NORMAN — After turning a corner this season in Noble, the Bears came up just a few plays short in their attempt to return to the postseason. Noble traveled to Shawnee on Friday with a playoff berth on the line, but Shawnee came away with a 58-34 victory to end the Bears’ season.
The final score doesn’t reflect how competitive the game was. The Bears went into the locker room at halftime on top, but fell behind in the second half and had to take increasingly dangerous chances to try and climb back into the game. That resulted in a failed fourth-down conversion and an interception that allowed Shawnee to pull away in the game’s final minutes.
“We played really well until the final 10 minutes or so,” coach Steve Barrett said. “Offensively we scored enough points to win, but it didn’t pan out as I thought it would defensively.”
Shawnee’s offensive balance undid the Bears on Friday. Forced between defending the passing or running game, the Bears focused on stopping the pass, and that allowed the Wolves to break several long plays on the ground.
Despite the setback, it was an encouraging year for Noble in Barrett’s third season back at the helm. The Bears improved their win total from last season, and lost several other games by a matter of a few plays.
“I think definitely we’re headed in the right direction,” Barrett said. “Going forward we’ve got to consistently be disciplined and play hard-nosed football to be successful. Our kids have acclimated to that and we’re continuously making improvement. There’s no reason we can’t continue to move forward.”
Turnovers the difference for Tigers: Just a few weeks after coach Greg Nation made a public declaration that his team needed to force more turnovers, the Tigers have responded in a big way.
A week after forcing three turnovers against Putnam City West, the eighth-ranked Tigers (8-2) did even better in an impressive 26-21 win over Lawton, intercepting quarterback Dallas Sealey once and recovering three Wolverine fumbles. The Tigers kept control of the game in the second half with timely turnovers, and sealed the game by recovering a muffed punt with a minute left on the clock.
“We made some big plays to finish the game,” Nation said. “We’ve gotten better at being active on defense and gang-tackling on plays.”
Penalties a concern? One bit of negative news out of Friday’s win is that NHS accumulated 11 penalties in the victory, totaling 101 yards.
Worse for the Tigers is that four of the penalties came on holding calls, one of which wiped out a 75-yard touchdown run by quarterback Zach Long. The 11 penalties were near a season-high for the Tigers and something coaches will work on cleaning up before next week’s playoff opener.
“That’s uncommon for us to have that many penalties,” Nation said. “There were some that I didn’t agree with; but the refs make the call and you have to go with what they say. We’ll look at the film and see what we can do to fix it.”
North draws tough road: Fourth-ranked Norman North (9-1) did everything it could during the regular season, going undefeated in District 6A-3 to win the title. The Timberwolves closed the regular season on a seven-game winning streak.
Their reward? A first-round game against Southmoore and a possible second-round game against Broken Arrow.
Southmoore (7-3), which until a few weeks ago was in the running for “best team in the west,” finished fourth in District 6A-4 due to tiebreaks. Two of the three losses have come to Top-10 teams in Norman High and Edmond Santa Fe, and the SaberCats own big wins over Westmoore and Lawton.
If the T-Wolves advance, they’re likely to see No. 3 Broken Arrow (7-3) in the second round. The Tigers’ only in-state losses have come to No. 1 Tulsa Union and No. 2 Jenks.
Volleyball, Softball honors awarded: The Oklahoma Coaches Association released its All-State volleyball team Friday. The Large West team features six players from the Edmond schools. The only two who do not play for one of the three Edmond high schools are Enid’s Mariah Wagner and Westmoore’s Madison Dobbs.
Dobbs led the Jaguars to a 16-14 record her senior season before losing to No. 6 Union in the regional tournament.
The All-State game will be played during All-State week July 28-Aug. 2 in the Tulsa area.
The Oklahoma Fastpitch Softball coaches Association also announced the 2012 Region 5 All-Region team. Moore leads the way with three players making the first team. They include Hannah Lynch, Caiti Hall and Qiana Harrison. Norman’s Summer Leitka, Norman North’s Taylor Hartman, Westmoore’s Mariah Peace and Southmoore’s Braeden Bradshaw also made the first team.
Katelyn Dollard (North), Jazmine White (MHS), Raeven Clark (WMH), Hanna Schoonmaker (SMH), Autumn Ackerman (SMH), Brittney O’Neill (North), Erin Sanders (WMH) and Sunni Feexico (NHS) comprise the second team. Former Norman coach Tim Gonzales was named the all-region coach of the year.
Corbin HoslerFollow me @Chosler88chosler@normantranscript.comMichael KinneyFollowme@email@example.com