ATOKA, OK. -- For most schools 2017 is just a new year, but in Atoka that's only the beginning of it. Starting with a new head coach.
"What was going through my mind was I hope they offer me the position because this is what I really wanted," Atoka Head Coach John Sullenger said. "I was all in on this from the beginning. This is the commitment I made to these kids. It's what I was hoping would happen and when it did I said yes."
The excitement carried on, with a new home field.
"I can't believe it's happening, I can't believe it's real," Atoka senior Israel Garcia said about the new stadium. "They said it was going to be made by this year and I didn't see it happening. Taking the first step, it's like heaven on earth."
"It was an exciting feeling," Atoka senior Will Sandmann said. "It's really cool stepping out on your own field with the 'A' on it. I hadn't seen a field with our logo on it since my sophomore year when we played our last game."
And again with the schedule. The Wampus Cats will play in the Atoka city limits for the first time since 2015.
"It's different," Garcia said. "There is no comparison to what a hometown brings to your football team and football field. On the road you don't have that. When you're at home it's a different energy, different atmosphere. It's a whole lot better to play like that."
"We traveled 11 weeks last year and that was tough," Sullenger said. "It was tough on our coaches, the kids and our community. To open up this facility August 25th against Talihina is going to be great for us, and having eight home games will be great for our kids."
"The game is the same wherever you play," Sandmann said. "but it's exciting to not have to travel 30 minutes for a ball game. A lot more hometown people will watch us now that we're here at home."
The Wampus Cats do have some lofty goals, which include a trip past week 10.
"There are four teams in this district going to the playoffs, we're going to go to the playoffs," Sullenger said. "That's our first and foremost goal."