The good news: Ada still controls its own destiny, despite a 37-28 loss at No. 6 Tulsa East Central last week.

The bad news: if the Cougars don’t defeat Tahlequah Friday night at Norris Field, Ada is destined to stay at home for the playoffs for the second straight year.

A must-win situation on Halloween night — downright scary.

“We have to win this week to have a chance to make the playoffs. We can’t lose this week and get in. It’s possible to win this week and lose next week to get in, but this is a must-win,” explained first-year head coach Matt Weber. “We have to get on a roll.”

Back-to-back Ada victories against Tahlequah and Week 10 opponent McAlester would assure the Cougars a playoff berth and a likely third-place finish in District 5A-4. A win against the Tigers and a loss against the Buffaloes and Ada could still manage to secure the fourth spot in the district.

However the Cougars (4-4, 2-3) desperately need the head-to-head victory against Tahlequah (3-5, 3-2) no matter what happens in Week 10. Should the Tigers defeat Ada, they would clinch a playoff berth with their fourth district victory.

Weber said his team is well aware of the urgency.

“Our guys understand that. We’re not going to sit here and preach we have to win, we have to win. We don’t want them uptight. They know they have to win,” he said. “Obviously we want to make the playoffs really bad, just like every other team in the state. But we’re not going to play or practice uptight.”

Against the high-powered Cardinals last week, Ada dug itself a quick three-touchdown hole and darn near climbed all the way out.

“After getting down 21-0 six minutes into the ballgame, it could have been an easy point for our kids to spit it out. But they didn’t do that. They kept fighting back and that’s what we were most proud of,” Weber said of his team’s comeback bid. “We got ourselves right back in the game and had chances ... but it just seemed like we were playing catch up all night. We would score and they would score so we constantly stayed a touchdown behind. Same story. They’re a good football team and they made fewer mistakes than we did.”

Still, Weber said the Cougars weren’t celebrating any moral victories inside the Craig McBroom Football Complex.

“We’re not ever going to be happy losing around here, no matter who it’s to,” he said.

Tahlequah started the 2008 season with three straight losses and some 5A pundits wrote the Tigers off at that point.

“They started off 0-3 and some thought they were going to have a down year they kind of got on a roll,” Weber said.

The Tigers then won three of their next four games before losing a shootout to McAlester, 52-31, last week.

Tahlequah has outscored its opponents 96-18 during its three victories.

“We’ve seen them on film and they’re a good football team, especially offensively. They’re doing what everybody’s doing — they’re running the spread,” Weber said. “They have a really fast tailback and a left-handed quarterback they’re really proud of. They’ve put a lot of points up.”

Sophomore Collin Scarsdale is the quarterback for Tahlequah and has completed 58-of-131 passes for 842 yards and six touchdowns. Standout senior tailback Michael Crawford has amassed 998 yards and had scored 11 TDs so far in 2008. Crawford had 209 yards last week in the setback to McAlester.

Scarsdale’s favorite target has been senior Dusten Knight who has 17 grabs for 330 yards and four scores.

Weber said Ada’s offense has to be on its toes the entire contest against an ever-changing Tahlequah defense.

“They line up in so many defenses and bring so many different pressures that you really have to be on top of your assignments,” he said. “What they do best on defense is create negative yards with all those different stunts. We’re going to have our hands full on both sides of the ball.”

Weber and the Cougars will be glad to return to Norris Field for two weeks after making back-to-back long road trips to Stilwell and Tulsa.

“I thought about that today. I’m very excited to be back at home. We’ve had two weeks on the road and they’ve been a long two weeks. It seems like a long time since we’ve been at home,” he said. “No doubt we’re glad to be home and hopefully we can hop on that bus again in two more weeks.”


COUGAR NOTES: Tahlequah will be the final of three first-time opponents for Ada this year. In the storied Cougar history, the Tigers, Stilwell and Coweta had never matched up with Ada ... Should Ada miss the playoffs for the second straight year it would be the first time that has occurred since the 1967-69 squads failed three consecutive seasons. ... The Ada Football Booster club is again hosting a luncheon Friday at noon at Polo’s Mexican Restaurant. All Cougar fans are invited to attend. ... To decrease the load on Ada’s two-way starters, the Cougar defense will feature a new lineup against Tahlequah as Cale Russell fills in for Rance Rue at noseguard, Scott Bowers spells Joel Allen at right tackle and Justin Todd moves into Bowers rush end position. Aaron Wallace will get the nod at free safety for Ronald Lucas, who is ill.