Joe Claxton Guest Writer
Ada — That’s right, dateline Ada. After a lengthy absence, for the second straight year the Ada Cougars will host a first-round playoff game Friday night.
Ada had not hosted since 2005 until last year, when the Cougars not only hosted but made it to the semifinals with a 12-1 record before falling to eventual state champ Clinton.
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner ... Again? or Who Are Those Guys?
They come from western Oklahoma, some 222 miles from Ada, not yet out in the Panhandle ... but close. If the Woodward Boomers find Ada again for only the second matchup ever of the two teams, they should be no worse for the long trip.
Ada head coach Matt Weber believes the four-hour bus trip should be no problem for Woodward. Long bus rides are the norm for western Oklahoma schools. By the playoffs each year, the Boomers have already made up to five lengthy trips.
The "dinner" analogy comes from the 54-22 feast that the high-scoring Cougars dined on a year ago.
This is a different Woodward team from a 4-6 season a year ago. On Friday night at Boomer Stadium, 7-3 Woodward gave defending state champ Clinton all they wanted. The game was not completely decided until Clinton covered an onside kick with 18 seconds remaining.
Clinton used big plays early and a late scoring drive in the fourth quarter for the 19-14 win.
In the final Associated Press high school football rankings, Woodward dropped to No. 8, with Clinton making the jump to No. 7. Ada was No. 8 going into the OC Douglass game but came out at No. 9 with the 30-18 defeat, Ada’s second in a row.
Douglass won 4A-2, and Ada was runner-up. Clinton claimed the second-place spot in super-tough District 4A-1. The loss dropped the Boomers to third in the district.
A big load for the Boomers rests on the back of quarterback Kale Hixon. The Boomers played most of three periods against Clinton without Hixon, who left with a bruised back in the second quarter. He tried a comeback for the second half but tightened up quickly. Sophomore slotback Kade Marlatt moved to quarterback and almost brought the Boomers back.
For the season, Woodward averaged around 36 points and 400 yards offense per game, except against unbeaten Class 4A No. 1-ranked Anadarko and Clinton.
Longtime Woodward News editor and sports guy Johnny McMahan has covered many Boomer teams. He rates this one among the best.
“They run well and have a lot of weapons. Hixon is very accurate passing. It is probably the best offense they have had here in 20 years or so,” McMahan said.
He added that the defense was solid as well at 14.5 ppg. Ada comes in at 33.5 and 21.4.
As for Hixon’s back, heat treatments are the order of the day and perhaps the order until game time Friday night.
Hixon’s back seemed to loosen in the warmth of the locker room, then stiffened once outside in slightly lower temps. This harkens to the cold surge in the Ada area on Monday. Friday night will see a high of 68 and a low of 38, with a 10 percent chance of rain, is the prediction of OKC channel 9 weather guru David Payne.
Home game experience
Until last year, the current coaching staff had little experience on the home sideline at Norris Field during the playoffs. Though head coach Matt Weber had guided the Cougars to the playoffs each year, three were as fourth-place teams and as the third-place finisher in 2011. All four were big losses to top-ranked teams in 5A. But there are two who remembered the last home stand in the playoffs in 2005.
O-line coach Nathan Ellliott, a 1994 AHS grad who won championship rings in ‘91 and ‘93, was in his fourth year on the Ada varsity staff in 2005. Another on the current staff, but not in 2005, is Charlie Golightly. A veteran AHS coach in the ‘80s, he returned to the staff two years ago after a quarter century in administration. He still serves as AHS principal as well.
The other staffer? In 2005, current head trainer Kacey Laird was a two-way DB-WR starter and handled the punting chores as well. Laird’s Cougars defeated Elk City in the first round but lost to Wagoner, also at home, the following week.
Who Are These Guys II?
Woodward head coach Darris Servis is in his third year and 17-16 overall. His predecessor, Justin Jones, had a rough row to hoe in three losing season. He was 12-19 overall but skipped to success at Oklahoma City McGuinness, currently ranked No. 10 in 5A.
The winningest coach ever at Woodward? Current Oklahoma Coaches Association head duck Milt Bassett in two stints. He was 65-26 in ‘80-'82 and ‘91-'94. A 1964 graduate of Woodward, Bassett's 1994 Boomers won the Class 5A state championship, and he was on staff at the University of Oklahoma for the 1985 national championship.
Ada and Woodward crossed paths, sort of, during Bassett’s second term. In 1994, he took the 13-1 Boomers to the 5A title while Larry McBroom’s 14-0 Ada club was winning 4A in the middle of a four-year run as state champs.
Veteran coach Eddie Paul was also head coach in Boomertown from ‘84-'86. Frank Kennon coached at Ada in the early '80s under Larry McBroom and at Woodward from ‘60-'63 with strong winning records each year and a 35-11-1 record. Before this year, the last winning record at Woodward was under Tom Haynes in 2001.
How far is it?
One-time Woodward head coach Ron Rogers, a Wynnewood player and coach, once hosted Tim Reynolds and his Pauls Valley Panthers in a stop-over, rest-and-stretch respite. It was a 1987 trip to a playoff game at Guymon.
Rogers described living in Woodward as great, with all the amenities of a larger town without all the crowds. After a moment- he added, “It’s not bad if you just don’t look at the state map and see where you are.”
The Boomers were making a video of their team for a time capsule to be opened in several years. Someone asked how the folks of the future would play the VHS tape- considering techno advances. The powers that be decided they would include a VHS player. Probably a good idea when one thinks of the several generations of video systems that have already come and gone.
Reynolds and Co. bade farewell and proceeded on the long trip to Guymon. It was actually an out-of-state trip- as the Panthers spent the night in Liberal, Kan.
(The Panthers lost to Guymon, and Ada lost to Spiro. Instead of an Ada-PV matchup, Guymon won the state crown over Spiro.)
Speaking of high mileage, just how does the OSSAA put on the table for traveling teams? Top dollar for 4A is $1,000 for teams traveling 200 miles or more, up $100 from a year ago.
The amounts increase considerably for traveling to neutral sites in the semis and championships.
Get your tickets now
Advanced tickets for Friday night's Ada-Woodward playoff game can be purchased at the Ada Board of Education office. Only current OSSAA playoff passes (with valid driver's license) will be accepted at the gate.