NORMAN — Walking across the field Friday night after Norman High’s big Homecoming win over Choctaw, I overheard the following from a bystander while on my way to talk to Greg Nation, coach of the eighth-ranked Tigers, who had just improved to 5-1 on the season and 3-0 in district play.
“Now the real season begins.”
Those are big words, a full six games into the season. But are they true?
Looking back at the schedule, we know the Tigers have already played several big games. The first, obviously, is the Crosstown Clash in Week 1. But, as Nation is fond of reminding everyone, that game doesn’t mean anything outside of bragging rights. For that matter, neither are the Tigers’ other games in the first three weeks of the season since they didn’t at all impact district records, the metric used to divvy up playoff berths.
OK, then, what about the Tigers’ district games?
NHS looked good in a big opening win against Mustang, but that looks less impressive after Mustang was demolished by winless Edmond Memorial on Friday. Still, Mustang gave seventh-ranked Edmond Santa Fe a run for its money last week, so that was by no means an easy game.
But NHS’ two games since, against hapless Choctaw and Edmond Memorial squads, haven’t been in question. The Tigers looked as good as they could in those games, blowing both schools out, 45-14.
Things change quickly now for NHS, starting with a trip to No. 6 Southmoore this week to take on a SaberCats squad that just handed then-No. 5 Lawton its first loss of the season. After that, the Tigers have games against Edmond Santa Fe and Lawton bracketing a contest against a one-win Putnam City West squad.
So, in some ways, it’s true that the real season is just starting.
The Tigers have met expectations thus far, but next week offers them their first chance to truly exceed them. A win over the SaberCats would announce to the state that this NHS squad has arrived. And it would keep the Tigers in position to walk away with a district title when it’s all said and done.
“We have more to prove, both to our opponents and ourselves,” Nation said after Friday’s win. “We’re not as good yet as we can be.”
The question, then, is this. If the Tigers haven’t yet been as good as they can be against the inferior competition over the past few weeks, what will it take to bring that out?
Is it conceivable that they won’t ever get there? Or is it possible that a highly-hyped game against another Top-10 team under the lights will bring out the best in the Tigers?
We’ll find out Friday.
Corbin HoslerFollow me @Chosler88chosler@normantranscript.com