NORMAN — A defensive struggle led to a slow night for goalkeepers in Tuesday’s Crosstown Clash — slow to the tune of zero saves between the pair in 80 scoreless minutes of regulation.
But Norman High’s Andrew Arledge was ready when the heat was turned up on the keepers in the shootout. Arledge made saves on two North attempts, then got help from the goal post on a third as the Tigers picked up the shootout victory at the University of Oklahoma’s John Crain Field.
“I just knew I had to step up,” Arledge said. “I just do what I do when it’s time. You have to be ready for anything.”
He was, in this case, in a shootout where the Tigers trailed two different times.
It went like this: The Tigers’ Jorge Briones missed before North’s Mauro Cichero made his attempt. Then Zach Terry followed with a make before Arledge’s first save, a diving stop to his right on North’s Jonathan Newton.
However, NHS midfielder Matt Hockett missed high and North’s Curtis McCrae converted, putting North up 2-1 and back in control.
But Arledge was up to the task yet again, following a make by NHS senior Matt Tidwell by diving to his left to deny Ashton Bray.
In the final shots, the Tigers’ Reed Shafer-Ray found the top right corner before North’s Carson Cacciatore went low and left. It beat Arledge but not the goal post, caroming out and sending the Tigers’ faithful into hysterics.
“I think Norman High and Norman North have played something like 24 times at least, and in my recollection, only three of them were decided by more than one goal,” said Gordon Drummond, Norman High’s coach for all those games. “This was just a typical Norman High-Norman North game.”
The teams played a pair of tight battles a year ago, a 1-0 regular season tilt before a 2-1 classic in the quarterfinals of the playoffs, both won by North on the way to a state championship.
The scoring chances were few and far between throughout most of regulation, as both teams kept a defensive posture, but the last 10 minutes brought some good chances both ways.
In the 72nd minute, Cacciatori put a header off a throw-in just wide left. Two minutes later, Cichero’s header off a good cross from Cole Johnson sailed just over the Tiger net.
Then in the 75th minute, NHS got a deep free kick from just outside the box to the left side of the North goal, but Briones’ attempt was quickly cleared by the Timberwolves.
It got still more interesting before the end, as the Timberwolves hit the crossbar on a header with about one minute to go. Seconds later, a North goal was waved off after a foul during a scramble in the goal crease.
Then came the shootout and a chance for Arledge to make the biggest plays of the night.
Afterward, he basked in hugs and smiles from his teammates for a triumph his school hadn’t enjoyed in his career.
“To get this win, in my senior year, for all the seniors on this team and at this school, beating them is huge,” Arledge said.
The win boosted the Tigers to a 3-0 start, while North dipped to 1-2.