HELENA, Okla. — For the second year in a row, Timberlake enters the playoffs undefeated with all the pieces needed to capture its first golden ball since 2009.
Last time, the Tigers made it all the way to the state title game, but were limited by an injury to their top offensive playmaker, J.J. Pippin, eventually falling to Tyrone, 42-21. The Tigers had scored at least 48 points in every game before Pippin’s injury, and head coach Brian Severin said he believes the game would’ve had a different outcome had Pippin played.
This year, Timberlake won’t have the opportunity to rematch Tyrone in the championship game, but it’ll get their opportunity in the semi-final — if the Tigers can take care of business in the first two rounds.
“We stress that to them every day,” Severin said. “That we’ve had a lot of success, but nowhere near where we want to be yet, and if we don’t go out and stay focused, if we don’t go out and play hard, they could be playing their last game on Friday night, and nobody wants that to happen.”
Timberlake (10-0, 7-0) will take on Oaks Mission (7-3, 5-2) in the first round at 7 p.m. on Friday at home.
The game will pit Severin against a long-time family friend in Warriors head coach Jon Claborn. Jon’s father, Andy, was Severin’s high school football head coach at Helena-Goltry. Severin said he’s known Jon since the day he was born, and that he knows from past experience that they’ll be facing a well-coached team on Friday night.
“That’s something that always concerns me going into these games,” Severin said. “This isn’t to sound mean, but some of those eastern schools don’t know what they’re doing. This team will, John and Andy know how to coach football.
“So that’s another thing we brought up to the boys this week is that this team is well-coached, and they’re gonna be well-prepared, and we better be well-prepared ourselves or we’re going to end up on the short end of the stick.”
The Tigers enter the playoffs averaging 51.9 points per game, while allowing 5.4, and have won eight straight games by 45 points or more, which is the maximum amount a team can win by before the mercy-rule kicks in. Half of the Tigers games were shutouts, and only two teams were able to score more than once.
Timberlake’s closest game came in a 46-18 win over Covington-Douglas in the season opener, but the final score is deceiving as the Tigers led the Wildcats 46-6 just a few minutes into the second quarter. Severin said that his second string players have actually had more snaps this season than his first team, because the Tigers tend to pull their starters when they get up by several scores.
While he thinks that the extra rest for his best players will be a positive, he said there’s always a concern about how his players will handle their first highly competitive game of the season.
“That’s always in the back of your mind,” Severin said. “We condition pretty heavy, I feel like we’re in pretty good shape, but you never know how they’re going to respond if they’re going to have to go four quarters. I think we have them in physical condition to go four quarters. If we have to, we’re gonna have to be ready for that.”
The winner will go on to face the winner of Boise City at Maysville, and Timberlake would have home field advantage.
• Cordell (3-6, 2-4) at Fairview (10-0, 7-0), Friday, 7 p.m. — The Yellowjackets make their ninth appearance in the playoffs over the last 10 years when they put their undefeated record on the line against the Blue Devils on Friday night.
Fairview survived a slugfest against a then-undefeated Hooker team, 30-28 in the final game of the regular season to secure its 16th district title in school history. Cordell enters the game after going 2-4 in district play to finish fourth in A-2.
The Blue Devils allow 28.6 points per game and have scored 17.6 over their nine-game schedule. Fairview’s offense has put up 40.8 points per game, while its defense has allowed 14.3.