By Chuck Reherman, Sports Editor – Two teams with contrasting styles will collide Friday night when Yukon makes the trek south to face Norman North.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at Harve Collins Field.
Norman North, a team that will “throw the ball all over the yard,” comes into the game with a 1-0 record after squeaking out a 49-43 win over their crosstown rival Norman last week. The Millers are 0-1 after losing to their county rival Mustang 31-14.
It will be the eighth meeting between the teams and the pair have staged a few epic battles. The last two meetings have been all Norman North. The Timberwolves won 55-7 last year and 59-24 the year before.
Norman North has won the last five meetings in a row (including a 45-42 shootout in 2013 that was one on a late field goal).
The Millers did win the first two meetings between the teams, 35-17 and 33-0 and head into Friday night’s match-up looking to put an end to the T-Wolves five-game win streak.
Norman North comes into the game with one of the most explosive offenses in the state. The T-Wolves reached the state finals with that explosive attack last year and although the team did lose some key starters off that start, head coach Brent Barnes has reloaded for a run in 2017.
“Norman North is a very explosive offense,” YHS head coach Jeremy Reed said. “They have a big time receiver in Drake Stoops. He is very, very good high school receiver, runs great routs and has good speed. Their quarterback sat out last year and he throws a really good ball. And, they are big up front.
“They depend a lot on the big play,” he said. “They are a quick strike team, a little different than Mustang.
“Defensively, they have one of the best linebacker/defensive ends we will play. Their defense is really solid, they have a secondary that is physical. They run to the ball well. They did struggle against Norman, but overall very solid.”
The Millers come into the game looking to get their offense off to a faster start. The team had trouble getting untracked last week in the loss to Mustang until late in the second half.
Reed is looking to see improvement in the offense the second week of the season.
“We have to see improvement as far as doing our job correctly,” Reed said. “From just a where to go standpoint and once we get to spot, execute the job we have been given. The film showed as I thought I witnessed. You always think you see something in games that may be true or not true on film, but it was exactly true. We were in position just about all night from the opening snap to the last snap, but we didn’t execute once we got to the spot to execute our job.
“That is where our focus is offensively,” he said. “And physicality. We were out physicaled which is a rarity in what we do. I told the kids there is no panic button that has been hit, but we have to address that today and it can’t happen again.
“I was probably the most shocked person in the stadium last week not having success and doing what we had done previously in the scrimmages. That is the whole reason we run what we run, it gives us an advantage in a lot of different areas and one of them is playing the high powered offenses. Our offense is designed to frustrate those offenses by not getting snaps and it helps keep our defense off the field and keeps them fresh.
“The encouraging part is if we would have done everything right and gotten completely manhandled, we would be worried about this year, but that wasn’t the case. We have the ability to fix exactly what the problem was. We were one and sometimes two players off from making a huge play. It was easy to see on film with the kids, so it is encouraging to them to know that of I do my job we can make those plays.”
The Miller defense will be tested to stop a Norman North offense that can put points on the board in a hurry.
The offense is basically built around receiver Drake Stoops and quarterback Ryan Peoples. Stoops caught 14 passes for 259 yards and three touchdowns. He also returned a punt 50 yards for another score. Peoples completed 19 of 29 passes for 299 yards and four scores.
The T-Wolves can run the ball also. Runningback Daly Alexander rushed for 132 yards on 18 carries. Jake Coleman (6-4, 280) and Race Jarrett (6-0, 270) anchor the front line.
“There is a very delicate balance, if you put too much concentration on one player, one player typically will not win you a football game,” Reed said. “The Stoops kid did catch 14 passes for over 200 yards, so Norman is probably saying he won the game for them. You have to do a good job of executing our defensive plan, our defensive staff has a great plan in the works.
“We have to guard against our kids thinking it is all about one guy,” he said. “We have to play assignments properly up front and then I like our chances of slowing them down.
“Norman North wants to throw the ball. They have an efficient running game, but it is not something they want to do down after down. They do a good job keeping you honest with it and their runningback runs hard, he’s not the biggest kid, but does a good job of what they are asking him to do.”
The Millers will be looking for this game to be the breakout game for the offense. YHS did have nearly 300 yards, but a big part came late in the game and Reed expects the team to come our firing earlier.
“We have to show a better product from an offensive standpoint,” Reed said. “We never got any rhythm last week and we have to get into a rhythm this week and understand what we are trying to accomplish. We need to set the tone early that we need to be physical up front early. That is the advantage of this offense.
“Our defense showed a lot of improvement over what we saw from last year,” he said. “We need to be sharp on both sides of the ball. We have to have a little bit of patience with this offense until we get this group to gel. It is a different animal than other offenses, all offenses need time to gel, but we definitely do. We have a group of kids that haven’t played much varsity football, so these three weeks are very, very important to get these kids comfortable with what they are asked to do under big stages.”