NORMAN — The entire season has come down to this week for Norman High. The Tigers must travel to undefeated Lawton and upset the Wolverines if they want to return to the playoffs, where they advanced to the state quarterfinals a season ago.
It’s a tall task. The Tigers (5-4, 3-3) own a win over Edmond Santa Fe, which was highly ranked at the time, but haven’t faced anyone the same quality as third-ranked Lawton. The Wolverines (9-0, 6-0) own several big wins of their own, but have also struggled against some lesser competition this season. They have big wins over top-10 teams Southmoore and Edmond Santa Fe, but also own just an eight-point victory over Choctaw.
The Wolverines’ offense is full of weapons. Quarterback Dallas Sealey has been dangerous, keying a prolific offense that has averaged more than 40 points a game, while running back Michael Warren has more than 2,000 yards this season and is flirting with the all-time school record.
But there may be some good news for a Tigers’ defense that is being asked to slow one of the state’s most explosive offenses. Sealey was injured in last week’s victory and was taken to the hospital during the game, though he returned to the sideline by the end of the blowout victory over Mustang.
Sealey’s status for Friday’s contest is being described as a game-time decision. Lawton has already locked up the District 6A-4 championship, and it’s possible coaches won’t want to risk further injury to Sealey or Warren with nothing on the line. But it is Senior Night for Lawton, giving the Wolverines incentive to play both players.
The Wolverines’ offense is dangerous even if neither player takes the field. NHS coach Greg Nation said that for the Tigers to pull off the upset they must bring down the Wolverines’ skill players in the open field.
“We have to bring the definition of gang tackling,” he said. “They’re good. If they get through the front line we have to grab onto them in the secondary and hold onto them until the rest of the troops come. We have to play hardcore Norman Tiger football this week.”
With a win over Lawton, the Tigers will almost certainly be assured a playoff berth, and while it’s unlikely, they could finish as high as second in District 6A-4. With five teams competing for three playoff berths, there are a number of scenarios that could play out in the district. But all scenarios in which NHS makes the playoffs include one thing: a win over Lawton.
The stakes are as high as could be, but the pressure isn’t getting to the Tigers.
“There’s no nervousness,” senior Anthony Grimes said. “We’ve just got to go out and play our hardest and stay on our game. If everyone does what the coaches tell them to do, we’ll be okay. I have faith in my teammates.”
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