Last Friday’s win against Norman High wasn’t just a regular victory for Norman North.
They avenged their loss to the Tigers from earlier this season, while also advancing to the Class 6A state semifinals for the first time since 2018. They also won on their home field and secured one final home game to end their season.
North coach Khalil Benalilulhaj said it was an important win for his team.
“Every game as a coach, the nerves are so much higher than as a player,” Benalilulhaj said, “Because as a player, you get to run them off. As a coach, you get to stand there and just absorb them all.
“For them, honestly it got more emotional than some of the other games we’ve had this year. While it was a good, emotional atmosphere, we didn’t feel terribly threatened besides maybe a five-minute spell, so that helped us not get down on ourselves emotionally.”
The T-Wolves’ key to victory was their defense, shutting out the Tigers 2-0. They haven’t given up a goal in their last four contests, outscoring teams 11-0 over that span.
They’ll need to continue that against Jenks in the semifinal game Tuesday night. Jenks (14-1) is on a nine-game win streak and have scored two or more goals in all but one game during that span.
“We haven’t given up a goal in several games, which is good,” Benalilulhaj said. “I want us to be mentally prepared, though. We’re going up against good teams that can score, so we just need to mentally prepared and strong mentally in case we do get scored on.”
The T-Wolves might have one key advantage. They run the same team formation as Jenks, a 3-4-3, and Benalilulhaj is confident that his team can attack it.
“There’s a lot of ways you can play that formation and we play it almost identical,” Benalilulhaj said. “It probably helps us more than other teams because we’re practicing against the same formation in practice. We’re familiar with it so we understand what they’re trying to accomplish. We understand where the weaknesses are and understand where they’re susceptible. That makes it a pretty evenly matched game across the field.”
The team also gets the benefit of being at home, and they’ll be following the Norman North girls game against Union. The last time both North teams were home for a semifinal game was 2014, and both teams finished as state champions that season.
“We’re excited and we’re confident,” Benalilulhaj said. “We’re looking forward to it.
Game time is set for 8 p.m.