Norton leads Longhorns into battle in Friday’s season opener against Lomega
In talking with people around Dover High School, there’s a prevailing feeling about new boys basketball coach Aaron Norton.
“He’s a really good guy,” was echoed by everyone from Principal Kyle Karns to baseball coach Dylan Blundell to girls basketball coach Byron Randle.
“He’s a good guy,” added Jeff Liles, the pastor at Kingfisher Church of the Nazarene who also helps out with the boys basketball program.
“Actually, he’s a great guy,” Liles continued. “He’s a great fit with these guys. They respond to him. You can tell he has boys of his own.”
Norton makes his debut with the Longhorns this Friday night when they open their 2019-20 season at home against Lomega.
Friday (Nov. 1) is the first day non-football schools in Oklahoma can begin their basketball seasons.
Okarche begins its season that day as well as it christens its new gymnasium against Preston. (Ed. note: More on the Okarche teams in Wednesday’s edition.)
Norton is the latest in what’s been a revolving door of coaches in Dover for the better part of a decade.
He takes over after Josiah White left after one season to return to collegiate basketball.
“I hope I can be here a while,” Norton said. “I’d like to put an end to that (revolving door).”
Norton spent the last two seasons coaching girls at Turner. His first team there went 7-17 and the Lady Falcons improved last year to 13-11.
His coaching career began in 2008 when he took over the Navajo boys program for three seasons.
Following that, he coached girls at Achille, Agra and Earlsboro, coaching two years at each spot.
“I was looking for an opportunity to coach boys,” Norton said about coming to Dover. “Having the chance to coach my son was part of that.”
Norton’s youngest of three sons, Emery, is a sophomore for the Longhorns. Norton and his longtime wife, Isabella, also have one son attending Seminole State and another serving in the United States Navy.
When Dover’s coaching position came up, he checked out the Longhorns record last year (4-18) before applying.
“A lot of people see four wins and that might turn them away,” Norton said. “But I looked closer and noticed a lot of those were close losses.
“They were right there. I figured this would be a good opportunity to come up here and try to improve on that.”
Norton graduated from Lone Grove High School in 1990. Before attending Southeastern Oklahoma State University, he served in the Marines.
Liles said some of that background is evident in Norton’s coaching.
“He really works them,” Liles said. “He really pushes them the entire practice, but he also has a way of doing it that they don’t know he’s doing it.”
Norton said he wants to bring more discipline to the Longhorns.
“That’s what we’ve been working on,” he said. “We’re wanting to work on doing what we want to do.”
He said that includes increased conditioning.
“That’s coming along he said. “We want to be faster paced, work hard, dive for loose balls and things like that,” he added.
The Longhorns have been willing recipients of what he’s trying to deliver to the program, Norton said.
“They’re buying in and that’s what you’re always worried about as a new coach coming in,” he said. “But they’ve been excited about what we’re doing, even the hard stuff.”
Dover has averaged five wins a season the last four years, a number that’s bolstered by a 10-win campaign in 2017-18.
Norton isn’t putting a number on what win total he’ll feel is successful.
“We just want to grow as a team and work on doing things right this year,” he said. “We’re working on getting better fundamentally and just improving.”
Dover opens the season with three consecutive home games.
After Lomega, the Longhorns will be visited Nov. 5 by Cimarron and Nov. 12 by Taloga.
Return 3 Starters
Garnering a win in the first game will be no easy task for Norton.
Lomega returns three starters from a 17-win team last year.
Returning for coach Justin Edsall in his eighth season are senior Tate Ott and juniors Riley Lumpkin and Noah Snowden.
Edsall also figures to get big contributions from the likes of senior Riley Free-lander, junior Dilon Fisher and sophomore Blake Snowden.
“I think we have a chance to be pretty good by the end of the season,” Edsall said.
“One thing I really like about this team is they play really well together as far as sharing it and passing,” he continued. “They probably play as well together as any team I’ve had here.”
The Raiders remain in the Cherokee Strip Conference and the schedule remains largely the same with one exception.
Lomega is returning to the Canton Invitational (Dec. 9-14) after playing at Garber in last year’s December tournament.
“I like going to Canton,” Edsall said. “It’s going to be loaded on the boys side this year, so it will be tough, but it will be good for us.
“And it’s also a 35-minute drive which is great for us and our fans.”
Lomega has its home opener Tuesday, Nov. 5, when it hosts rival Okarche.
(Ed. note: More on the Dover and Lomega girls teams as well as Okarche’s season opener can be found in Wednesday’s edition.)