By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript
NEWCASTLE — All-State’s probably not what it used to be. Not when there’s 500 channels and a sports landscape that offers no real time off.
When it comes to the pitch, the high school season ended a month ago, but the club postseason is about to rev up in a big way when the U.S. Youth Soccer Region III championships come to Edmond next week.
Still, the news from Racer Stadium, where three nights of the Oklahoma Soccer Coaches Association All-State Games ended a three-night run with Saturday night’s Class 6A girls and boys games, is good.
Several hundred showed up for the large-class contests, and each side played like there was something on the line, even though there wasn’t.
The East girls prevailed 3-0 with a dominating performance from their forward line. The West boys prevailed 3-1, getting contributions from five difference departing seniors from Norman High and Norman North.
Among the girls, NHS’ Lauren Goodman and North’s Bailey Smith found themselves on the losing side, and still it wasn’t too bad a time.
“It was cool to get to meet everyone from the West side and meet new girls and practice and play with them,” said Smith, who’s headed to Georgia to go to school and not play soccer.
“It was a good run, but I got burned out,” Smith said. “Maybe by sophomore year I’ll play club soccer, and I’ll just do intramurals my freshman year. I’ll miss it sometimes, but it’s nice to just relax.”
Goodman enjoyed it until she left with her right arm in a sling, injuring it late when she tired to brace herself for a fall to Racer Stadium’s artificial surface.
“It was really enjoyable,” she said. “I got to play with girls I don’t usually get to play with.”
Goodman’s headed to North Carolina to study pharmacy. The Tar Heels are a collegiate soccer power, but she’s not ruling out, eventually, attempting to walk on to the program.
The West side’s boys’ domination was as complete as that of the East side’s girls, but only for a half. The West picked up a pair of first half goals and looked ready to run away.
Then the tables turned.
NHS’ Andrew Arledge moved into the West’s net for the second half and gave up a tally from Union’s Van Horn.
He came back strong.
Ten minutes later, Arledge made what many observers felt was the best stop in any of the six All-State contests, getting in the way of a laser off the right foot of Bartlesville’s Austin Baclaw.
A late goal iced the West’s victory, pleasing the Tigers and Timberwolves in uniform, all of which had no problem investing in the game.
“It’s very competitive,” Arledge said, watching in the first half before taking the field for the second.
“You’re playing with the best in the state and it’s just something you can come out and have fun, but at the same time you’re taking it seriously,” North’s Austin Bray said. “It’s just another game that you want to win.”
Curtis McRae, Bray’s back-line partner at North, who will join Bray on Central Arkansas’ soccer team in August, felt the regular season carried into the All-State game, at least a little.
“You never want to lose … Like Jenks and Union, when you play them, you want to beat them,” he said. “Why not beat them again? Make sure (they) know you’re dominant and stuff.”
For Billy Norlin and Matt Tidwell, Tiger teammates of Arledge, earning their way into the All-State game was a big deal.
“This is awesome,” said Norlin, who’s headed to Southwestern College, in Winfield, Kan., along with Arledge, to play collegiate soccer.
Tidwell is headed to Oklahoma, where he might hook up with the men’s club team. Whether he does or not, closing his prep career at the All-State game proved very meaningful.
“It’s really important to me,” he said. “It was kind of my four-year goal, and when you get it, it’s real rewarding. You feel good about all the work you put in.”
Saturday night, for Tidwell, Norlin, Arledge, Bray and McRae, that reward came with a victory, too.
Follow me @clayhorning