NORMAN — Clinging to a two-possession lead late in the game, Norman North needed to earn a first down to wrap up a win over Southmoore in the opening round of the playoffs. The Timberwolves (10-1) made their living all season with the pass, but in crunch time on Friday coach Wade Standley turned to senior linebacker Jordan Evans, who took the ball in the Wildcat formation and converted the first down to put away the game.
It was a clear indication of how far the Timberwolves have come this season. Entering the year, they were unsure of their offensive identity and entered the season with a two-quarterback system with seniors Peyton Gavras and Channing Meyer. But through the first few games, it was Gavras and the passing game that took the spotlight, while the Timberwolves struggled to pick up yardage on the ground.
It caught up with them in Week 3 against Westmoore, when back Erwin Frazier went down for the season with an injury, leaving Bryan Payne left alone to carry the load from the backfield. It wasn’t enough against a tough Jaguar front, and North finished with just 17 yards rushing and suffered its only loss of the season, 29-16.
It was then that Standley decided something needed to change. That meant bringing Evans, an intimidating linebacker and kick returner, into the backfield.
The change worked, and has evolved in complexity since then. North can now, on any given play, line up in the Wildcat and hand the ball off to Payne, Evans, tight end Tyler Sipe, wide receiver Meyer or linebacker Jaxon Uhles. Or the Timberwolves can go to their passing attack with Gavras under center. And with Meyer, who started a handful of games at quarterback last season, the Timberwolves are a threat to throw the ball at all times.
“We want to fit our offense to the players we have, and put the ball in the hands of the right people week-to-week,” Standley said. “It’s evolved as the season’s gone on and been very successful for us. If forces people to prepare for a lot of things, but we also have to be able to execute everything right. Execution beats scheme every time.”
So far, the T-Wolves’ execution has been excellent. It’s a lot for opposing defenses to prepare for, and it served North well last week against Southmoore. The SaberCats sold out to stop the pass, and had some success doing so, but they were unable to contain the ground game, with North amassing 219 yards on the ground.
“We just have a lot of threats,” Evans said. “It makes the defense guess what’s going on and there’s a lot they have to prepare for. It lets us hit them with something they aren’t ready for.”
The multiple-schemes plan has been a huge boon for North, which enters Friday’s 7 p.m. playoff game against Broken Arrow on an eight-game winning streak. Diversity in the offense attack will be key for North, as the Tigers boast the top defense in Class 6A.
“Each game takes on a personality of its own,” Standley said. “We don’t know how they’re going to defend until we’re in the game. With the different looks we have, we have a punch-counterpunch type of offense. We’ll have to see what they do.”
Corbin HoslerFollow me @Chosler88chosler@normantranscript.com