NORMAN — It’s said that familiarity breeds contempt. And, while there may not be any outright contempt between Norman High and its first-round playoff opponent Yukon, there is certainly plenty of familiarity. And who that will benefit most is an open question.
The eighth-ranked Tigers (8-2), who enter the postseason as the No. 2 team from District 6A-4, will play host to the Millers (5-5) from District 6A-3 at 7 p.m. Thursday in a grudge match. The two teams first met back on Sept. 14 in a game that, in retrospect, proved to be a turning point for Norman High’s season.
Entering that contest, NHS was 1-1 after a disappointing opening-night loss to rival Norman North and an underwhelming victory over Moore. Coach Greg Nation said before that game that his team hadn’t played a good game yet, and the first half against Yukon didn’t change many minds as the Tigers struggled early and entered the locker room down 21-17.
Things quickly changed. The Tigers blitzed the Millers after the break, reeling off 17 straight points and holding Yukon to just two total yards in the third quarter. They eventually emerged with a 34-21 win in a game that Nation said finally established an identity for a team that was adjusting to a new offensive focus after the departure of star back Donovan Roberts.
“That is a great win,” Nation told his team after the game. “That gave us an identity tonight. We established what kind of team we are offensively.”
That identity, namely the triple option combination of Zach Long, Imond Robinson and A’erion Hines, went on to carry the Tigers to big wins over Mustang and Southmoore as part of a six-game winning streak.
If the first matchup was the game in which the Tigers finally put it all together, it was a game in which the Millers were still trying to figure it out. Despite entering the season fresh off the momentum of a playoff appearance last season, the Millers would struggle to a 1-5 start.
But Yukon came on strong in the last month of the regular season, winning its last four games to pull to 5-5 and storm into the playoffs with a return trip to Norman. And that means that the two squads’ last meeting may not mean much either way.
“I think it’s a catch-22,” Nation said. “They’re familiar with us and what we’re going to do, but we’ve seen them before so we know what to expect. But they’re not the same team they were then, and I don’t think we are either.”
Long said that going back up against the Millers, a team they’ve beaten, will help out the Tigers when they take the field try to win NHS’ first playoff game in a decade.
“But this is the playoffs, all bets are off,” he said.
Corbin HoslerFollow me @Chosler88chosler@normantranscript.com