NORMAN — It was an important night at Norman High on Friday. The stands were packed for Homecoming, and the Tigers brought back the 1992 state championship team to be honored at halftime.
And did the Tigers ever put on a show for their guests.
Behind an offensive barrage on the ground, No. 8 NHS jumped out to a 28-7 lead early in the second quarter and never looked back, defeating Choctaw 45-14
As usual, the Tigers’ run game was brilliant, with Zach Long and Imond Robinson teaming up to run the option to perfection, with each breaking several long runs that contributed to NHS jumping out to a 21-0 lead before Choctaw could get on the board.
But on Friday, there was more to the blowout than just the offense. The defense was stout, allowing just 14 points and only seven with the starters in. But, more importantly, the Tigers were active in forcing turnovers. Behind hard hits and smart reads, NHS forced five turnovers in the game, easily their highest total of the season.
And the defense contributed to the score as well. Early in the second quarter safety Michael Piper read Yellowjacket quarterback Jonah Llanusa as he surveyed the middle of the field. Piper then jumped the slant route down the middle of the field, leaping into the air to intercept the football before sprinting 16 yards the other way to complete the pick-six and put NHS on top 21-0.
“We’re starting to create some turnovers, which is good,” coach Greg Nation said. “We’ve told the kids you can’t hope that the other team makes a mistake or a turnover; you have to cause them. It’s huge having your defense contribute like that.”
While the defense did its part to shut down the Yellowjackets, Long was at his best, running the ball 10 times for 145 yards and two scores while throwing for 64 yards and another score with just three incompletions.
And the other half of the duo, Robinson, set up the Tigers’ first score with consecutive runs of 37 and then 39 yards in which he evaded tacklers at the line and then broke it outside and outraced the Yellowjackets around the corner and headed downfield. Long finished off the drive with a pinpoint throw to Jakcob Dean for a five-yard touchdown.
Both players left the game in the third quarter as NHS put in its backups.
“It’s about making the right reads,” Long said. “The offensive line does a great job every time of opening a hole, and I make the right read it can just be out of the gate. And I know if I give the ball to Bam [Robinson] what he can do.”
Taking control and putting the game away early was key for the Tigers on Friday, Long said.
“Homecoming can sometimes take the game with everything going on,” he said. “But we came out focused and ready to go.”
Corbin HoslerFollow me @Chosler88chosler@normantranscript.com