NORMAN — Fighting to maintain a slim lead late in a game that few gave it a chance to win, Norman North needed a way to extend the drive. Like he has done all year, coach Wade Standley turned to senior quarterback Peyton Gavras. And just like he has done all year, Gavras came through for the Timberwolves.
On Friday, Gavras will take the field to Tulsa Union to help lead his team in North’s first-ever Class 6A semifinals appearance.
It’s a long way from where Gavras was just over a year ago, when he was sitting on the sidelines, unsure of if or when he would be able to get back on the field.
The latest chapter in Gavras’ journey can be traced back to Sept. 16, 2011, in a Week 3 game against Westmoore. The junior signal-caller took a snap and sprinted outside. A Westmoore defender broke through the line and hit Gavras hard. He got back up slowly, trotted to the sideline, and moments later slumped to the ground. He didn’t return, and the concussion knocked Gavras out for the better part of the season.
The worst part of sitting was the nature of his injury. Concussions are notoriously difficult to predict, and there is no defined timetable for a return. That, and the fact that there aren’t always visible signs of a concussion, made it especially difficult, Gavras said.
“Last year was rough,” Gavras said. “It was an injury that only I could feel, and I didn’t know how long I would be out. After getting a spot on the field and then having to sit out, it wasn’t easy. But I wanted to prove to everybody that I could come back.”
And he did. Gavras returned to the field for North’s final regular-season game, where he found himself splitting time under center with Channing Meyer, who had quarterbacked the team in his absence.
Heading into the offseason, the two-quarterback situation started another competition for a kid who’d spent his entire life competing. From the days of peewee flag football, when Gavras would play with the older kids just so he could get on to the field to two quarterback battles in the space of a year to leading his team one game short of the state championship, Gavras had been competing. Finally entering his senior season, he faced not just the challenge of winning the starting job but the challenge of returning to full game action since his injury.
And he approached that challenge with the same quiet fire with which he tackles every new challenge. So it surprised no one, least of all his coach, when Gavras made his way back to the huddle.
“A lot of kids would have thrown in the towel after what he went through and said ‘this isn’t for me,” Standley said. “But Peyton didn’t. He’s a resilient young man and he worked hard to get back out on the field, and he’s come out of it a better person. He’s a winner and a fighter.”
The same qualities that allowed Gavras to return to the field have allowed him to lead his team to unprecedented heights. The kid six inches short of the prototypical quarterback still finds a way to get it done in the game, and his team has done the same, knocking off the state’s largest high school with last week’s win over Broken Arrow.
And that has brought the T-Wolves a step away from a state title game, a goal that once seemed impossible to everyone not inside North’s locker room. Looking back, Gavras said he never considered that he would not only return to the field but also star on it for a semifinal team.
“It’s been a pretty special season,” he said. “When you’re a child you dream about playing in games like this, even when you don’t really know what it’s all about. It’s just an incredible feeling now that we’re really here.”