NORMAN — It didn’t take the Tigers long to get over their big victory in the Crosstown Clash.
“This game is over,” defensive end Cade Parker said immediately following Norman High’s impressive 38-31 win over Norman North. “Now we’ve got to get ready for our next opponent.”
That’s exactly the attitude that coach Greg Nation said sets this year’s team apart from years past. And it’s the kind of attitude that has seen the Tigers not take anything for granted as they prepare to host Moore at 7 p.m. today in the home opener at Harve Collins Field.
NHS (1-0) has dominated the series with Moore (0-1) in recent years, but the Lions may have one of their better squads when they visit Norman. They hung tough for part of the game last week before falling to a strong Westmoore team.
But there is no doubt that Moore, which hasn’t had a winning season in more than a decade, enters the game as the heavy underdogs. That pits the Tigers as the favorites in a game that they are expected to win, and win big. That pressure isn’t always easy to handle, and can affect the way some teams approach the game. Though the Tigers eventually overcame it a week ago, the effect of that pressure didn’t escape Nation.
“I think sometimes our kids worry more about what will happen if we lose rather than just go out and playing to win,” he said. “You can’t play not to mess up, you’ve just got to go play hard and fast, and the wins will take care of themselves.”
It’s a factor that shouldn’t be ignored when the game kicks off tonight. But it’s also something Nation said this team has what it takes to overcome.
“Even last week, after halftime we settled down and played a much better ballgame in the second half,” he said. “If you don’t have butterflies going into any game, it doesn’t mean anything to you. It’s about overcoming that; understanding that not every play is going to be the big one and not pressing for that, because it’s just not going to happen. Just come out and play consistently and they will come.”
Much of that leadership falls to quarterback Jakcob Dean, the former wide receiver who started his first game under center last week. Dean was poised on the outside and performed well, but Nation expects even more improvement out of him this week. Coaches said he entered the Crosstown Clash over-excited if anything, and will improve as he learns to let the game come to him.
One thing that isn’t in question is how hard Dean will work to reach that point for both himself and his team.
“He’s the hardest worker on the field and has had a really good week of practice,” Nation said. “Even in practice you see it. He’ll keep running 20 yards after the end of the play just because he’s still going hard.”
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