NORMAN — Entering tonight’s showdown with Class 5A’s No. 10 Del City, the message from Norman North coach Wade Standley is clear.
“The focus is just on us getting better at what we do,” he said. “We need to go out and show improvement.”
The 10th-ranked Timberwolves (0-1) entered this season with high expectations following last season’s run to the state title game, and many picked them to again be among the best teams in the state. Those predictions may have been unfair to a young T-Wolves squad that is replacing most of its important players and all but one starter on defense. Still, North may have a chance to reach those lofty expectations that the T-Wolves set for themselves. But after Week 1, it’s clear they still have a ways to go.
All of which is why Standley is less concerned with wins and losses than he is on improvement. It’s the message he told his team after last week’s loss, and the one he repeated when asked whether they see tonight’s game with Del City (1-0) as anything close to a must-win for a young team looking to build confidence.
“It’s always important and we always want to go out and get a win, but the most important thing is showing improvement.”
The third-year coach expects that out of his team. North had a lot of players make their T-Wolves’ debut last week, and many of them played well enough to prove that they have the potential to eventually reach the level of last year’s team.
Coaches said they expected a vast improvement between Week 1 and Week 2, and there will be two groups on the team closely watched.
The first is an offensive line that gave up nine sacks to Norman High in last week’s 38-31 loss. Quarterback David Cornwell was harassed all night and rarely had time to get his feet set in the pocket to make a throw. The Timberwolves have a dynamic passing game and a dangerous feature back in sophomore Quan Hogan, but they have to improve along the line to give those players a chance to make plays. It’s a unit certain to get another test tonight as Del City, having watched last week’s game, is likely to bring more pressure.
The other point of emphasis will be the defense, and in particular the defense around the edges. Last week, the Tigers were able to break multiple big running plays down the sideline, something that came back to haunt the Timberwolves as the game wore on. Del City is just as dangerous. The Eagles have speed at every skill position, and are sure to try and exploit that weakness.
But lost among the big plays a week ago was the progress the Timberwolves have made since the preseason with the young group. Led by a strong linebacking corps, North held the Tigers’ offense scoreless for much of the first half, and Standley expects more of the same tonight.
“Typically between Week 1 and Week 2 you see great improvement, and I expect that for us this week,” he said. “We’ve got to eliminate the big plays, but we saw a lot of things we liked. It’s just about becoming more consistent.”
Follow me @Chosler88