DURANT, Oklahoma (KTEN) - 2021 was tough for the Durant Lions and playing 5A football, you never get a week off. However, there seems to be a different feeling around the program as head coach Todd Vargas enters his third season in that position.

"I came in my freshman year and we had 20 kids maybe in my class and now we got over 100 kids out total and we're coming together as a family," said senior center Matt Manners. "it's the best I've ever seen us work since I've been here."

"The best thing about Durant kids is they work hard and they're extremely coachable," said head coach Todd Vargas. "When you have athletic kids and they're coachable and they work hard, good things can happen."

The Lions will have familiarity on offense with most of their offensive line returning and junior quarterback Jaylon Saxon getting ready for his second season running the show.

"I just feel like as an upperclassman, I'm way more comfortable than I was last year," said Saxon. "Just playing people that are my age, I feel more comfortable with the guys around me."

On defense, Durant should be improved as well and a big reason for that is transfer defensive lineman Xadavien Sims, who is ranked by some as the top prospect in the state for the 2024 recruiting cycle.

"Defensively, I just think the athleticism that we have on the defensive side that we've never had is really exciting," said Vargas.

They will have to put it all together on the field if they want to see more wins this season. If attitude means anything though, Vargas knows his guys are looking to turn things around.

"I can see the hunger in these kids eyes," said Vargas. "You know the first thing in any type of program being turned for the positive is belief, and you can feel the belief and see the belief in the kids eyes."