NORMAN — Norman High’s hopes of a district championship took a strong, and likely fatal, hit with last week’s 27-21 loss to Edmond Santa Fe. Despite that, the attitude in the Tigers’ locker room is far from downcast.
In fact, the Tigers are pleased with how well they performed against one of the top teams in the state, even if they didn’t achieve the outcome they hoped for.
“Our kids played a really good game,” coach Greg Nation said. “That’s one of the best teams in the state, and we only lost by six. We feel good about where we’re at.”
Where the Tigers are is in a position to host a playoff game. A loss by Lawton, NHS’ opponent next week, along with an NHS win this week would guarantee the Tigers the No. 2 spot in District 6A-4. If both schools win this week, then next week’s showdown on Senior Night at Harve Collins Field will determine the second-place finisher.
But to get themselves to that position, the eighth-ranked Tigers must first take care of business tonight against Putnam City West in a game that heavily favors NHS on paper. Putnam City West enters the week 1-7 and winless in the district. And the Patriots’ defense has been the biggest culprit, allowing at least 38 points in all but one of their games.
That’s good news for the Tigers, who will look to move the chains on the ground behind the triple option. Quarterback Zach Long and backs Imond Robinson and A’erion Hines are more than capable of taking advantage of any opening, and all have the speed to break a long run at any time.
With a win, the Tigers can get back into the win column after having their six-game winning streak broken last week. It also allows NHS to build some critical momentum heading into the final week of the season, with Lawton looming.
But that doesn’t mean the Tigers can afford to overlook Putnam City West. While next week’s game will likely be a winner-take-all, there could be a scenario where district points could come into play. That means NHS is looking for a hot start and a decisive victory tonight.
And Nation isn’t worried about his team looking too far ahead.
“This is a mature team that’s taking it one game at a time,” he said. “Last week showed us they’re more mentally strong than we were this time last year, and even more so than I knew. We don’t have to work to get them focused.”
The Tigers have redoubled their efforts after last week and confidence is still high, said senior Patrick Murray.
“We showed last week that we can play with the best teams in the state,” he said. “We fought hard as a team and came together after the loss. We want to be playing in the playoffs in front of that home crows, and it’s something I’ve never been able to do here.”