NORMAN — The future of Norman High’s season could hinge on tonight’s game against Southmoore.
That may seem like a drastic description of the contest between No. 6 Southmoore (5-1, 2-1) and No. 8 NHS (5-1, 3-0), but there’s no doubt that tonight’s game will shape the future of District 6A-4.
A win tonight puts NHS into the driver’s seat with an unblemished district record, while a Southmoore victory will give the SaberCats wins over NHS and Lawton, with a loss to Edmond Santa Fe.
With Southmoore being a favorite in every other game left on the schedule, that would create a jumble at the top of the district and keep Southmoore very much alive for a district title.
“You’re going to start to see everything in the district take shape after this week,” NHS coach Greg Nation said. “We all realize the importance of this game.”
Everything considered, it would be tough to find a favorite, though home field advantage does favor Southmoore.
Both teams are led by potent offenses and opportunistic defenses, and many think tonight’s game could turn into a shootout.
That could certainly be the case. Southmoore had scored at least 33 points in every game before last week’s 20-17 win over Lawton, while NHS has averaged nearly 40 points a game. Both teams feature a strong running game that can chew up the clock and wear down opposing defenses.
NHS uses the combination of Zach Long, Imond Robinson and A’erion Hines to key its attack, and Southmoore’s offense is similar. The SaberCats rely on a potent ground game led by athletic and elusive quarterback Tre Edwards.
“They’re a very strong offensive team,” Nation said. “They’ve got kids who are big, strong and run hard. It’s a lot of weapons offensively, with inside and outside threats.”
For NHS to slow down the SaberCats, it will take focused execution and near-flawless tackling. In the loss to Southmoore last year, Tiger defenders missed tackle after tackle that allowed the SaberCats to extend drives. That’s something they can’t afford tonight.
“We’ve got to be sure tacklers,” Nation said. “Last year we let them extend plays and go on long drives. They killed us by breaking tackles.”
Another benefit Southmoore has heading into the game is momentum. While NHS is on a five-game winning streak of its own, the SaberCats are riding high following last week’s upset against Lawton, a team that was ranked as highly as No. 1 by some state polls.
“They’re riding the wave right now, for sure,” Nation said. “They work hard, they’re sound in everything they do, and they’ve got a lot of momentum after last week.”
Beating Southmoore at Moore Stadium is a tall order for NHS, but it’s a challenge the Tigers think they’re ready for.
“They’re a good team, and this is a really big game for us,” quarterback Zach Long said. “We’ll come out ready to play.”
Corbin HoslerFollow me @Chosler88chosler@normantranscript.com