The last two seasons may not have been the strongest for the Durant High Lions, but many of this year’s players are coming into their junior and senior seasons with a lot of experience — including seven returning starters. And they’re coming into the new season on a winning-streak after ending last year with a 48-0 win over Nathan Hale High.

Senior center Cooper McCoy will help anchor the offensive line that should allow quarterback Noah McCarson and a backfield made up of Austin Reinecker and Francisco Avila to create some magic with the ball.

“We are just working harder and with a purpose, I think they know we can win,” Durant head coach Ray Richards said in an interview with KTEN. “They know it will not be easy but they have a goal and we are pulling together to achieve that goal.”

The players know leadership helps bring a team together and seniors like McCoy, Luke Gaines, Lazaro Estrada, Dalton White and Hunter Haislip are looking to lead by example.

“With 14 starters returning, we’re definitely a better football team and the senior leadership is making a difference in the offseason development,” Richards was quoted as saying by VYPE Oklahoma. “If we can catch a break or two and the pieces all fit together, we have a chance to have a winning season.”

That win over Hale was the Lions’ sole victory last year, as they finished 1-9 on the season and 1-6 in district play.

Just like last season, the Lions open the season against Poteau High, though this year’s game will be in Durant on Sept. 6. Durant High then goes on the road in Week Two to face District 5A-1’s Ardmore High Tigers, who lost last year’s Class 5A championship game to Edmond Santa Fe High, on Sept. 13. The third week of the season brings the Lions’ first Thursday night game of the year, as they’ll face Class 4A Broken Bow High on the road on Sept. 19.

The Lions then return home Sept. 27 for the start of District 5A-3 play, which begins this year with McAlester High. Oct. 4 brings another home game against Coweta High before the Lions travel to Tulsa on Oct. 11 to face the Bishop Kelley High Comets in a 7 p.m. matchup. The next week’s game will be on Thursday night and closer to home, as Durant High will travel to Ada for a game against the Cougars.

Homecoming brings the Lions back to Durant High on Oct. 25 for a game against Glenpool High, who went just 2-8 last season. The Lions’ last road game of the season sees them traveling back to Tulsa on Nov. 1 for a 7 p.m. content against the Edison Prep Eagles.

The season ends Nov. 8 with Senior Night at home against the Nathan Hale High Rangers, who lost 48-0 to the Lions in the last game of the season last year. The Oklahoman recently reported the preseason District 5A-3 coaches poll placed Hale below Durant High, so the Lions could finish the season with a win again this year. All regular season games are scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m., other than the two 7 p.m. games against Bishop Kelley and Edison Prep.

On defense, Durant will use a 3-4 alignment to get the most from each position. Senior noseguard Davion Shields will be a key playmaker, as will senior Pedro Garcia and Reinecker. Senior kicker Zach White will be looking to use his leg strength from playing soccer on field goals and kickoffs.

“Regardless of what the results have been, you still have to get up and go to work everyday and try to change that,” Richards said to KTEN. “So our kids have had a lot of adversity and they are working through that and they are not going to quit.”

The Durant football program is also currently running a fundraiser to “in purchasing new uniforms, equipment and other pertinent expenses” on the website Vertical Raise. The fundraiser will continue until Sept. 14 at