By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Norman North deserves its attention. The Timberwolves really were the best of the west last season, and really did, ever since one football program became two in 1998, go where no Norman team had ever gone before, all the way to the Class 6A title game.
Then David Cornwell, a multitude of scholarship offers already in his pocket, showed up on the T-Wolves’ doorstep. And, on the day everybody headed out to Edmond Santa Fe to see Cornwell, an Alabama commit, duel Sooner commit Justice Hansen, where the North quarterback’s first pass in his new uniform found Nick Basquine for 60 yards and six points, it was nonetheless tailback Quan Hogan, only a sophomore, who stole the show.
Then there’s Norman High.
Two years ago was supposed to be the Tigers’ year. Donovan Roberts was a senior and Zach Long was already a veteran behind center. NHS was plenty good, before being bounced out of the playoffs by Owasso. Then came last year. The Tigers were supposed to take a step back, but hardly did.
Now this year.
“I think we’re the dark horse in the race,” coach Greg Nation said.
One gets the feeling, it suits the Tigers.
When you think about it, North should have no problem seeing NHS as a legitimate threat. Heck, if the Tigers get a touchback on their last kickoff at last season’s Clash, they probably win it. Instead, Jordan Evans’ star was born and upset dreams were crushed.
“We don’t have absolute superstars, but we all just work together and do what we need to do,” Tiger senior tight end Cal Shone said.
And who’s to say it won’t be enough for the Tigers to reclaim their position as the best team in town?
There are plenty of reasons why they might.
It’s been mentioned before, yet it bears repeating, each Tiger line may be the best thing Nation’s squad has going for it.
The offensive line — LT Cole Ridgeway (6-3, 300), LG Jake Stinson (6-0, 255), C Brandon Arrington (6-0, 240), RG Yatika Warrington (6-1, 245) and RT Josh Farley (6-3, 275) — is as big as ever and it’s got a bunch of capable backs for whom to block.
That kind of football plays into the Tigers’ identity, one that continues to come along as one tough hombre of a team.
Jenks and Union have it, Nation said. When the Trojans or Redskins get off the bus, no matter the night, they’re ready to play and the world knows it.
He sees his Tigers coming along in the same vein.
“You want people to come in and know they’re going to get hit in the mouth, know you’re going to be physical and know that you’re going to take every opportunity to pound the football,” Nation said. “That’s our MO. That’s what we’re trying to achieve here.”
The Tigers can be boring to talk about and maybe not a whole lot of fun to watch, but they’ve been dauntingly effective for three seasons now and see no reason why that should change in this one.
“We do the little things right,” said senior defensive end Cade Parker, who’s bound to get a carry or two when the Tigers really need a yard or two. “When you do the little things right, they build up and become good plays and you win games.”
Nation understands that he’s going against the modern grain of spread and uptempo offensive football.
“We are the total opposite and I think that’s why everybody looks at us and considers us someone who’s not going to make ripples in the water,” he said, “because we’re a slow-down, run-the-football, assignment-type offense.”
There may be drawbacks. NHS’ margin for error is slim. Still, it suits the Tigers.
“We’re not good enough to shoot ourselves in the foot, turn the football over with interceptions and fumbles and win ball games,” Nation said. “We are a clock-eating, time-consuming team … I think we can put points on the board and I think our strong point right now is our defense. Our defensive front is about as good as anybody in Class 6A.”
So North is the favorite. North has some very recent history. And North has stars.
The Tigers don’t mind.
“I don’t think it bothers anybody,” Shone said. “I think we just kind of let that stuff work itself out and we do what we need to do.”
Does it mean NHS wins tonight? No, not really.
Does it mean the Tigers might? Absolutely it does.
“We’re just here to do our jobs,” Parker said.
More often than you think, that’s plenty.
Follow me @clayhorning