Bobby Lewis, NewsOn6.com
SKIATOOK, Oklahoma -- The label on the crown of one Skiatook Bulldogs' helmet reads "EARN IT" in all capital letters. The team certainly did a season ago. Vance Miller's Bulldogs crashed the postseason party for the first time in seven years in 2010, but feel like they're even better now than they were 12 months ago.
"We told the kids we've raised the bar," Miller said at practice.
One playoff appearance in seven years doesn't exactly amount to a dynasty. It would be easy for other 5A teams to overlook a school like Skiatook since the team hasn't had much success recently.
"It'll be a mistake if they do," linebacker Travis Davis said.
Skiatook returns senior starters on both sides of the ball including Conner Appleberg. Appleberg played quarterback for the Bulldogs last year as a junior, but is moving to running back this season. His versatility is one major plus in the Bulldogs' favor.
"I played a little bit in middle school at running back and I kind of liked it," Appleberg said. "Quarterback was fun. I liked it, but running back is where I like to play because you can hit people."
The defense features Davis at linebacker, where he collected over 100 tackles as a junior. Dylan Keys is one of three other returning starters on that side of the ball.
The first half of the season features teams with a combined record of 50-12 from a year ago. The Bulldogs will face Catoosa on the road in the opener, followed by Oologah at home, Bartlesville and Booker T. Washington on the road and then return home for McAlester in Week 5.
"We always joke and say our RPI rating is real high because of who all we play early," Miller said. "We'll go just one game at a time."
The players said they are confident that they can maneuver through the schedule and make it two years in a row in the postseason.
"It'll be a challenge, but we're up to it," Davis said. "We're ready."