Jeff Cali Sports Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
Two of the top three teams in District 4A-2 will clash Friday night when No. 4 Ada plays host to No. 10 Harrah in a Week 8 showdown.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
After escaping Glenpool with a heart-pounding 29-27 victory last week, the Cougars enter the game at 6-1 overall and 4-0 in district play. Harrah has also won four straight district contest after starting the season 1-2. The Panthers dropped a 27-14 decision to Weatherford to start the season and dropped a narrow 14-17 decision to Chandler in Week 3. But Harrah’s most impressive victory of the season may have occurred in Week 2 when the Panthers bulldozed Piedmont 29-0. Yes, the same Piedmont team that blew past then-No. 6 Clinton 45-19 last Friday.
“Harrah is playing for the same thing we are with us both being undefeated in the district. And they’re now ahead of us in (district) points after last week. There’s a lot riding on this game for both of us,” said Ada head coach Matt Weber.”
New head coach Phil Webb has already helped Harrah do an amazing turnaround. Last year Harrah finished the season at 1-9 — the lone victory a 45-6 win over Santa Fe South. The Panthers did play the likes of Piedmont (29-26), Glenpool (27-26), Mannford (14-7), Tecumseh (14-13) and McLoud (28-24) close in 2012. Ada, not so much. The Cougars whipped the Panthers 68-27.
Webb, who spend the past seven years as an assistant at Harrah, said he’s taken on the coaching philosophy instilled in him by former Putnam City coach Mike Little . Webb was a starting defensive back for PC North for the 1991 state championship team.
“Discipline, structure, organization, doing the intangibles. You know, the little things. Those are the things I’m hanging my hat on,” Webb told The Oklahoman last summer before a game was ever played.
Apparently, that strategy has worked.
“I think the biggest thing you can see with them is confidence. They got rolling early and have only lost two close games. They’re still really young. The main thing I can see is they are really sold to what they’re doing on both sides of the ball,” Weber said. “They’re very well-coached on both sides of the ball. They know what they are. They don’t try to do anything they can’t do.”
Weber said he thought they were an up-and-coming team even during the 2012 41-point runaway win.
“Last year, we caught fire in the first half and kind of put it out of reach. I think they were a lot better last year that that score indicated.
Harrah doesn’t try to hide what they like to do on offense. The Panthers try to overpower opponents at the line of scrimmage and run the ball and run it some more.
“They’re a power running team. They have three really good running backs. They’re probably licking their chops after watching last week’s film (of the Ada versus Glenpool game),” Weber said, referring to the 339 rushing yards the Cougars gave up in their Week 7 matchup with the Warriors.
Sophomore Dylan Queen leads a vaunted Harrah rushing attack that has produced 247 rushing yards a game. Through seven games, Queen has rushed 119 times for 658 yards and has scored eight touchdowns. Dak Stephens has added 52 carries for 345 yards while Hunter Goodwin completes a three-headed monster with 40 carries for 320 yards.
“(Stephens) is kind of the speedster of the bunch. (Queen) is a 215-220 pound tailback and he can run, too. (Goodwin is kind of a scat back. They all bring a little different flavor to the same plays they run,” Weber said.
Although Harrah doesn’t throw the ball around much, senior quarterback Zach Hamblin has completed 28-of-60 passes for 660 yards with eight touchdowns and six interceptions.
“And they’re really, really big. They’re the best team we’ve played since Ardmore,” Weber said.
Weber didn’t mince words when discussing his team’s close call at Glenpool last week.
“The best thing we can say about that is we got out of there with a win,” he said. “I don’t want this to sound disrespectful toward their team ... but we didn’t play well. I can’t tell you how they played, for whatever reason we just didn’t play well. But we’re not going to base our whole season on one game.”
The Ada offense did score on five of seven offensive possessions and came through with huge fourth-down conversions on its final two touchdown drives. But the Ada defense simply couldn’t keep Glenpool’s rushing offense in check.
“It was kind of a domino effect. We had some guys not do what they’re supposed to do and that caused somebody else to not be able to do what they’re supposed to do,” Weber explained. “Once they started moving the ball on us, I thought we kind of got on our heels a little bit and started looking for any way to try and stop them.”
“But it sure is nice to try and fix those problems after a win instead of a loss,” he continued. “They’re all correctable things. I’m proud of our kids. We enjoyed that win because they are hard to come by, and we had to earn it.”
Weber has liked what he has seen so far in practice sessions this week.
“Monday was one of our most physical and one of our better defensive practices. Hopefully that equates to us playing better defense,” he said.
COUGAR NOTES: Ada and Harrah met for the first time last season ... Junior Osahwv Frazier will be wearing the No. 1 uniform Friday night as the Special Teams Player of the Week. He normally wears No. 15. ... Ada’s final three opponents (Harrah, McLoud and OKC Douglass) have a combined record of 15-6 heading into Week 8. ... The Panthers have scored 233 points so far this year (compared to 268 for Ada) but have give up the fewest in District 4A-2 with 71. The only 4A team which has surrendered less points is No. 1 Anadarko with 64.