TULSA, Oklahoma – The East Central Cardinals only lost two games all of last season, but one of them came in a devastating 32-3 blowout against Booker T. Washington in the state finals.
That loss occurred more than eight months ago, but it remains fresh in the players' minds.
"We remember that game every day," quarterback John McDavid said. "It just makes us push harder to get there and win it."
That goal is not out of the question, considering the team's recent history and all of its returning talent. The Cardinals have advanced to the state semifinals or deeper five times in the last eight years and have almost all of their key starters on both sides of the ball back this season.
McDavid threw for more than 2,000 yards last season and is one of six returning starters on offense. Elite linebacker Jevonte Cross – who has 195 tackles last season – also is back. Head coach Travis Hill said his team will benefit from having such little player turnover.
"It gives you a leg up," Hill said. "We're able to start out a little deeper in the playbook, offensively and defensively, than a lot of teams do."
The Cardinals will begin their season against Stillwater, but it is their third game they will be circling on their calendar. They will face off with Booker T. Washington on Sep. 16 with hopes avenging their loss in the state finals last year.