NORMAN — Just 24 hours before Norman High kicks off against Putnam City West, Tigers’ coach Greg Nation named his starting quarterback.
Junior Levi Fredrickson will start under center when the Tigers meet the Patriots at 7 tonight at Harve Collins Field. Starting quarterback Jakcob Dean will miss the game with an ankle injury suffered in last week’s victory over Edmond Santa Fe.
Fredrickson was one of a handful of Tigers vying for the spot, and he’s taken snaps as the backup all season long. With injuries to starting running backs Darius Manning and Dupree Young, fans will get a preview of the future backfield, with sophomore Ty Smith lining up with Fredrickson.
Tonight’s contest is a must-win for NHS (4-4, 2-3) if the Tigers want to make the playoffs in District 6A-4. But against a Putnam City West squad that enters the game out of the playoff hunt due to a 0-5 district record (2-6 overall), the matchup is an invaluable opportunity for the Tigers’ future starters to gain experience.
“Until you see them take snaps in a game, you’re not sure how ready they are,” Nation said. “But we think they’re ready to step up and carry the torch.”
In a season filled with injuries to major players, more and more young Tigers have begun to find their way onto the field. That includes Smith, who a month ago sat far back on the depth chart but made his first career start last week as the Tigers upset the state’s sixth-ranked team.
“You never know when your number will be called,” Nation said. “Three weeks ago Ty never thought he would be starting his first game against Edmond Santa Fe. But we tell our guys you’ve got to be prepared because you never know when your time will come. You’ve still got to out and compete every day, and they’ve done that.”
With the injuries to NHS and the much-improved squad that Putnam City West has fielded this year under coach Rocky Martin, tonight’s game is far from the penciled-in win it has been in years past. The Tigers will try to run their option offense for the first time this season without Dean or their top two backs, and the concerns don’t end there. Tackle Josh Farley could also miss the game with an injury, a loss that would have a pronounced effect on what the Tigers are able to do on the ground.
But there are plenty of encouraging signs, as well. Smith was effective while in the game last week, and the Tigers have shown the ability to reload their offense over the last several years.
And they have something to play for. A win tonight, coupled with an upset over Lawton next week, would send the Tigers to a playoff berth, something that seemed nearly out of reach after a loss to Edmond Memorial two weeks ago.
“We’re not out of it,” Nation said. “We’ve just got to out and compete, and we’ll see what happens.”
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