NORMAN — David Cornwell took the snap, looked at one receiver and quickly turned to his right to see the other side of the field and check his second option.
And Cade Parker sacked him.
A defensive struggle early and an offensive explosion late, the one constant at Thursday night’s Crosstown Clash was Norman High’s defensive line, which lived in Norman North’s backfield all night long on the way to a 38-31 NHS victory. It was a brutally effective way to slow down North’s star quarterback, who was sacked nine times in his Timberwolves’ debut.
Parker, a 6-foot-1, 230-pound defensive end, led the way. He set a career mark with five sacks and made his living meeting T-Wolves behind the line.
“Our goal tonight was to get seven sacks, and we were going to do anything necessary to reach that goal,” Parker said. “We watched film all week and knew what they liked to run, and adjusted to that.”
Those adjustments were enough to slow but not stop the T-Wolves who, after scoring first in the game, played most of the way from behind. But every time NHS broke a big play — and there were several of them — North had an answer. That is, all the way up until the game’s final minute, when the T-Wolves failed to recover an onside kick and NHS secured a first down to seal the victory.
“I found out tonight we have a bunch of young guys who are fighters,” Standley said. “We have 18 new starters, and they made enough plays to have a chance to win it at the end.”
While North’s young squad showed flashes, the night belonged to the Tigers and the running game coach Greg Nation has developed since he came to Norman. There were some questions entering the season about whether or not they would be able to replace last year’s backfield of trio of Imond Robinson, A’erion Hines and Zach Long, but all those questions were answered on Thursday night.
The new trio of quarterback Jakcob Dean and backs Darius Manning and Dupree Young was stellar in their first game together. The three combined to rush for nearly 300 yards, with Manning leading the way with 122, while accounting for four of the Tigers’ five touchdowns. And they came on big plays as well as red zone possessions, with Young going 67 yards for a touchdown early and Manning scoring what would be the game-winning touchdown on a 72-yard scamper down the line.
“It was a super job tonight,” Nation said of his backfield. “They made some great plays.”
But it was more than the big plays that Nation was proud of on Thursday; it was his teams’ character. North scored first on a 45-yard run by Quan Hogan in the first quarter and was controlling the game at that point. But Kierstan Pendleton came down with an interception on a jumpball in Timberwolves’ territory and returned it 38 yards for the tying score, stretching out at the end of the play to barely reach over the goal line.
The Tigers used that momentum to build a 17-7 lead, and never lost it, though North did cut it to seven points several times, including in the game’s final minute.
“We’re a different team than we used to be; these kids have heart,” Nation said. “When you’re down, that’s where you find your true character. KP provided the spark, and they built on it. Our kids didn’t get down when they scored on us; they came back. That’s what true champions do.”
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