YUKON — Maybe it’s better this way for Norman High.
A third straight horrendously slow offensive start to the game; a strong defensive scheme from their opponent, one that District 6A-4 opponents, beginning next week, are sure to study and try to exploit; not to mention the lesson that rarely is it enough to be only momentarily explosive, and when your defense gives you the ball and field position time and again, you really have to do something with it.
The Tigers (2-1) couldn’t Friday night at Miller Stadium, leaving Yukon (2-1) to walk away a 21-19 victor.
The crazy thing was, for all of those issues, NHS was still in position to win through most of the second half, not yielding the lead until Miller quarterback Hayden Somerville found Caelan Groce for a 24-yard touchdown with 10:25 remaining.
And, after Groce, also Yukon’s punter, caught NHS napping with a fake that ultimately led to an eight-point Yukon lead, forged on Somerville’s 3-yard scoring toss to Parker Bohannon with 6:39 remaining, the Tigers still threatened overtime when Jakcob Dean, after throwing eight straight incompletions to begin the second half, caught fire in the final moments and led the Tigers on a 99-yard drive.
The last two passes of the march were to Sayvon Foley, the first for 10-yards and the second for 28 and six points with 44.6 seconds remaining. However, trying to hit George Carter with a two-point conversion pass to tie the game, though Dean hit him in the hands, it was Miller defender Josh Beddell getting a hand in to break it up and finish the Tiger threat.
“They brought it to us,” said Dean, who turned in the Tigers’ biggest play of the night, a 58-yard keeper that arrested control of the game, putting NHS up 10-0 in the second quarter.
How good was the Miller defense? NHS picked up zero first downs in the first quarter, one in the third and zero again in the fourth until the Tigers began inside their own 1-yard line with about 4 minutes to play.
“They did a great job,” NHS coach Greg Nation said of the Millers. “They schemed us well, they played super hard.”
Yukon was led by Groce, who caught a touchdown pass, converted the fake punt and finished with three grabs for 90 yards, as well as quarterback Hayden Somerville, who completed just 10 of 24 for 135 yards, yet did it after completing only 3 of 12, along with two interceptions, to begin the game.
Dean threw for 110 yards, though it was just 31 until the final drive.
Carter regretted not making better use of a big night from the Tiger defense.
“We didn’t’ capitalize,” he said. “The defense was giving us field position and we just didn’t come through.”
No Tiger was more valuable than kicker Matt Hockett, who was perfect on his point-afters, hit field goals of 42 and 39 yards, and averaged more than 43 yards over seven punts, frequently turning the field around, yet too often for no result.
Nation waxed philosophical when on his way out of the stadium.
“The best thing is we’re 0-0,” he said, alluding to district play. “This is the NFL preseason we just finished. They don’t worry about the preseason and we don’t either. The next seven games are what matters and that’s what we’re excited about.”
They’ll face them with the benefit of a few lessons, learned the hard way at Miller Stadium.
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