CLASH FOOTBALL 8

Yousuf Elyazgi celebrates after hauling in what turned out to be the game winning TD catch in front of North's Jaron Burgess. 9/2/04. Transcript photo by Kevin Ellis

When asked how it would feel to finally beat Norman High, Norman North’s Travis Watson said this:

“It would mean everything,” Watson said. “I can’t even imagine what it’s going to be like. It’s going to be crazy.”

The interesting thing about that is the word “it’s.” He could have said, it would be crazy. But instead, he said it’s going to be crazy. As in, “it’s going to happen.”

This North team has been preaching confidence the whole preseason. Hang around the practices long enough and one can start to believe the enthusiasm is genuine.

Keep in mind this is a program that has tried eight times to beat the Tigers and has failed each time. So why so much confidence this year?

“The way we’ve been practicing the last couple of weeks, It’s been different from the last few years,” said Watson, who plays noseguard.

“It’s like a different attitude. It feels good.”

The two teams will battle again at 7:30 tonight at Owen Field in the ninth annual Crosstown Clash.

North will be heading into this game thinking this is the year the streak ends. So what about NHS? The Tigers will no doubt be just as confident. No Tiger has ever tasted defeat in this game.

“We kind of use that as motivation,” said NHS quarterback Sam Tullius.

“(The streak) does create some pressure, but we bring it up to give us that extra bit of motivation. No one wants to be the team that loses to Norman North.”

After what’s happened the last two years, the Tigers may feel like they can’t lose this game.

In 2004, Yousuf Elyazgi caught a touchdown pass from Josh Miller in the final minute to pull out a 19-17 win.

Last year, Norman North got a 90-yard punt return for a score from Sunny Law. Then Matt Edge caught a touchdown pass to give the Timberwolves a 33-28 lead with 2:08 remaining in the game.

But quarterback Press Taylor guided the Tigers down the field, hitting Ryan Broyles for a 37-yard pass, scrambling to the 1-yard line with 50 seconds left. Taylor scored on the next play, with 23 seconds on the clock, to give the Tigers a 36-33 win.

“What that teaches you is to stay focused,” Watson said. “It teaches you that you have to play all four quarters.

“What’s in the past in is the past. We don’t even talk about the streak. We’re just focused on (tonight) and we feel we have a good chance.”

Both teams return the bulk of their starters on defense and will enter the game with new offensive backfields.

Technically, North quarterback Tyler Tettleton is a returning starter, but he didn’t start in last year’s Clash. He didn’t get the nod until the midway point of the season.

This will be Tullius’ first start. He’s only gotten a handful of snaps at quarterback, playing mostly on defense for the Tigers.

“I’m excited to finally be under center again,” Tullius said. “I’m sure I’ll be a little nervous (tonight), but right now I’m just excited and confident.”

“I think a game like this isn’t a true evaluation of the talent of the two teams,” NHS coach Butch Peters said. “Emotion plays a big factor in this game. You spend much of the night dealing with emotion.”

It’s a correct assessment, especially for North. NHS went 9-3 last year and got one of its toughest battles from the T-Wolves. North finished 1-9 last year.

And maybe it was the emotional letdown that helped create that losing season. That’s why North coach Lance Manning guards against his players focusing their season on Norman High.

“You don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket,” Manning said.

“We’ve been telling them that it’s important because it’s the first game of the season, not because it’s Norman High.

“But I can’t change how much it means to them. It means a lot to our school.”

That’s why, when Watson imagines beating the Tigers, he imagines a scene of total chaos.

“It would be the biggest game I have ever played in,” he said. “It would be huge. Everyone is pumped up because we know this is the year.”

Scott Moore366-3535sports@normantranscript.com

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