NORMAN — Norman High’s defensive line was more than impressive last week. They dominated a team one year removed from a state championship appearance and pounded Norman North quarterback David Cornwell from start to finish in NHS’ 38-31 Crosstown Clash victory.
The Tigers believe they can be even better.
“We still have room for improvement,” coach Greg Nation said. “Those guys on the line, they’ve painted that bullseye on their back, and now they have to go and back it up.”
It’s a target they’ve gladly accepted. The group, which returned most starters from a year ago, was expected to be the strength of an NHS defense that otherwise was filling in some gaps. And after a nine-sack performance against North, they’ve thus far lived up to that promise.
Defensive end Cade Parker has led the way so far. The senior is well on his way to the all-time sack record at NHS, needing another 13 this season to reach it. He’s also the anchor on the line that will face its next test when the Tigers host Moore at 7 p.m. Friday in their home opener.
Before the Clash, Parker wasn’t interested in the hype surrounding the Timberwolves. And he’s not interested in it now.
“We don’t pay attention to that,” he said. “We just go out and do what we’re coached to do.”
While Parker credits the coaching, Nation said it’s what he can’t coach that has made the biggest difference.
“Heart and hustle, it’s hard to beat that,” he said. “That’s what these guys have. Last week everyone hustled to the ball, and we had seven or eight guys in on every play.”
It was enough against North last week. But Nation knows it may not be enough to secure the district championship the Tigers are in search of. That’s why practices this week have focused on fixing some of the mistakes NHS made last week. That includes 10 penalties and several blown coverages or mental mistakes that led to Timberwolves’ scores, including a late touchdown to Payton Prince that pulled North back into the game.
Part of those problems came from simple mental mistakes. Others came from misreading the offensive set or the defensive call. And many of the mistakes can be attributed to the fact that it was the first game of the season, and came in the most heated rivalry of the season.
But all the mistakes are fixable, something Nation stressed as the Tigers prepared for Moore.
“We’ve just got to shore everything up,” he said. “We had too many mental breakdowns last week, but it will get better. We won last week and we made a bunch of sacks, but there’s still vast room for improvement, and our guys will tell you that.”
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