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Norman High Football: Playoffs or no playoffs, Tigers still have much to accomplish against Santa Fe

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Norman High v Westmoore Football

Norman High quarterback Tias McClarty runs with the ball during the Tigers’ game against Westmoore Oct. 15 at Harve Collins Field. McClarty enters Friday’s game against Edmond Santa Fe needing 159 ground yards to reach 1,700 for the season.

Barring the kind of loss Oklahoma almost took at Kansas, Norman North doesn’t have to worry tonight. Should the Timberwolves top winless Southmoore inside Moore Stadium, they’re in the playoffs.

North’s Crosstown rival is not equally fortunate. It, too, has the opportunity to finish district play with a 4-3 record, and it will have defeated a much better foe to get there if it does. Yet, a Norman High victory over Edmond Santa Fe only gets the Tigers to the postseason if Edmond Memorial also upsets Yukon.

That reality, however, doesn’t seem to have NHS down as it prepares to meet Santa Fe at Harve Collins Field this evening. If not toward a postseason run that begins next week, the Tigers still feel like they’re continuing to build.

“I think we’ve improved each week, that’s the biggest thing,” NHS coach Rocky Martin said. “That’s what we look at every single day, in practice and in games, to improve every day.”

The game the Tigers didn’t get that has them needing Memorial’s help on the Bulldogs’ senior night, was a 38-25 loss at Yukon, their district opener. The week before they’d found a way to beat Mustang 62-58 in a too-crazy-too-ever-be-repeated fourth quarter, gaining a victory over a program that would go on to beat both Norman North and Owasso in District 6AI-2 play.

If only the Tigers (4-5, 3-3 District 6AI-2) could substitute their finest out-of-district victory for their most regrettable in-district loss.

Not that it’s changed their outlook heading into tonight. Or even the importance they’re able to attach to this evening, playoffs or not.

“It’s every big in our eyes,” quarterback Tias McClarty said.

The Tigers have 24 seniors on their roster, as well as many underclassman in key positions — McClarty, for instance, is a second-year starter, but still just a junior — and for all of them, independent of what Week 11 might bring, if anything, there are big reasons to want this game.

It’s alway better to close with a victory; a win pushes the Tigers to .500 for the season, 5-5 overall and gives them a winning record in district play. All of that and they’ll have done, too, what they believe they should have done last season: beat Santa Fe.

A year ago, also in Week 10, Santa Fe, playing on its home field, did not even lead NHS until Angelo Rankin brought back a Tiger kick for a touchdown with 5 minutes remaining. One snap before the kick, Colyn Wade’s 18-yard field goal had put the Tigers on top 31-28. NHS even led 28-14 at the half.

That same Santa Fe team wound up playing Jenks for the state championship, taking down Union in the semifinals.

Martin doesn’t think his team needs to look back a year to know it can win tonight. It can look back only a week, when it entered the fourth quarter trailing Broken Arrow 14-13, the difference a blocked extra point.

“I don’t think our guys look at a team and think they’re that much better than us, I really don’t,” Martin said. “We prepare every week to win and I think we take the same approach in practice and lifting and watching film.”

It’s all part of the building the Tigers are convinced has taken place, last season to this season and beyond.

“We have improved a lot each week,” McClarty said. “Some of them have been a little bit [more difficult] than others, but we have gotten there.”

The Tigers have landed some big blows. They can land one more tonight and, should things elsewhere go their way, perhaps still more.

Clay Horning

405 366-3526

Follow me @clayhorning

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