NORMAN — Norman High coach Greg Nation believes that one of the most important keys to any game is the first three minutes. And he’s looking for NHS to own the first few minutes of Friday’s game against Owasso to set up the rest of the contest.
It’s the same formula the Tigers used last week against Yukon, when running back Imond Robinson took the opening snap 80 yards for a touchdown in a blowout NHS victory. And the fact that the Tigers are now going on the road to face a tougher opponent only adds to the importance of a quick start.
“If you go out and don’t play well and then look up six minutes into the game or after the first quarter and see you’re down, it’s going to be hard to make yourself relax,” Nation said. “We’ve got to do well in those first few plays and set the tone for the rest of the game.”
A quick score could do wonders for the Tigers, who will play in Owasso’s stadium for the third straight playoffs, and quarterback Zach Long knows it.
“They’re a good defense, and they’re well-coached,” he said. “But we have a good game plan going in and we feel good about what we can do.”
Distance not an issue: Norman High travels to Owasso to meet the Rams in the playoff for the third straight year, and one of the factors they’ll have to contend with is the long bus ride.
One of the more dangerous off-the-field factors for teams can be a change in routine, and a nearly three-hour bus trip is a big change.
But the long trip is something NHS coaches aren’t worrying about.
“We’ve played in that district where we had to make trips to that side of the state, so it’s not unfamiliar to us,” Nation said. “That’s one benefit to going there the last two years.”
Tigers focus on third down: Owasso has averaged more than 45 points a game in its last two games against Norman High, something the Tigers know they’ll have to bring down to pull off the upset.
Doing so won’t be an easy task. But the Tigers have identified one area they believe will be especially important, and that is on third down.
“We’re focused on stepping up and stopping them on third down,” safety Gavin Nadeau said. “We know what they can do on offense, and we’ve got to limit them.”
East-West divide on display: Of the eight teams remaining in Class 6A, four are from the west side of the state, while the “big four” — Tulsa Union, Jenks, Broken Arrow and Owasso — will represent the east. And all four quarterfinal matchups work out to be east-west.
While there are signs the West has caught up to the East, at least for this season, there haven’t been many meaningful games between the big schools from each side. That will change this week, and NHS and North fans may want to keep an eye on the other two games, Tulsa Union at Edmond Santa Fe and Edmond North at Jenks, to see how their teams may match up in a possible semifinals game.
Corbin HoslerFollow me @Chosler88chosler@normantranscript.com