things as well. Another hybrid safety/linebacker spot we have is Bolton Hawkins. Bolton is a junior and returning start for us. He made some huge plays down the stretch for us a year ago. He has a huge motor, is athletic and a real tough and physical kid.”
Choctaw has several key retuning starters that will help the defensive line take shape.
“We feel like we have a really good squad on D. We’re really excited,” said Corbin.
Choctaw’s defensive line will be anchored by Aaron McAffrey.
“He’s a kid that works really hard. Very high motor and very intelligent kid. He’s a great teammate and just relentless up front,” said Corbin.
Wrestling power Zeke Coleman will also return as a starter for the Jacket D-line.
“He has a super good motor. Obviously, he’s a very good wrestler and it shows on the football field,” said Corbin.
Other returning starters include Daven Evans and Alex Davidson.
“Daven has multiple D2 offers,” said Corbin. “Alex will be a junior. He’s added about 25 pounds of muscle since last year. He’s a great teammate and great kid. I look forward to his offers piling up as the season progresses.”