BIXBY — One thing already clear about Norman High football this year?
The Tigers have already inspired a band of true believers.
At the never-ending extravaganza that was Friday night’s six-team scrimmagepalooza at Spartan Stadium, the Tigers finally had their chance to play something resembling a real football game when they returned from Bixby’s soccer pitch to meet Enid for a 20-minute tussle.
Off to the side, in the visiting bleachers was an NHS student section that might have been 50 or 60 strong.
As luck would have it — or maybe it had nothing to do with luck — the Tigers turned around and played like a squad that deserved its following.
Beginning at the 40, fullback Bryce Burkhart carried for 8 yards, before quarterback Jakcob Dean carried twice, gaining 9 each time. Then it was Burkhart for a yard, before Dean hit Collin Kappell for 7, before Burkhart lost a yard, before defensive end Cade Parker, facing third-and-4, bulldozed into the end zone from 7.
Everybody touched him, but he never broke stride.
“That kid may be the best athlete on our team,” Tiger coach Greg Nation said.
Enid needed three plays to tie it up.
The Tigers didn’t mow through the Plainsmen defense on their next drive, but maybe it was better that way, because beating the odds tends to be twice as sweet.
Facing third-and-8 from the 38, Dean picked his way through the Enid defense for 17 yards. Then, facing third-and-13 from the 24, Dean hit tight end Cal Shone in the end zone.
When Enid took its last chance, facing third-and-long with time running out, Logan Hill broke up a pass in the end zone and the Tigers had their victory.
It’s hard to know how any of it will translate come the Crosstown Clash and beyond, but it’s easy to understand the Tigers will not be short of options.
Before taking on the Plainsmen, during a more regimented part of the scrimmage, Dean kept off-tackle and ran 35 yards through the Owasso defense for a score. Two plays later, Darius Hawkins did the same thing against Bixby’s defense. And, though he struggled to break completely free, junior receiver Sayvon Foley still looked like a highlight waiting to happen.
And, because sometimes you need a coach to help follow the action at one of these things, NHS assistant Sonny Feexico offered up that the two best Tiger units might be both lines, which is a really good place to be when you’re long on playmakers.
Of course, Dean was worth the price of admission, and not just when he was picking or passing his way down the field.
During the defense’s second turn against Enid, the Tiger quarterback just about bolted onto the field after the unit made a stop. Told that his teammates had to appreciate the starting quarterback trying to pick them up, Dean only wished he could do more.
“I wish I could be out there,” he said. “I can play a little free safety. I did it in eighth grade.”
Told it has to be exciting to count so many sets of hands able to do something with the ball, Nation declared that’s what his team’s all about.
“We’re trying to pick up 31⁄3 yards very play. If we can do that, we’re a success,” he said. “That’s why I’m excited when we get 5 or 6, then we have yardage to work with.
“A lot of kids can make plays for us.”
Many of them did.
From Burkhart to Dean to Kappell to Parker to Shone to Hawkins to Foley to Hill making the defense stop required to win.
“I’m proud of the way we fought,” Dean said. “We could have given up when they scored, but we kept fighting.”
He’s clearly a leader, but Dean was asked who the others on the team were.
“We’ve got 99 brothers,” he said.
Hard to count out a team like that. Hard not to like it either.
The Tigers are earning their following.
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