The Keys football program kicks off the 2019 season with a trip to Checotah at 7 p.m. Friday.

The Cougars traveled to the Wildcats’ home field for last season’s opening game but left with a 41-0 loss under ex-head coach Mitchell Crittenden. The Cougars have the season opener circled and look to avenge last season’s loss led by Bryce Sanders, Lane Taylor, Drake Hathaway and new head coach Mel Maxfield.

Taylor started at quarterback last season as a freshman. He will bring a year of experience back to where he received his first starts. Maxfield’s wing-T offense will showcase Taylor’s athleticism and scrambling ability.

Sanders is an athlete who spends most of his time at running back but is more than willing to catch the ball in space and block for others in the backfield. Sander’s is the Cougars’ most athletic player and is coming off an injury-riddled 2018 season. He is determined to rebound entering his senior year.

Aaron Smither is Sander’s primary blocker in the backfield. Smither made numerous crucial blocks in the team’s two scrimmages which led to a handful of touchdown runs which went for over 30 yards each.

Hathaway is the senior leader of the team. He is physically the strongest player on the team. The Cougars’ running game will lead behind Hathaway on the offensive line. He will also rotate into the defense to stop the run and put pressure on the opponent’s quarterback.

Senior linebackers Smither and Shaymon O’Neal will try to limit the Wildcats’ big-play potential and prevent the opposing running backs from breaking away.

The Cougars are still figuring out the special teams aspect of the game, but kicker Jordan Andrews showed promise in last week’s scrimmage against Central Sallisaw. Andrews made three of his four kick attempts in the scrimmage.

The Wildcats lost last year’s starting quarterback to graduation, but senior Jacob Barrett will take the reigns of the team’s offense. Barret was the tam’s star wide receiver who finished with 11 touchdowns and 918 receiving yards from his 55 receptions. His receiving performance from last season landed him a spot on Vype’s top 100 players entering the season.

Running back Dontierre Fisher is also a Vype top 100 player who rushed for 14 touchdowns during his freshman season. The Cougars’ will have to play smart to contain the Wildcats’ offensive duo.

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