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May 3, 2013

Tigers won first one but roles have not changed

NORMAN — There is the temptation to believe that tonight is different, that the fact Norman High beat Norman North in a 1-0 shootout March 12 at John Crain Field creates an entirely different dynamic at North tonight, where the Tigers and Timberwolves meet in Class 6A’s round of eight.

Only it doesn’t.

What’s different is the Tigers know they have beaten the T-Wolves and the T-Wolves know they were beaten by the Tigers and, yes, that’s something. But what’s not different is everything else.

North is still the over-talented favorite with all the recent history — March 12 aside — and more firepower than two or three groups of Tigers. And NHS is still the upstart, overachieving underdog.

If the Tigers are no longer the Little Orange Engine That Could, they are the Slightly Larger Orange Engine That Could.

Another way of looking at it?

As comfortable as any team can be facing elimination and trying to win a Class 6A state championship, the Tigers and T-Wolves should be that comfortable tonight. They’re playing old roles.

“It’s a role we’ve been in since 1999,” NHS coach Gordon Drummond said.

The T-Wolves have the best and most electric player in Mauro Cichero, a player Drummond called Thursday “the best player in the state.”

It also has the leadership of 11 seniors, including Ashton Bray and Curtis McRae, both headed to play college soccer at Division I Central Arkansas and, all of that aside, have you seen the T-Wolves lately?

Since getting back from Alabama the first week of April, North has been as explosive as any team from its illustrious past, including the 2010 and 2012 state champion T-Wolves.

“I think if we play well,” North coach Geo Claros said, “we win.”

He should think that.

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