Daunting playoff tests await area teams
Daunting road trips await several of the remaining area football teams when the second round of high school football playoffs kick off tonight.
While district champions Carnegie and Tipton have earned another home playoff game, the remaining four teams Altus, Apache, Cyril and Snyder hit the road, where fierce foes linger.
Lawton High, meanwhile, plays on Saturday night at a neutral site (University of Central Oklahoma) in Edmond against top-ranked Tulsa Washington.
So, raise your glass to the teams which have made it this far in hopes of hunting down a Gold Ball.
Survive and advance is what it's all about at this stage.
Here. We. Go.
No. 2 Shattuck at No. 5 Carnegie
In a cruel twist twist of fate, No. 5 Carnegie, despite winning its B-3 district title, drew No. 2 Shattuck in the second round. Such is life, though.
"You gotta play what is thrown at you," Carnegie coach Jim Harvey said. "That's what life brings you sometimes. You don't always get the Christmas present you want, but you better be happy."
Winners of seven straight, the Wildcats (8-3) are on cloud nine entering yet another stiff test. They've played a tough schedule, losing to Tipton, top-ranked Laverne and Destiny Christian in a shootout while racing past Cyril, Snyder and Alex all first round playoff winners.
Carnegie cruised past Fox, 62-16, in the first round last week and gets to host a second straight playoff game tonight when welcoming Shattuck (9-1) for a 7 p.m. kickoff. The Friday forecast calls for 82 degrees, a delight for playoff football in November.
"We've had good practices all week and the guys are getting after it," Harvey said. "We've never played Shattuck so it's all a new thing for us. It's good because you don't know a team or anything about them. We just need to go out and play football."
Shattuck, one of the state's most storied and successful football schools, is another animal, though similar to Laverne and Tipton. Shattuck's only loss of the season came by a mere two points on the road at the hands of defending Class B champion, undefeated Laverne.
"We know what's up against us and they're ready for the challenge," Harvey said. "It's gonna be a tough game."
One of the reasons Shattuck is so tough is because of its physicality, Harvey said, particularly with their blocking and tackling being furious but fundamentally sound.
To top it off, the Indians boast an elite quarterback, Gatlin Goodson, possessing unfathomable speed like the superhero Flash. That's why the Wildcats will try and force Goodson to hand the ball off or throw it to someone else and limit his touches, Harvey said. Getting pressure and containing Goodson simultaneously will be the key.
"He's a stud. He makes them click," Harvey said. "He's the guy, that, in order to win, you've got shut him down. We've got kids that can catch him don't get me wrong. But he's got that breakaway speed where I haven't seen anyone else on film match that."
Offensively, Harvey wants Carnegie to execute and stick to its game plan. That includes giving star quarterback Xavier Neshakula time to throw the ball to his weapons, including his go-to target, Andrew Cano. Josiah Gonzalez, Rhodey Mabry, Tristan Hainta and Jaispen Bialas have all run the ball well of late and will be critical to moving the chains consistently.
Based on how the Wildcats played against Cyril, they appear capable across the board at all positions of matching Shattuck's off-the-charts physicality.
"We're going to have to be steady. In big games before, we haven't been steady enough," Harvey said. "We've been too unsteady, making mistakes we can't afford. From this point forward, we need to stay on track."
Cyril at No. 1 Laverne
Welcome to the second chapter in the cruel twist of fate saga, featuring another dominant team from district B-3, Cyril.
The Pirates (10-1) spent much of the year ranked in the top-5, but suffered multiple key injuries down the stretch and lost the regular season finale to Carnegie, for the district title.
Tonight, Cyril gets the tall task of traveling to the Oklahoma panhandle for a 7 p.m. kickoff against Laverne (11-0). Yes, the Tigers are undefeated, the top-ranked team in Class B and above all, the defending state champion.
And yes, that means there is a unique opportunity in front of Cyril. So the Pirates have clung to the inspirational phrase Russell Westbrook coined, 'Why not?'
"The last time we made a road trip we went to Alex and we hadn't won there ever," Cyril coach Trevor Knight said. "Why not do something else special? I think they're jumping at the opportunity to play a top team on the road. Whatever the outcome is, we're gonna give it everything we got."
Good news for the Pirates is that they coasted by Waurika, 40-12, in the first round last week and many of their key players have returned and recovered from injury including WR Cason McLemore (knee) and RB Brett Price (shoulder). Running back Albert Suarez will miss another game as he is still undergoing concussion protocol.
With their playmakers back, winning the turnover battle and limiting penalties will be among the keys to victory for Cyril.
"We just need to take care of the ball and not get mesmerized by the home run try to chip away, get yards where we can and finish blocks," Knight said. "If we do, that'll turn into what we want on the scoreboard."
Laverne lost 13 seniors from last year's state title squad but still possesses a bevy of talent, highlighted by 6-3 senior tight end Ihzan Castillo.
"They have one of the better blocking-receiving tight ends (Castillo) I've seen. He makes a lot of plays," Knight said. "Their quarterback is really good and they have good linemen so they are really well put together."