Sep. 23—Norman High doesn't have time to look back now.
An 0-3 start to the season wasn't the way the Tigers' had hoped the season would begin, though they faced a difficult non-district schedule. There were some low moments — a 42-7 loss to Moore and being outscored 55-7 combined in the first quarter of games has added to the frustration — but there have also been positive signs in those losses.
One positive has been the Tigers' play in the second half. Norman High has outscored Norman North (receiving votes in 6A-I poll), Moore (ranked No. 4 in 6A-I) and Stillwater (No. 1 in 6A-II) 69-63 in the final three quarters in each of those games. Two of those three games weren't decided until the final minute of the game.
Regardless, the Tigers still have all of their goals for the end of the season within reach. But if Norman High wants to avoid missing the postseason for the second straight season, starting district play on a strong note at Edmond North Friday would go a long way.
"Similar to what I told the boys —throw the records out, everyone's starting fresh now," NHS head coach Rocky Martin said. "You've gotta prepare and I thought we had a great week of practice."
Slow starts have continued to be a problem for the Tigers this season, but Martin said the team has used recent practices to emphasize the importance of putting a complete game together.
This week, the Tigers introduced more live-action drills earlier into practices, with the best on both sides of the ball going head-to-head. Martin wants the team to be mindful of how they're approaching the start of games, and to be ready for situations to arise where the scheme needs to be tweaked.
"Just kind of switching up the routine," he said. "Just a lot more good-on-good team stuff at the beginning, hopefully that starts sinking in with the guys. There's a reason why we're doing this and it's because of the start of our games. We've put a major emphasis on that this week."
Edmond North also enters the game winless at 0-4, but the Tigers know first-hand that records don't tell the entire story.
The Huskies opened up the season against Deer Creek (No. 2 in 6A-II), Moore, Edmond Memorial (not ranked) and Enid (receiving votes in 6A-I).
The offense has been the bright spot for the Huskies this season, averaging just over 20 points per game in those contests and never being held to less than 17 points.
Martin said the biggest challenge with facing Edmond North's offense is dealing with all the different ways that they can find weaknesses in the defense.
"Offensively they do a lot of different things," he said. "Unbalanced stuff, it's a numbers game just trying to get people mismatched."
The Tigers offense will have to be ready for a Huskies' defense that likes to dial up the blitz and get into the backfield. Edmond North has size on the defensive line to fill up running lanes and athletic linebackers that will be called on to create chaos for the Tigers' offensive line.
Norman High's front five also had a difficult task last week going up against Stillwaters' 'radar defense', which often puts their defensive linemen standing five yards behind the line of scrimmage and barreling down on the offensive line as soon as the ball is snapped.
The Tigers managed to put up 33 points on the Pioneers' defense and had over 260 yards rushing on the night.
"They'll bring pressure, they like to blitz and that's one of those things where different defensive coordinators have different mindsets," Martin said. "Especially with an athletic quarterback and how they're going to attack them. We've just got to see what they're doing early on and get a feel for them and see where we're going to attack them."
The game kicks off at 7 p.m.
Tarik Masri is a sports reporter for The Transcript covering OU athletics and area sports. You can reach him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org