NORMAN — Talk about high school football in Oklahoma, and two schools immediately come to mind. Jenks and Tulsa Union, the two traditional powerhouses, have held a stranglehold on the state title for the past two decades.
With the title so firmly locked into the east side of the state, the new test for many teams is to be the “best in the west.” It’s a tacit admission that no matter how successful a team from the west side of the state may be, it will always be viewed as the underdog, at least until someone besides Jenks or Union can win a title.
The pair’s lock on the title is indicative of a larger trend in Class 6A football - the difference of philosophy between east and west. While cities on the west side of the state split up school districts — resulting in three Moore schools and a pair of Norman schools — east-side schools have gone a different direction, creating massive halls with high enrollment numbers. Union has the second-highest enrollment in the state at 4,237 this year, while Jenks is third with 3,077. Norman North, for comparison, is ninth with 2,068 while Norman High has the state’s 16th-highest enrollment, at 1,728 students.
The vast gap in enrollment has created problems for the class, where schools with enrollment numbers in some cases just a quarter that of their larger peers can’t compete. It’s an issue that has led to consideration of creating a new division, or Class 7A, to help to alleviate the competitive imbalance. But until that happens, schools from the west side of the state will be viewed as fighting an uphill battle against their peers from the east.
It’s a topic that’s especially relevant this week, as North and NHS prepare for the other half of the “big four.” NHS will travel to Owasso and North will host Broken Arrow on Friday in the second round of the Class 6A playoffs, and both squads have their work cut out for them. It’s no coincidence that Broken Arrow (8-3) and Owasso (8-2) are both very good and ranked first and fourth, respectively, in enrollment figures. Both Tigers and T-Wolves will have the chance to quash the notion of east superiority.
And there are signs the rest of the state has caught up to the four powers from the east side. Along with NHS and North, the other two west schools in the quarterfinals — Edmond North and Edmond Santa Fe — have a combined record of 39-5, while the representatives from the east side, the “big four” have a combined record of 34-9.
For NHS, a win would be especially satisfying since the Tigers’ last two seasons have come to an end with playoff trips to Owasso.
“I’m definitely looking forward to the rematch,” cornerback Boston Lewis said. “We’re ready to go up there and get our revenge for the past two years.”
For North, it’s a matchup against last year’s state runner-up that came within one point and one lost fumble of nabbing the title from Union. Broken Arrow, which is the state’s largest school at 4,586 students, has only lost two in-state games this season, a 26-21 road game at Union and a 24-7 loss to Jenks.
With a week of matchups looming that may shift the traditional Class 6A narrative, North coach Wade Standley is more worried with preparing his team for the game than any other effects an upset win by the Timberwolves may have.
“There’s no question it’s a big game and they’re a great team, but it’s going to be just like any other week for us,” he said. “We just want to make sure we play our game.”
Corbin HoslerFollow me @Chosler88chosler@normantranscript.com