By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — The Norman North boys hadn’t lost a regular-season game in the state of Oklahoma in almost three years. Broken Arrow had already lost two this season.
It didn’t matter.
Friday night at the North pitch, the Tigers handed Class 6A’s reigning state champs a 2-1 loss, the winning tally not a tally at all, but several as Broken Arrow dominated the deciding shootout after both teams played 80 minutes to a goal-each deadlock.
“It’s kind of a classic example of a team that was kind of in a desperate situation and wanted it more than we did,” North coach Geo Claros said.
The Tigers hadn’t lost to chumps — Jenks and Union — but that was no comfort to the T-Wolves after being stunned in their home opener.
In the shootout, Claros went with Mauri Cichero in goal over Daniel Taylor, despite the fact Cichero had spent the previous 80 minutes in North’s midfield.
Cichero had worked in net in practice and Claros thought he was the better fit against a buffet line of penalty kicks, but it didn’t work out that way as Claros moved one way and the ball the other on four consecutive Tiger strikes from Eddie Hubbard, Blake Carr, Jeremy Rector and Landen Merrill.
For North, Cichero beat Broken Arrow keeper Sean Fries, but Fries turned around and stonewalled both Ashton Bray and Carson Cacciatori. When Merrill, the Tigers’ fourth kicker, converted, the game was over.
North outshot Broken Arrow 9-7 and allowed only a single shot in the first half, from Carr, from just beyond the penalty box after a defensive turnover. It came with 25:14 remaining in the first half and and Taylor couldn’t stop it.
North (1-1) answered less than 5 minutes later when Luke Moore, off a corner kick, pinballed the ball home off a Tiger defender.
Claros didn’t like the nature of the T-Wolves’ attack.
“We never had a combination from midfield to forward,” he said, “because everything was over the top.”
Of North’s nine shots, other than the one that bounced off his defender, Fries only had to stop two.
Three years ago when he became North coach, Claros could hardly say anything about his team and his expectations without throwing the phrase “work rate” into the conversation. He emphasized effort again Friday night.
“Do we have a lot of talent? Yes,” he said. “I still believe we can be there in the end, but the effort to be coached and to make adjustments has to be better.”
Also, it has to come together quickly. Tuesday night it’s Norman High and Norman North at Oklahoma’s John Crain Field, marking the second straight season the Crosstown Clash will be played on the Sooner pitch.
North girls 1, Broken Arrow 0: Mark up a big win for the North girls, who got the game’s only goal from Sheridan Spelman, even as Spelman was quick to give all the credit to Kinsey Smalling.
Smalling controlled the ball down the right edge of the pitch before firing a head-high laser of a cross that Spelman only had to get in the way of to deflect it past Broken Arrow keeper Taylor Stover.
“I just happened to be at the rigth spot,” Spelman said. “It was really her great play that got us the win.”
A game very possibly between two top-five teams when the first Class 6A coaches poll is eventually released, North ousthot the Tigers 12-10, though it was still T-Wolves’ keeper Kali Newman who had to come up with six saves — two more than Stover — to secure the shutout.
“She’s the real deal,” said North coach Don Rother, whose team improved to 2-0. “We’re pretty strong in the back.”
Norman High boys 2, Westmoore 1: On a pair of first-half goals, one in the final minute, the Tigers improved to 2-0 on the season with the Crosstown Clash coming up Tuesday.
Jorge Briones picked up both tallies, the first one assisted by Milton Cruz and the second on a penalty kick.
NHS outshot Westmoore 9-4.
Norman High girls 2, Westmoore 1: Gracie Koonce put the Tigers on top 16 minutes into the game and set up Asha Haile with about 15 minutes remaining for the game winner.
The Tigers, who outshot the Jaguars 15-11, moved to 4-1 on the season.
Follow me @clayhorning
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