By Corbin Hosler
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Tonight’s game may not be a must-win for Norman High, but it’s close.
The Tigers, who will meet Edmond Memorial at 6 p.m. today at Harve Collins Field, are 0-1 in district play after a loss to Mustang last week. Playing in the loaded District 6A-4, another loss could be disastrous for the Tigers (2-2, 0-1), who still have a pair of highly-ranked district opponents left to face, as well as an impressive Southmoore squad.
Lawton and Edmond Santa Fe, ranked No. 4 and No. 6 respectively, still await the Tigers, as does Southmoore, a team that has been in and out of the Top 10 this season. Playing in the state’s deepest district and already owners of a loss to Mustang, the Tigers’ playoff chances are on the line this week when Edmond Memorial (2-2, 0-1) and Warren Wand visit Norman.
“Every district game is vitally important, and everybody in our district is playing well,” coach Greg Nation said. “You can’t write off anyone this year.”
Especially not the Bulldogs. Led by junior running back Wand, who is one of Class 6A’s top recruits and torched the Tigers last season even though NHS ran away with the game, Edmond Memorial has put together an impressive resume this season. The Bulldogs own a shutout victory over crosstown rival Edmond North and a blowout victory over one Class 5A’s top teams in Deer Creek.
But it may be a loss that shows just how good the team is. Last week the Bulldogs faced Lawton, a team widely considered to be the best on the west side of the state, and nearly pulled off the upset. Edmond Memorial fell 28-21 but showed in the defeat that it can compete with the district’s top teams.
It’s a far different situation than the one at NHS right now, where the Tigers are reeling after consecutive losses in which they’ve shot themselves in the foot over and over.
“We’ve got to cut out the mistakes and turnovers,” Nation said. “Everything we’ve struggled with has been self-induced penalties and mental mistakes, and that’s not something we can have.”
The struggles have led the coaching staff to simplify things for the Tigers, who have a roster filled with plenty of talent but also enough inexperience to prevent it from coming together.
Also missing again this week is running back Darius Manning, who will miss his second straight game with an injury. The feature back, one half of the Tigers’ running back duo with Dupree Young, is expected back for next week’s game with Choctaw, but the Tigers will have to fill the void tonight.
Just one week into the district schedule, there is still time for the Tigers to fix their mistakes and make a playoff run. But that begins with a win over Edmond Memorial.
“Our goals are all still in reach,” Nation said. “Wins solve a lot of problems. Our guys want to do well, but we’ve lost something along the way we’ve got to get back. Right now our heads are down, but we’re going to get better and try and turn this around.”
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