A new chapter for Norman North football was supposed to begin last week — one the program was thrilled to start.
Third-year coach Justin Jones has played a mostly young cast through his first two seasons with the program, which struggled on the field during that stretch.
So as North embarks on its season opener against Edmond Memorial at 7 p.m. on Friday, the outside expectations might not be high following a 3-7 record in 2019. But within North's walls, the program has constructed a steady foundation with hopes of turning a corner this season.
"This team's excited," Jones said. "I think for us, it's the first time that these guys are together as one from top to bottom, and that's something we've been working on and working for."
North hoped to display that against rival Norman High on Thursday, Sept. 3. The game was canceled, however, due to a COVID outbreak at NHS. So, on the road against Edmond Memorial will have to suffice.
Part of the budding confidence at North is the experience it inherits from last year's group that fell short in a few tight games.
Another aspect to it is the system North has built.
The T-Wolves installed in a new offense in 2018 and then a new defense in 2019. It gives Jones comfort that the program has established schemes on both sides of the ball. It's not bad timing either with the natural difficulty installing any new system would have been during an offseason hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We've increased our knowledge and we've become more football savvy, if you will," Jones said, "and then you combine that with we got a bunch of guys on this team are unselfish and just want to make this team as good as they can. ... I'm really happy with where we're at."
Can the T-Wolves put away more of their opponents?
North had some close calls in 2019, most of which didn’t work out in its favor. The T-Wolves narrowly lost to Norman High and Edmond Santa Fe in non-district contests both settled by seven points.
North was competitive through the first halves of games against Moore and Putnam City North before letting both matchups get away from it late.
It didn’t help North’s young roster faced seven teams that qualified for the postseason over 10 weeks, including all but two of Class 6A-I’s 2019 state playoff participants.
• Gabe Trevillison, running back: The North running back is as talented as they come. He had 580 rushing yards on 89 rushes (6.5 yards per carry) and five touchdowns last season.
Trevillison’s junior season was derailed by injuries, but coach Justin Jones said the senior is “poised to have a breakout year” with the work he’s put in this summer.
• Luke Switzer, receiver/punter: Switzer was one of North’s top receiving threats last season, hauling in 409 yards on 17 receptions (24.1 yards per catch) and two touchdowns. North will lean on Switzer for big grabs as its most productive returning receiver.
He also was an exceptional punter for the Timberwolves last season, averaging 37.5 yards on 29 punts.
• Zach Ivy, linebacker: Ivy stood out among a talented North defense last season. Ivy had 30 tackles, one for loss, two sacks and a pass deflection in 2019.
The 6-foot-3 linebacker had his most productive game against Norman High last season, picking up eight tackles, and he will just as important Friday night against the Bulldogs.
Sept. 25 at Mustang: The Timberwolves earned their first win of the 2019 season at Mustang last season, and a Week 4 victory against the Broncos this year would be an impressive way for the T-Wolves to start their district schedule.
It would be a major statement for North with the lofty expectations that follow their District 6A-I-2 foes after the Broncos went 7-3 in the regular season last year — including a 23-21 win over Union — and made the Class 6A-I state playoffs.