NORMAN — After one game, it was overlooked in terms of its significance. But after yet another slow start last week against Moore, one where Norman High fell behind 10-0, it’s something the Tigers can’t ignore.
And they don’t intend on putting together another slow start when they meet Yukon at 7 p.m. today at Miller Stadium.
“We’re still improving, and it’s not always going to work right out of the gate,” coach Greg Nation said. “But our guys have persevered and fought back.”
Not that Nation is overly focused on the issue. The Tigers are 2-0 and have taken control of both games as they’ve worn on. The slow starts are less important to him than the final score, and though he wants to get on top of Yukon (1-1) early, it’s not been a specific focus for the team this week.
“End results are what you focus on as a coach,” he said. “And I like the results we’ve been getting.”
Even still, the Tigers may not be able to afford another slow start against the Millers. Led by senior quarterback Hayden Somerville, Yukon is a dangerous team that is looking to make its fifth straight trip to the postseason this year. The Millers spread the ball out and can put up points in bunches, averaging 27 points a game so far this season.
The Tigers, on the other hand, keep the ball on the ground as they look to wear down defenses as well as the clock. It’s an effective strategy for closing out games, but not one that functions as smoothly when they fall behind. It’s for that reason that the slow starts can be worrisome for Tiger fans.
Those starts haven’t been devastating for NHS, and last week a trick play on the Tigers’ first snap of the game was maybe a second away from being a long touchdown play instead of a deep sack. That reversal in fortunes put the Tigers into a bad possession, and it snowballed even more after Moore pulled ahead 10-0.
With some help from its special teams, NHS overcame the adversity last week to take a 17-10 lead into halftime, and the offense got rolling in the second half as the Tigers pulled away.
“Getting behind like that, it definitely took us out of our game plan some,” Nation said. “But we came out and responded. We haven’t peaked yet by any means. We’ve got a new quarterback and a lot of new guys in there.”
Tonight’s game will serve as a good indicator of how far along the Tigers have come in that process. After an impressive victory over Norman North in the season-opening Crosstown Clash, last week’s win over Moore was disappointing in comparison for NHS. The Tigers have bounced back with a better week of practice, and tonight’s matchup will be the final tuneup the Tigers will get before opening the district season next week with a trip to Mustang. That’s why the focus this week has been on fixing the things they can before entering the playoff race.
“The focus is defining what our identity is as a team,” Nation said. “Everyone knows what we do, but we still need to shore up our blocking assignments. This will be a good game for us. We’re still improving, and we’ve been lucky to pick up a few big wins along the way.”
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