This is why we watch.
This is why we cover the games, why 3,000 or so Normanites packed John Crain Field on a cool Tuesday night. This is what we hope to see.
Something new, something unexpected, something we’ll remember going forward, maybe the day he does it again, on a still bigger stage than the Crosstown Clash, the kind of stage you don’t get off without having some hardware draped around your neck.
None of which is to say Norman North’s Lexi Carroll wasn’t fabulous, because she was, scoring a perfect goal between the crossbar and the outstretched arms of Norman High keeper Hannah Mhor, and creating a second with a laser Mhor stopped but couldn’t corral, leaving Blakely Bynum to clean up the mess, chipping in an insurance tally and finishing the scoring on North’s 2-0 victory.
Only, that was the girls.
The boys, let’s face it, was the main event. The defending state champion T-Wolves against the always dangerous Tigers, who played for a state title two years ago, but have nonetheless been second best in their hometown for more than a decade.
So here it came.
The Tigers and T-Wolves played a game between the penalty boxes. North had more shots, more corner kicks, more fouls and, frankly, more to lose.
But it remained so evenly matched that neither keeper, NHS’ Andrew Arledge, nor North’s Daniel Taylor had collected a single save 80 minutes after it began, nor had either let a ball get past them.
Somebody had to win.
So they went to a shootout.
North had just lost a shootout four days earlier against Broken Arrow and NHS coach Gordon Drummond thought that might be good for his side.
“I kept thinking if we got to a shootout it would be very difficult for (North) because of what happened Friday,” he said. “And then Jorge (Briones) put one over the bar and then I don’t think it’s such a great idea.”
But Drummond shouldn’t have worried. All Arledge — he, from above — needed was a chance to stand on his head and so he did, stoning North’s Jonathan Newton and Ashton Bray and, after Carson Cacciatori kicked it off the post, NHS had a victory years in the making and a new star in its keeper who would appear to make all things possible going forward for the unbeaten Tigers.
Arledge might have hoped for a little more support. After Briones missed the whole goal, so, too, did Matt Hockett. But Zac Taylor beat North keeper Daniel Taylor, as did Matt Tidwell, as did Reed Shafer-Ray.
Talking about it afterward, Drummond sounded, well, different.
Asked if he was emotional, he said he had a cold. Pressed, he said this:
“I’m emotional … I think I’ll go have a drink.”
Make it a double.
It’s well deserved.
He built soccer in this town, built NHS into a powerhouse, has stuck with the Tigers and kept them competitive, even for state titles, even as North has simultaneously become the dominant program, probably as a matter of geography as much as anything else.
So the Tigers went from being the state’s dominant program to being the Little Orange Engine That Could, and they’ve done it with a coach who refuses to tell anybody his age in fear he might be fired if they found out.
It’s what he always says.
Now he’s got a team that might be a little better than most of the others even while the others were plenty good and he sure as heck has a keeper.
Arledge would have been excused for being upset with Briones and Hockett for missing the net. The guy’s trying to end ump-teen years of Tiger heartache and he doesn’t need his own shooters off frame.
“I never think that way,” he said.
Arledge said he had a job to do either way. So he went out and did it.
You know, the Clash, as a concept, has been fantastic. Football was terrific, basketball was very good, baseball just turned in a pair of one-run games. But North has had its way most of the school year.
So it did again in the early game, thanks to Carroll and a fine supporting crew. But it didn’t win the closer. Thanks to Arledge, T-Wolves’ dominance has been stopped.
It couldn’t happen to a nicer coach and it wouldn’t have happened without a star turn in net. And, just maybe, it’s only the beginning for the Tigers this season.
Tuesday, that was the Clash.
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