By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — The crime is they’re playing tonight, and not Tuesday or a week from tomorrow. The crime is that one of Norman’s two Class 6A boys soccer programs is going to exit in the round of eight.
Tonight marks the second round of the playoffs and, after the No. 2 Norman North girls (12-2) take care of Bishop McGuinness (11-3) on the 6 p.m. undercard, the heavyweight bout will step into the ring at North’s pitch when, mixing metaphors, the Crosstown Clash takes the stage at 8.
Three years ago they could have met in the 6A championship game.
Interestingly, it was a Tiger team not quite as capable as the one NHS (11-3) will put on the field tonight to face unbeaten North (14-0) that advanced that evening when the Timberwolves failed.
Also, it’s not so bad.
The last three times the NHS and North boys have met, it’s gone to a shootout, each side winning once last season, and the T-Wolves winning this one. And though it’s a crime one must be eliminated so early in the postseason, playing tonight, most of all means, they’re playing tonight and a Clash in the hand is better than one that might never come to the bush.
The sentimental pick is the Tigers. Gordon Drummond has taken care of that. He’s the reason Norman ever became a soccer town, originating the NYSA way back when; taking over the Tiger program before the OSSAA took soccer on as a sport.
Among the names on Drummond’s coaching tree? Geo Claros, North’s coach, who played midfield for the Tigers in the mid 90s, and Don Rother, the North girls coach, who played for Drummond before playing his senior year for the T-Wolves when North opened its doors in 1997.
North, in a game that never seems to come easy, remains the easy pick. Can anybody remember the last time the T-Wolves exited in the round of eight?
The Tigers are always the sentimental pick because it’s always been Drummond on the sideline, and the T-Wolves, for more than a decade, have always been the easy pick, the powerhouse, the machine, the program that, unless you’re a part of it, feels like rooting DiMaggio’s Yankees.
Yet it feels different.
It feels like no other game in the series, because the Tigers don’t feel like they have to shock themselves or the world to get it done, and they’re right.
They know they’re a better team than they’ve been. They know they led No. 1 Edmond North 2-1 and No. 3 Jenks 1-0, and played North to a 0-0 tie over 80 minutes at John Crain Field.
North, second ranked, is just North. The T-Wolves get to the semifinals the way Dean Smith used to get North Carolina to the Sweet 16 and the way Bobby Cox used to get the Braves to the division pennant.
You wonder about all the great ones that have come along in the series. For North, the Colemans, Russ and Jack, Will Smith and Corey Albertson, Dom Cervi and Patrick Tanner … did they ever get to play in a game like tonight’s?
For NHS, John Marshall and Sam Suflita, Jarrod Tarver and, yeah, Geo Claros, Alec Lee and, yeah, Don Rother … did they ever get to play in a game like this?
The 2010 Crosstown Clash football game was moved to Harve Collins Field after a lightning storm kept it from being played the night before at Owen Field and it was pandemonium in the best possible way.
Nobody expects 20,000 people at the North pitch tonight, but last season’s regular-season matchup might have drawn 3,000 at OU, so maybe that total can be topped.
It’s Game 3 at Staples Center a long ways away, but here, in this town, if you have a thing to do with either high school, or even call Norman your home, you should really be there, just as long as you don’t mind your heart in your throat.
It’s a shame they’re playing so soon and it’s a beautiful thing, too.
It’s been that way for a long time now, but it hasn’t been like this.
Follow me @clayhorning
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