NORMAN — Norman High had its chances. A partially blocked punt that gave the Tigers the ball at the 15. A fumble recovery at the Edmond Santa Fe 31. A 37-yard field goal try. A near-sack on Santa Fe quarterback Justice Hansen that didn’t quite come fast enough to stop him from throwing a pinpoint touchdown pass.
But the Tigers couldn’t convert those plays, and they couldn’t take advantage of enough of the opportunities they were given. They couldn’t stop Hansen, who made every big throw for No. 6 Edmond Santa Fe, and they couldn’t get a stop in the game’s final minutes to give the offense a shot to win it.
All of which led to Edmond Santa Fe handing the seventh-ranked Tigers their first district loss of the season, 27-21.
The battle of the two teams tied atop District 6A-4 was as heated as advertised, and both squads played well. NHS (6-2, 4-1) showed it was more than capable of playing with Edmond Santa Fe (7-1, 5-0), but after taking a 7-0 lead early in the game behind a beautiful circus catch by Jakcob Dean, the Tigers couldn’t quite get over the hump and were forced to play from behind for the rest of the game after Edmond Santa Fe took a 14-7 lead in the second quarter.
And, while the Tigers made big plays at times, they left points on the board. NHS had three possessions that started inside the Wolves’ 35, but were unable to come up with scores on any of those possessions. It was one of the few negative marks on a Tiger team that looked throughout the game like a team that can challenge anyone in the state.
“I told the team after the game to not be down,” coach Greg Nation said. “That’s a darn good football team we lost to. I’m proud of my kids; they prepared well and played hard; but you just don’t win them all.”
The speed of Edmond Santa Fe was clearly the biggest difference in the game, allowing the Wolves to break several long plays but more importantly, catch the speedy Tiger runners on the outside and prevent some long runs.
It was expected that Hansen, who has drawn interest from top-tier schools across the country, would have a big game. And he did, finishing 14 of 24 for 295 yards and four touchdowns. He also led the Wolves to converting three first downs on the final drive of the game, burning the final five minutes off the clock and not allowing the Tiger offense back on the field with a chance to win it.
But the Edmond Santa Fe defense also stepped up when it counted, slowing down the Tigers just enough to give the Wolves the win. That included a key fourth-down stop at midfield late in the first half that set up the Wolves’ second score.
“I told you the winner tonight will win the district championship,” Edmond Santa Fe coach Lance Manning told his team after the game. “That’s a good football team we beat, and this is a big win for us.”
Even in defeat, there were positives to find for NHS. The Tigers completely shut down Edmond Santa Fe’s running game, holding the Wolves to 95 yards on the ground and keeping them to their second-lowest point total of the year. They also sacked Hansen six times and sent him scrambling even more.
“That’s a team that’s been scoring 40-plus on everybody, and they came out tonight and only got 27 on us,” Nation said. “We’re never satisfied, but our kids played well tonight.”
Corbin HoslerFollow me @Chosler88chosler@normantranscript.com