NORMAN — Early in the season, when running backs Darius Manning and Dupree Young emerged as effective halfbacks for Norman High, coach Greg Nation said his program was lucky to have such great backs year after year.
After a spate of injuries that have severely slowed the Tigers’ triple-option offense, fans got a glimpse of the future in Friday night’s upset victory over Edmond Santa Fe.
NHS (4-4, 2-3) entered Friday’s game against top-10 Edmond Santa Fe (5-3, 3-2) without either Young or Manning, a week after Manning unexpectedly returned from injury to take a handful of snaps against Southmoore.
That left the rushing duties up to senior quarterback Jakcob Dean, who was effective despite injuring his own ankle in the second half, and sophomore Ty Smith. In the first start of his career Smith showed that the well is not dry at NHS, rushing for 71 yards and a pair of touchdowns before exiting with yet another injury. That brought on freshman Diante Defreeze, who was given the ball late in a crucial district game, a position he didn’t expect to find himself in so soon.
But no matter who carried the ball, Nation’s patented run-first offense worked to perfection. And that has kept the Tigers’ playoff chances alive.
“This is what we’ve been looking for all year,” Nation said after the game. “Everybody came together.”
Playoff races tighten: Norman High kept itself alive for a playoff berth in District 6A-4 with Friday’s upset over Edmond Santa Fe, but the Tigers will likely have to win out by defeating Putnam City West and then unbeaten Lawton if they want to make the playoffs.
The path is easier for Southmoore (5-3, 3-2) as far as the math is concerned. With its win over Edmond Memorial, the SaberCats are now in a four-way tie with the Bulldogs, Wolves and Mustang.