Originally Published: Aug 29, 2009 6:11 PM CDT

Dave Carty
Oklahoma Sports Staff Writer

EDMOND, Oklahoma – It’s not a bad gig to be stepping into.

First year head coach Bruce Gowen inherits a football team that many expect to be among the class of the western half of the state. After previously coaching at teaching at Edmond Santa Fe for 15 years, he is now the head man at the program.

He’s enjoyed a busy offseason, but has taken time for team events such as a chicken wings eating competition with other Edmond high schools at Buffalo Wild Wings in early August. Eating copious amounts of meat wasn’t part of the team’s regular offseason program and shortly thereafter the team got to work in practice.

Now, as August slips into September, it’s down to business.

Will Long will be the starting quarterback on opening night. The senior played junior varsity the last couple years, but grabbed the starting job during the preseason. Long said his footwork was a primary area of focus, but the first year starter can’t wait to hit the ground running. “I think we’re coming along pretty good,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the start of the season.”

He’ll have a degree of protection in front of him with several skilled players back on the offensive line. Alex Land (6’3”, 275) has a very adequate name and will lead the push along with Justin Brewer (6-2, 270) and D.J. Sims. “They’re all good leaders. They work hard day in day out. They do things right,” said Gowen. “When we run plays, there aren’t many busts there. On your offensive line, if you can just get people in the right place at the right time, you’re going to see a positive gain there.”

Tailbacks Antonio Slayton and Brian Mills, both seniors, will each get a bunch of carries with Tevin Doss stepping in for some rushes too.

Matt Leavell will be the primary target at wideout. By his own admission, Leavell was primarily a possession receiver last year, but he has higher hopes in his senior campaign. “Hopefully, this year’s my year to get out there and make some big plays for our team,” he said.

The receivers have been a bit banged up over the course of the preseason, but Gowen expects the group to be ready to go. Several sophomores will likely see time at wide receiver this season, giving the coach a young base to build around.

In their 3-3 stack defense, the Wolves have a pack at linebacker. Seniors Michael Harris, Damon Johnson, and Randy Mack are among the returners at the position.

That depth led Gowen to shift Jonathon Allen down to defensive end to play on the three-man line.

There, he’ll join up with senior Tyler Shaw at nose guard to try to infiltrate the backfield. So far, Gowen likes what he sees. “Those kids can run and communicate,” he said. “That’s important in that stack.”

“We’re looking to go all the way,” said Shaw.

He and his Wolves teammates are nothing if not optimistic. They’ve faced the best. Last year, they lost to one of the state’s best teams, Jenks, a 24-3 quarterfinal heartbreaker.

“The kids know how hard we had to work to get to where we were. And you can always remind them of that feeling when we walked off that field and felt like we had our chances and didn’t take advantage of them,” said Gowen.

“We had our chance here in practice to get better. Did we get better? We’re going to take advantage of those chances in practice so that when the chances come in the playoffs, we’ll take advantage of them.”

If last year’s loss doesn’t motivate them enough, the thought of a state championship this year will do the trick. “It helps you get motivated when you’re working out and when you’re practicing,” said Shaw. “You set that goal for yourself every year and try to achieve it because there’s nothing better than holding up that Gold Ball.”