NORMAN — Dan Quinn remembers what that first year was like. As Norman North principal when the high school opened in 1997, he has a vivid memory of just how bad the football team was.
That first year after splitting with Norman High, the Timberwolves compiled a 2-8 record. It wasn’t the greatest start fans could have hoped for.
“The first year, we had a combined team,” Quinn said. “The next year, we started up and we got thrashed about quite a bit.”
But now, 14 years later, North finds itself on the opposite end when it plays for its first-ever state championship at 7:30 tonight in Stillwater.
Quinn will be in the stands at Boone Pickens Stadium as the Timberwolves try to knock off perennial powerhouse Jenks. He was principal at Norman High before opening North. Years earlier, he was athletic director and head trainer when the Tigers won a state football championship in 1992.
“It’s been a long time coming, and I’m real happy for the school,” Quinn said. “We couldn’t be more pleased.”
Current North principal Bryan Young also will be in the stands with hundreds of students who are taking charter buses to the game. Young, who also was at North in 1997, has watched the enthusiasm grow.
“We did not have the largest crowd at the first-round game, so on Monday, I went to several classrooms and talked to the kids about it,” Young said. “We have great kids and they always do what we ask of them, and we decided that we would really try and work on our school spirit. We talked about how important the whole high school experience is and how we wanted to support each other in everything we do. The kids and the faculty response has been fantastic.”
Young already has experienced a championship title run with the Timberwolves. It occurred on the pitch as coach of the boys soccer team in 2000. It’s an experience he wants the members of the football team to experience themselves.
“I know how much it means to kids to win a state championship in high school,” Young said. “It’s an experience the kids will treasure for the rest of their lives. Their kids will get to see their dad’s picture on the wall when they come to Norman North in the future.”
North is trying to do something even bigger than win a championship. Since 1996, no team on the west side of the state has brought home a Class 6A state football title. Tulsa Union and the Trojans have won nine of the 11 titles since 1996.
Midwest City was the last west-side school to win it all in 1994 and ’95. Two years before, Norman High won its second-ever championship. It was led by coach Butch Peters, who was the Tigers’ skipper from 1996 to 2008. He knows just how big of a mountain the Timberwolves have had to climb just to get to this point.
“The biggest process I’ve seen since the split has been trying to get your numbers back up to allow you to be competitive with the east-side schools,” Peters said. “People don’t realize the difference it makes between the east and west sides of the state. Their run this year has defied the odds.”
The odds are stacked against North to claim its first championship. They face a Jenks squad that hasn’t won it all since 2007 and has been a juggernaut throughout the year.
But longtime North fans believe there is something special about this team.
“It would be fantastic if the boys could win it,” Young said. “Athletically in high school, a state championship is the ultimate achievement and something that kids will always remember. We set high standards at Norman North, and it is very special when you are able to achieve your goals.
“Everyone knows Jenks and Union are football powerhouses, so to beat one of them for the title would make it even more special. I’m very competitive, so if a west-side team is going to win it, I want it to be Norman North.”