Horning: North better than expected, and Tigers can be so much better

Kyle Phillips / The Transcript

Norman North's Blaine Martin runs with the ball during the Clash football game, Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019, at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.

When Norman North quarterback Jackson Remualdo found Cale Cabbiness in the middle of the end zone from 26 yards, tying the Crosstown Clash yet again, 6:20 remained.

That’s the time Norman High had left to go win it and that’s what the Tigers did, getting the game-winning touchdown on a 4-yard keeper from quarterback Cade Horton that left North with less than a minute remaining.

That made it 31-24 and it stood, barely, because Remualdo’s final-seconds, end-zone throw to Luke Switzer was beautifully on target. Yet, just as beautifully, NHS’ Isaac Raymond Brown went up and flat took it from him, putting the finishing touches on the Tigers’ second straight Clash triumph.

Classic, right?

A tie game late.

A 13-play 61-yard drive to win it that included, count ’em, three third-down conversions, that chewed up the clock into the final minute.

Then, at the very end, a huge play from a defensive back when a huge play absolutely had to be made. The stuff dreams are made of.

Also, it was all made necessary by so many things dreams aren’t made of, by things that will keep NHS coach Rocky Martin and his assistants up at night, knowing if they can solve them, perhaps, their team can be the team many think it might be.

Like, that 13-play, 61-yard drive to win it?

Well, two of those snaps came from the Tigers’ 40-yard line. They happened back-to-back and, in the first one, Horton found Andrew Young facing third-and-9 for 15 yards. However, because a silly personal foul was committed after the play, the Tigers, with their new set of downs, were still on the 40.

Really, the drive wasn’t 61 yards, but 76 because 15 of it had to be repeated due to the kind of penalty teams really going places don’t commit.

Special teams were a Tiger issue, too, with the T-Wolves taking their first lead, 7-3, via a 60-yard punt return from Blaine Martin, the Jones transfer, who’s finally playing and who’s really good.

Another punt return Martin threatened to take the distance, didn’t, but set North up on the Tiger 31. Remember that tying TD with 6:20 remaining, it was just a two-play, 31-yard drive thanks to Martin’s return.

There were other gaffes.

Late in the second quarter, the Tigers had a chance to all but put the T-Wolves away, having gone up 10-3 5:09 before the half and getting the ball right back after forcing a three-and-out.

Instead, NHS went three-and-out, too, gave North back the ball 2:01 before the half at its own 46 and gave up a six-play, 54-yard drive and the game was tied.

The T-Wolves were better than expected.

Remualdo is the real deal behind center, Martin is tons of fun to watch run, Switzer and Cabbiness are terrific receivers and the T-Wolves' defense frustrated the Tigers many times during the night.

Yet, when the Tigers were really, really good as they were from the moment North went up 17-10 with 6:30 left in the third quarter — yeah, that happened — until the moment they went up 24-17 just 4:07 later, they were magical.

Earlier, Horton’s receivers were making big plays for him, with Andrew Young turning a little throw into the left flat for 45 yards that led to NHS’ first points, a field goal from Grady Wade. Or Jaden Bray making a fantastic adjustment while the ball was in the air to spear a 26-yard grab off his shoe-tops, setting up a short touchdown run from Joe Willie.

Young then did it again, turning an innocent toss into the right flat into a 58-yard score that made it 17-17. And, getting the ball back quickly, NHS’ next quick-strike drive was all Horton, now making plays for his receivers, hitting Young in stride on a slant and Kyler Keenan with a 31-yard toss that had to be perfect.

When Horton’s making plays, the Tigers are so dangerous. When he’s merely facilitating, they’re still dangerous, but not nearly so.

He finished 11 of 20 for 212 yards, which is a wonderful average for every caught ball, yet not exactly an anxiety-reducing percentage.

Look, it really was a great game. And the play Raymond-Brown made to end it was out of sight. In many ways, the three hours spent Thursday night at Owen Field were all things to all involved, both teams and both fan bases.

North exited with confidence it might not have had coming in. NHS left with a victory that’s sweet no matter how many times it made it harder on itself than it had to be.

What it actually left you wanting was more. More time to see who the Tigers are when they don’t stub their toe so often. More time to see if the T-Wolves really are as dramatically improved as they appear.

All that and the game came down to the final seconds.

A very good night.

And just the first one.

Recommended for you