In a wild, wooly Crosstown Clash, QB's new wrinkle makes difference for Timberwolves
Note: I don’t know how many consecutive years I’ve written the column from this game for The Norman Transcript, but Thursday (and Friday morning) made it one more. This would be it.
The guys in the radio booth next door called it a classic, though Norman High coach Rocky Martin and Norman North coach Justin Jones may beg to differ.
It was the Crosstown Clash, it was the Timberwolves — oh, let’s call it — surviving Norman High 40-36 Thursday night and Friday morning at Harve Collins Field.
Jones surely would have preferred not having to come from behind given the 21-0 lead his team took only 7 minutes into the contest, which happened to be after 9 p.m., lightning putting off the kick until 8:48 p.m.
Martin, his Tigers down 27-21 at the half, is certain to have wondered how different it might have been had his team not committed 10 penalties costing 90 yards through two quarters; though Jones might counter, all things being equal, that it couldn’t have cost the Tigers much more than the T-Wolves cost themselves, earning eight flags costing 75 yards in the same two quarters.
Maybe this is the point:
Never has so unforgettable a season-opening Clash included so much both teams and coaches would rather forget.
“It wasn’t pretty,” were the first words Jones said to his assembled team afterward. “It wasn’t pretty at all.”
What it might have been was everything and nothing, all at the same time.
Like, North won’t get far if it can’t iron out its penalties and special teams, the latter combining on two extra-point snafus, 47 lost ground yards and nine Tiger points: seven on an original wild punt snap that set NHS up at North’s 13-yard line, and another just like it that handed the Tigers a safety and accounted for the game’s final points — not that it had to be, NHS getting the ball back and a short field with 7:19 remaining.
Indeed, the final hero was T-Wolves cornerback Camden Pratcher, who didn’t have to do anything spectacular, just catch a couple of Tiger quarterback Tias McClarty’s imperfect passes that found their way near him, both coming after all the points had been scored.
Not that McClarty didn’t have terrific moments, too, running for more than 100 yards, tossing a trio of touchdown passes, one for 35 yards to J.T. Deaton and two to Max Wilson from 5 and 26, the second pulling the Tigers within 40-34 with 8:36 to play.
All that and both of NHS’ rushing TDs were his, too, the second spanning 13-yards and three would-be North tacklers that couldn’t grab hold.
It’s a lot.
A lot to remember.
Much to forget.
And if you watched it, or listened to it, there was this other thing from the other quarterback, North’s Kam Sixkiller, that might have been the difference in the game.
Sixkiller’s bound to remember his two second-half interceptions more than his 45-yard touchdown pass to Cole Warren, or the 235 yards he threw for before the half that set up three other scores.
He may even forget what he did with his feet in the third quarter, though North fans shouldn’t because it appeared to be something new and it clearly mattered.
An unrepentant pocket passer, twice, reading the play in front of him, Sixkiller pulled the ball out of stellar running back Chapman McKown’s hands and called his own number, going for 21 yards facing first-and-15 from his own 42, then picking up 14 more facing second-and-3 at the NHS 17.
That led to McKown’s third rushing touchdown and put North back on top 33-28.
North’s next series, two plays after he found Jackson Lundquist for 58 yards, a yard from the goal line, Sixkiller called his own number again, when McKown clearly would have been bottled up, and scored.
“It’s not something I’ve grown up doing really much at all,” Sixkiller said. “It’s new for me, but it’s grown on me a little bit.”
Enough that he knows what he’s doing and it made a difference Thursday night and it’s bound to again.
All of it started almost two hours late, went past midnight and the winning team, despite winning, must regroup and do something about the mountain of mistakes it committed, some of them from its promising senior quarterback.
But that same quarterback appeared to get better, too, offering a new wrinkle that’s not his favorite thing, but should raise his team’s ceiling nonetheless.
Want to pull something from maybe the craziest night in the rivalry’s history?