Nov. 18—After a positive start to the season, Norman North was in danger of watching its season derailed before it ever even got a chance to gain any momentum.
During a Week 3 loss on the road against Yukon, the Timberwolves' high-powered offense was sidelined while the Millers' grinded out long second half drives. It was the Millers' only win of the season, and Norman North was blown out the following week at home against top-ranked Bixby.
With two more difficult matchups coming up against Broken Arrow and Jenks, the Timberwolves had to find a way to get things turned around in a hurry. If Norman North had started out the district schedule 0-3, it would've needed to win each of its last four in order to secure home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Norman North head coach Justin Jones saw the early-season skid as a sort of crossroads for his team — one that could either lead to a season of continued frustration or to a constructive turnaround.
Regardless, it would've taken either a lot of optimism or a lot of cynicism to imagine the Timberwolves not participating in the first round of last week's playoffs.
Norman North will be coming off a first round bye when it faces Owasso in the 6A quarterfinals on Friday at 7 p.m.
"I think it's a credit to our kids," Jones said. "When you come in, before the year started and people started all their prognostications, I don't think Norman North was up there. We joked around there that this was kind of the SEC of 6A football, because it was a pretty brutal district."
The Timberwolves will be riding a six-game winning streak heading into their first game of the 2022 playoffs. Now with only eight teams remaining in the hunt for the gold ball, five of those teams come from District 6A-1.
In the time since, Norman North has shown extraordinary growth in all three phases of the game that's been jump-started by impressive wins over Broken Arrow and Jenks. Against the Tigers, the Timberwolves needed to hold off a furious second half rally in order to win on a fourth down stop in overtime.
The following week, the Timberwolves went on the road and shocked the Trojans, 31-21, on homecoming night to put themselves in the drivers seat to secure last week's bye week.
"You want to get your rest but at the same time you don't want to lose shape," Jones said about not having a game last week. "You want to keep your heads about you. For us it was a lot more about good on good competition sessions. It was very competitive this last week, but at the same time we've been working a little bit ahead on Owasso."
The most impressive part about Norman North's midseason turnaround is that both wins came without star running back Chapman McKown, who was missing time with an injury. Without McKown, the Timberwolves needed to rely more on first-year quarterback Kamden Sixkiller.
Sixkiller has also been able prove that he can be a threat on the ground too if he finds space in front of him.
"At the end of the day it's just another game," Jones said. "We prep the same way, we do the things that we need to do and he's had a great season. He's done some really, really great things in some big-time games."
The winner of Friday's game will advance to face either Union or Broken Arrow next week.
Tarik Masri is a sports reporter for The Transcript covering OU athletics and area sports. You can reach him by emailing email@example.com