By Nate Aker
Over the next few weeks, SBLive Oklahoma will break down high school football teams from the four largest classifications in the state in anticipation of the upcoming 2022 season. Here's our look at the Bethany Bronchos.
Jon Arthur, 6th season (46-15 at Bethany)
7 offense, 8 defense
2021 AT A GLANCE
Overall record: 8-3
League record: 6-1, 2nd in District 4A-1
Playoffs: Lost to Blanchard, 24-21, in first round of the Class 4A playoffs
PLAYERS TO WATCH
ATH Taylor Heim, 6-5, 190, Sr.
As a 6-foot-5, 190-pound all-purpose athlete, it’s been noticeable how productive he is for the Bronchos. A three-time track state champion, Heim does it all through his athleticism and skill simultaneously, as he plays quarterback, wideout and free safety.
In 2021, Heim accumulated 1,474 passing yards, 926 rushing yards and 563 receiving yards, totaling to 2,963 all-purpose yards in his junior season. Heim has college offers from Central Oklahoma, Oklahoma Baptist, Houston Baptist and more heading into his senior year.
ATH Woods Harrell, 6-2, 200, Sr.
Harrell will have an important role on both sides of this Bronchos' team this upcoming season. Offensively, the reliable senior wideout/tight end will hope to have another productive year like his junior year saw, as he garnered more than 500 receiving yards and four scores.
Defensively, Harrell amassed nearly 40 tackles - three of those for loss. The 200-pound, two-way player will look to flash his prowess in many facets of the game one last time in 2022.
ATH Jack Gilliland, 5-10, 215, Sr.
Gilliland was an outstanding container for Bethany last season, bolstering that front seven with textbook wrap-up tackling. He registered 96 total tackles, leading the team in 2021. Gilliland also contributed on the offensive end as a secondary tailback behind his twin brother, Jack Gilliland, rushing for 156 yards.
ATH Jaden Gilliland, 5-10, 210, Sr.
Jaden Gilliland was the primary rusher last season for the Bronchos, racking up more than 500 yards on 100-plus carries. Defensively, Jaden tallied over 35 tackles.
It should shape up to be another productive season for both of the Gilliland brothers, as they look to make a further run in the playoffs in 2022.
LB/WR Jordan Strotter, 5-8, 160, Sr.
As a 5-8, 160-pound linebacker, you must be a good tackler in order to have your presence felt, and he certainly was in 2021. Last season, Strotter recorded 62 total tackles - seven for loss - three sacks and one pass deflection.
He’s been invited to a plethora of college camps and various visits, so it seems he may have the opportunity to showcase his skill set on a collegiate level.
After last season, it seems Arthur has his Bronchos back on track. Following a 5-6 record in 2020, Bethany came out red-hot to start the season, defeating Jones and John Marshall before suffering its first loss to Woodward by five points. But after that defeat, the Bronchos were locked in.
They went on a six-game winning streak and outscored their opponents, 215-101, in that time span. As their hot streak continued, it was abruptly halted as Clinton defeated them, 49-0, and it seemed as if that loss bled into their next game.
The contest after the Clinton loss was the first round of the playoffs against Blanchard, where the Bronchos fell just short in advancing as the Lions defeated them, 24-21. Despite the crushing feeling of having a momentous season cut short, Arthur was very optimistic and proud of his team, as they had to face many disadvantages throughout the season.
"We certainly played well, but we had quite a lot of injuries to key players last year," Arthur said of last year’s shortcomings. "It seemed like we had as many key injuries last year as we had the previous four years combined, and we know staying healthy is the name of the game at our level.
"With all that said, our kids did an unbelievable job of working together, persevering, learning new positions and getting better every week. With so many of those guys returning, we are just excited about building on those things we learned last year."
Now, heading into 2022, the Bronchos are locked and loaded with experience with several returning starters on both sides of the ball. With poise, talent and motivation, Bethany will hope to get back to where they were last season, but this time capitalize and make a deeper run into the playoffs.
"Every team is a little different and that is true for us this year. We graduated a couple of kids that were outside receivers and corners for us, so those are the main areas we are going to see some new guys this year. That will definitely open the door for us to use some other formations offensively with both of the Gillilands on the field at the same time, along with other guys in our offense.
"We are excited about our senior, Cale Wetwiska, who will also lead the offense at the quarterback position along with Heim. Wetwiska had some injuries throughout the year last year which saw Heim play exclusively at quarterback for most of the regular season." - Jon Arthur