NORMAN — Despite its record and a district title under its belt, Norman North was not given much of a chance Friday. Not because it wasn’t a good team, but because very few thought any team from the west side would win a game in the quarterfinal round of the 6A playoffs.
But once again, the Timberwolves showed they aren’t concerned with outside perceptions. They just go out and play football.
North knocked off the Tigers 24-16 at Harve Collins Field to advance to the semifinal round where it will meet Owasso next week.
“It means a lot,” North’s Jordan Evans said. “Some of us are pretty emotional right now because we have accomplished things no one thought we were going to accomplish. It’s just a very special moment for us right now.”
But it didn’t come without some last-minute drama.
BA took over on its own 12-yard line with 2:40 on the clock. It drove to the 50-yard line when quarterback Coleman Key dropped back to pass. As he had done all night, Evans rushed hard and hurried Key, making his pass fly over the receiver’s head and DJ Hicks picked it off. Hicks returned it deep into BA territory to set up a Redford Jones field goal that sealed the game.
“It was crazy,” Hicks said. “I knew we needed a big play. So I did my best to make it happen.”
North held the Tigers’ high-powered offense to 319 yards total. That includes allowing only 50 on the ground, making them a one-dimensional unit.
But it was the special teams that got the team on the scoreboard first when Evans returned a punt 90 yards for a touchdown.
Broken Arrow answered with a Ross Moore 36-yard field goal and the T-Wolves led 7-3 heading into second quarter.
Led by Evans, Gasso, Jaxon Uhles and Carter Klein, the Timberwolves’ defense came out striking the Tigers in the mouth each time they touched the ball.
Early in the second quarter, Corbin Cleveland slipped past his Tiger defender and Peyton Gavras connected with him for a 33-yard touchdown pass. North led 14-3 at halftime.
The Tigers adjusted their defense in the second half and began applying pressure on Gavras to prevent deep passes downfield. They sent an all-out blitz midway through the third and engulfed Gavras, forcing him into a fumble. BA recovered, and one play later, Blake Smith threw a 28-yard TD pass to Cameron Smith.
After a Uhles touchdown gave North a 21-10 lead, Gavras attempted a pass and the ball fell out of his hand and into the hands of a BA defender, who returned it 45 yards for a touchdown. Moore missed the PAT and North’s lead was down to 21-16.
The momentum had shifted back to Broken Arrow after they forced the Timberwolves to punt. The Tigers drove down the field and looked like they were going in for the go-ahead score. But Evans came up with another big play when he sacked Key and forced a fumble, which North recovered.
“We saw on film that when he got rushed, he kind of got rattled a little bit,” Evans said. “We knew if we got there, it would just disrupt the whole offense.”
North now sets its eyes on the Rams next week with a shot at the state title game within its grasp. Once again they know they will not be favored, but that is OK with them.
“I am just glad that the East and West talk is over now,” North’s Jake Higginbotham said. “We proved a lot tonight. We showed we can step up against anybody in the state. Still have to go beat Owasso next week, and we will see what happens from there.”
Michael KinneyFollow me @email@example.com