By Dave Ruthenberg, Sports Editor
Enid News and Eagle
Buckle up, the prep football playoffs are upon us and it could be a bit of a thrill ride for several of our area schools that could extend their journey into December.
No fewer than 20 area teams find themselves in the postseason, with the first leg of the quest beginning Friday, and a few of those teams have a potential shot at a title.
Let’s look at some of the contenders:
• Maybe the most surprising team in the postseason mix are the Chisholm Longhorns, who open play Friday in the Class 2A playoffs at home against Oklahoma Christian School and are favored to advance at least to the second round where they would face either Lindsay or Marietta. Chisholm’s resurgence has been well-chronicled, but it still remains a surprise to most whom, let’s be honest, didn’t really see a 9-1 campaign and second place district finish coming, even after going 5-5 last season. It’s Chisholm’s first playoff appearance since 2002.
• While the Longhorns are a surprise, a team that has become a mainstay in the 2A playoffs are the Hennessey Eagles and they are certainly one of the favorites to make a run to the title. The Eagles won back-to-back crowns in 2010 and 2011 before falling in the third round last season and have overcome injuries at key positions, most notably losing quarterback Dylan Hatchel, but continue to win. The 9-1 Eagles, who defeated Chisholm 21-20, suffered their only loss against 3A power Kingfisher. The Eagles open against Crooked Oak, a team they throttled in the opening round last season before falling in the third round to Vian, a team they could match up against again in round three.
• Kingfisher has been to the 3A title tilt four of the last six seasons. The only thing missing during that time is a championship. Kingfisher fell 28-21 last year to Blanchard in the state championship. Blanchard is ranked No. 1 going into this year’s playoffs. The Yellowjackets once again are one of the favorites to make it back to the championship game. Undefeated (10-0) and ranked No. 2, Kingfisher opens play Friday against Purcell. The Yellowjackets have won 13-straight first round games and have one of the most dynamic players in the state in Landon Nault, who has rushed for 1,684 yards and an unreal 34 touchdowns. Anything less than a run to the title game, and a potential rematch with Blanchard, would be a shock.
• Of course, northwest Oklahoma has long fielded strong 8-man teams and this season is no exception. Pond Creek-Hunter is ranked No. 2 at 9-1 and takes on Central Marlow Friday in its Class B playoffs opener. The Panthers have run over most of their competition and figure to make a return appearance in the title game. PC-H steamrolled its first nine opponents, then lost in the regular season finale to top-ranked Laverne, 40-6. The Panthers were averaging 40-point victory margins until meeting the Tigers, the same team that delivered a 50-19 loss to the Panthers in last year’s title game. In fact, all three of the Panthers’ losses since 2012 have come against Laverne, which is undefeated and has not been challenged this season. The Panthers are favored to reach the title game, but Laverne remains a prohibitive favorite to repeat as Class B champs.
• Meanwhile, Cherokee is setting itself up for a potential run to the Class C title game. The Chiefs are ranked No. 2 behind Tipton, and are the only team in the state to not be scored upon this season. All eight of their wins have come by the 8-man, 45-point mercy rule. The 8-0 Chiefs appear focused on a title run and figure to have little trouble with opening round opponent, Southwest Covenant. How dominant has the Chiefs’ defense been this year? They have allowed an amazingly stingy 32.8 yards rushing per game, and twice this season opponents have had negative ground yardage. A clash with No. 1 Tipton in December appears inevitable.
Yep, if things go as expected, it could be quite a ride for area schools in this year’s playoffs.
Ruthenberg is sports editor at the News & Eagle. Contact him at email@example.com.