By Corbin Hosler
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — In more than one way, Washington’s season has all led to this. A second-round playoff showdown tonight at Hennessey could be the end of Washington’s season, or their biggest win.
And the Warriors are ready.
Washington coach Brad Beller has taken all the usual steps to prepare his team for the game. They’ve watched film, both of their loss to Hennessey a year ago as well as Hennessey’s close escape against Crooked Oak last week. They’ve schemed for the Eagles’ potent rushing attack and found the holes they think they can exploit.
But it goes deeper than that. Washington’s expectations coming into the season were to make a deep playoff run, and Beller geared everything around that goal. That included a tough non-district schedule against Class 3A teams and an attempt to instill a mindset into his players to be ready for the high-stakes drama of the postseason.
“It all goes back to our non-district schedule,” Beller said. “We made it as tough as possible, so we’ve been in these big games before. The last few years have prepared us for them.”
It’s an approach that has already demonstrated its value to the Warriors. When quarterback Brock Harmon tore his ACL in a pivotal Week 10 game against Lindsay, the Warriors turned to the next man up, junior Brady Kulbeth, and kept the team moving forward.
It paid off with a big win over Lexington in the first round last week, and has the Warriors confident as they travel north to try and pull off the upset.
“We’re going to have to play good football, but I think we can win,” Kulbeth said. “We know they’re good, and we know their line is their big thing and if we don’t block well we’ll get beat.”
Hennessey (10-1), which won back-to-back state titles in 2010 and 2011, has several impressive wins to its résumé this season. The Eagles have defeated Jones and Christian Heritage, two teams still alive in the playoffs, while only losing to an undefeated Kingfisher squad.
Hennessey is similar to Washington (8-2) in many ways. Both look to control the game through the run, and it will largely be a game won up front, along the line. Whichever team can control the line of scrimmage will be at a clear advantage, and Beller said it’s vital that the Warriors win the big plays throughout the game.
Namely, he’s referring to third down. Both teams bring a rushing attack that can wear down defenses, so the Warriors are highly valuing the ability to get their defense off the field whenever possible.
“We’ve got to have a good game on the line, and we have to be able to get off the field on third down,” Beller said. “Offensively, we want to control the clock and keep their offense off the field. We have a shot, but we have to control the ball, this week more than others. We can’t turn the ball over and we have to win on third downs.”
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