NORMAN — For the third straight year, Norman High is making a familiar trip. A two-and-a-half-hour bus ride up Interstate-44 will take the Tigers to Owasso, where they’ll try to reverse recent history when they meet the Rams on the field at 7:30 p.m.
Owasso has eliminated NHS from the Class 6A playoffs the last two years. But those losses haven’t affected the Tigers the way one might expect.
For starters, they aren’t out for revenge. Coach Greg Nation said his team played well in each of those games, so the Tigers (9-2) don’t have anything to make up for. But that doesn’t mean they are forgetting about those losses. Instead, NHS is drawing upon lessons learned in defeat and using those to better prepare this time around to face the Rams (8-2).
“You’ve got to have a short memory when it comes to the playoffs and winning and losing,” Nation said. “It’s a new year, a new team, new playoffs and new circumstances. What happened last year or the year before doesn’t matter.”
Two years ago NHS beat itself with penalties, while a year ago an inability to tackle doomed the Tigers, Nation said. That has spurred increased focus on those issues this week, with more of the focus on improving on their performance from a year ago than building any extra motivation through a quest for revenge.
And that means preparing for the offensive barrage that Owasso brings to the table. Just like in years past, the Rams have been prolific this season on offense, led by senior Scottie Prealow at running back and the ability to reload at receiver despite the loss of former star Keon Hatcher to Arkansas.
Last year, it was Prealow who torched the Tiger defense, going for 197 yards and five touchdowns. NHS’ inability to meet Prealow at the line of scrimmage is what did the Tigers in a year ago, and it’s something they’re focused on changing this time around.
“Last year, Prealow was able to run right through our line, and we have to be able to wrap him up,” Nation said. “It’s not X’s and O’s, it’s blocking and tackling. We have to get off our blocks, meet him at the line of scrimmage and gang-tackle when we do.”
Owasso has put up 96 points on NHS over the last two years, and are a threat to put up big numbers again. The Tigers can’t sell out to stop Prealow, because the Rams have a talented receiving corps led by Cole Neph, who had 105 yards receiving against Sapulpa last week.
It’s a tall order, but it’s one the Tigers are prepared to handle, safety Gavin Nadeau said.
“We just have to limit what they’re doing trying to do and get stops on third downs,” he said. “It’s going to be an intense game and they have a good offense, but we have to play our game and we’ll be able to stop them.”