NORMAN — Luke Gifford expected to be on the field Friday night for Lexington, but it’s safe to say he didn’t expect it to come in the way it did.
Gifford, Lexington’s starting running back, had his night changed early in Lexington’s playoff opener against Lindsay, a 38-33 loss in which the lead changed hands four times in the final three minutes.
With eight minutes to go in the second quarter, Gifford found himself forced to assume his role as the backup quarterback. And, with Lexington down 26-12 early in the second half, Gifford responded. Leading the offense and rushing for two touchdowns, he pulled Lexington back into the game and even gave the Bulldogs a lead late in the game before some final-minute heroics put Lindsay back on top.
“Luke came in and did great,” coach Jeff Hall said. “He took over the offense for us and got us back into the game.”
Gifford’s big night may have come about because of a case of mistaken identity. Early in the second quarter, a skirmish resulted in starting quarterback Colton Langford being ejected for actions in the pile that film proved later he wasn’t even near. The referees could have pulled the wrong number, resulting in the misplaced ejection, Hall said.
“It was a rough game,” he said. “Something like that can change the game, but Luke came in and did exactly what we needed him to do. Both teams played really hard, and we just came out on the wrong end of the stick.”
Despite the disappointing end, it was a comeback season for the Bulldogs, who improved to 7-3 in the regular season after going 1-9 a year ago.
“What these kids did this year was nothing short of amazing,” Hall said. “That’s quite a turnaround for a group of high school kids. This has been one of the most enjoyable seasons in my career.”
Whole lot of laundry: When Southmoore came to Norman North on Friday, it was a matchup of two teams that hadn’t had significant penalty issues this season. But that was not the case on Friday night.
The two teams combined to tally 192 penalty yards on 24 flags. Southmoore came out on the worse side of things, with 13 penalties for 98 yards crippling several promising drives and helping the Timberwolves down the field.
For North, which had 11 penalties of its own, it’s a factor the T-Wolves (10-1) are likely to focus on improving next week with Broken Arrow (8-3) coming to town. North had a 109-yard interception touchdown returned called back because of a holding penalty, giving up points the T-Wolves can’t afford to against the Tigers.
T-Wolves’ win a statistical anomaly: Southmoore turned the ball over once; Norman North gave it away twice. Southmoore gained 336 total yards; North had just 317.
And yet the T-Wolves won going away, 21-6.
It was not the game many expected between two of the top three offenses in Class 6A, but North survived to play again. While the stats may point to a different expectation than what the game provided, there is one stat not typically considered that proved vital to North’s victory: four straight fourth-down stops.
That proved to be the difference on Friday, with the Timberwolves’ defense stopping key SaberCat plays on fourth down, both through the air and on the ground.
“When the lights are on, players make plays,” linebacker Jaxon Uhles said after the game. “And we had some guys step up and go make plays tonight.”
Special teams big in NHS win: Coaches point to special teams as a key to every game. Against Yukon on Friday, the Tigers’ special teams unit lived up to that reputation, making several big plays to key NHS’ big win.
The first play came in the second quarter, when NHS defenders were able to tip a Yukon field goal and send it wide left of the uprights. The Tigers also got a big game from kicker Matt Hockett, who was strong in both the kicking and punting game. Hockett finished 5 for 5 on extra points and nailed a 27-yard field goal as time expired in the first half. He also contributed with several long punts, including a 61-yarder in the first half.
Big year for West: Westmoore quarterback Jhames West ended his high school career Friday in the Jaguars 17-14 loss to Tulsa Union in the first round of the 6A playoffs. West will be looking to go onto the next level, where he may get a shot to continue playing.
In his only season under center for Westmoore, he ended with some stellar stats. He threw for 1,269 yards and 13 TDs and had a completion percentage over 50 percent. He also ran for another 822 yards and 11 TDs on the ground.
Washington’s offense continues to excel: Washington is now riding a seven-game winning streak after dispatching Kingston 43-6 in the first round of the Class 2A playoffs on Friday, and the Warriors did it in familiar fashion.
For the seventh straight game, the Warriors scored more than 40 points. During the win streak, they are averaging 45 points a game. With a trip to Hennessey (9-2) coming next week, Washington will be looking for more of the same.
Corbin HoslerFollow me @Chosler88chosler@normantranscript.comMichael KinneyFollow me @email@example.com