Jeff Cali Sports Editor email@example.com
Ada — The Ada High football team is in the same spot it was a year ago. The Cougars are hosting a playoff game for the second straight year. Woodward is the first-round opponent.
However, this isn’t exactly déjà vu.
The Boomers are a much-improved team from a year ago. Older. Stronger. Nearly everybody back. And they have added Johnny Football Jr. at quarterback.
All that sets the stage for an epic showdown between the eighth-ranked Boomers (7-3) and the ninth-ranked Cougars (7-3) in a Class 4A first-round matchup Friday night at Norris Field.
“We’re excited that we’re hosting a playoff game. This is two years in a row that we’ve had a home playoff game. It’s a lot nicer than having to get on the bus and travel somewhere,” said Ada head coach Matt Weber.
Woodward is enjoying its first winning season since 2001. And the Boomers have earned it. They finished third in District 4A-1 behind No. 1 Anadarko and No. 7 Clinton but had opportunities to defeat them both in regular season matchups. Woodward dropped an 18-15 decision to Anadarko and lost to Clinton 19-14 last week. The Boomers only other loss — a 35-34 setback to Garden City, Kansas — could have also easily been a victory.
“Probably most people would tell you this is Woodward's best team since 1996 when they lost to McAlester in double overtime in the state semifinals,” said Woodward News editor Johnny McMahon.
After watching plenty of film on the Boomers, Weber is certainly a believer.
“They’re as good as any team out in that district (4A-1). They lost close games to Clinton and Anadarko. They had chances to win both of those ballgames and be district champs,” Weber said. “They’re as good a team as we’ve played all year.”
Senior quarterback Kale Kixon is the wildcard of the Woodward bunch. He joined the Boomers after his father, Craig Hixon, joined the Woodward coaching staff this season.
“We’ve been telling our kids, he’s the mini-Manziel of high school football,” Weber said of the 5-8 QB. “He’s really good when the play breaks down. Sometimes he’ll freelance back there and juke kids out and keep his eyes down field and throw one over the top of you. He’s just as scary when he takes off with it.”
Oddly enough, Hixon has a 315-yard rushing game this season (during a 70-21 win over Elk City) and a 309 yards passing game in the loss to Garden City. He’s also the team’s leading rusher on the season.
“He’s the piece of the puzzle that they really needed on that side of the ball. He can throw it and run it,” Weber said.
Hixon’s favorite receivers are 5-10 sophomore Kade Marlatt and 6-5 senior Kaleb Roach. And then there’s playmkaer Micah Kee, a 6-0 senior that is a threat as a runner and receiver. Kee has rushed for 180 yards during a game this season.
“They spread you out and have a 6-5 receiver (Roach) and they play two or three different running backs, and then they’ll get in a doube-tight double wing set and try to mash you. They go from one extreme to the other,” Weber said. “You have to prepare for a lot, but it’s the kids they have executing the plays that makes them so good.”
Woodward returns 10 starters on a defense that is giving up just 14.5 points per game. The Boomers have forced 30 turnovers, 17 of them interceptions. The Ada offense has thrown 14 interceptions this season.
“They’re outstanding on defense. We’re certainly going to have to play our best game to beat them,” Weber said.
The Ada coach said he and other 4A coaches believe the quest for a state championship is pretty wide open.
“I don’t think hardly anyone will have an easy time with their first-round game. Usually one team will get really hot at the right time and balls will bounce their way, and I think that happened with the state champion last year. Clinton was a very good team but they got hot at the right time. I think coach (Mike) Lee would tell you that. We hope it’s the Ada Cougars that get hot at the right time this year,” Weber said.
Eight touchdowns were scored during Ada’s 30-18 loss to No. 3 Douglass last week and neither team was able to convert on a PAT attempt.
Weber and company would have loved to have found out what would have happened if the Cougars had taken a 19-18 fourth-quarter lead instead of just tying the game after Isiah Shaputis blocked Ada’s final PAT kick.
Ada had the ball deep in its own territory with the game tied at 18-18 with under three minutes to play. Strategy may have been different if the hosts had managed to take the lead.
“I think if we had made one of those, you’d have to think ... if we had a one-point lead with about two and a half minutes to go, we’re bleeding the clock,” Weber said.
After further review, Ada kick Todd Penick should have gotten another attempt after his final PAT kick was blocked.
“On that last kick, their kid was about two yards offsides, and they didn’t call it. It wasn’t even close. I watched it back on film, and he was way offsides. I don’t know how they missed that,” Weber said. “One PAT would have certainly changed the complexion of the game. I’m sure they had a lot of ifs and buts on their side, too.”
Threading The Needle
Douglass didn’t pass much during the victory over Ada. But three of the four completions by quarterback Patrick McKaufman were longer than 30 yards, including the back-breaking 51-yard TD pass he somehow made to receiver Dameko Doddles, who was surrounded by Cougar defenders with 1:27 left in the game that put the Trojans ahead 24-18.
“We had three kids right there, and it seemed like it went through all of their hands. He made a good catch and a good run after the catch and that was the ballgame,” Weber said.
A 71-yard bomb from McKaufman to Shaputis in the first half also stung.
“Our kid was right in position where he needed to be. He was way deeper than their kid. He just big-time short-guessed it, and it went right over his head. That’s just part of football,” Weber said.
Still, Weber was proud of the way his team battled back from an 18-6 hole.
“They stayed in there and stayed after it when we were down and gave us a chance to win the game. It just didn’t go our way. They prepared as hard as they possibly could,” he said.
Welcome Back, Prince
Ada junior Tryce Prince, who was suffered a broken collarbone in Week 4 win over Mannford, will be back in action for the Cougars against Woodward. Weber said Prince could play a little bit of everywhere, depending on how his stamina holds up.
“We’re practicing him at several different positions. He’s returning kicks, he’s playing inside and outside receiver. And he’s getting some quarterback work,” Weber said. “Mainly where he’s going to be a big help to us is his leadership and back on the defensive side of the ball.”
“He’s excited to be back, and we’re excited to have him back. He’s looked really good in practice,” Weber continued.
Lineman Jeromy Barker has been limited in practice this week with an ankle injury and will be a game time decision. Tanner Jack will start in Barker’s place at right guard. ... Junior Clayton Henry will be wearing No. 1 as the Special Teams Player of the Week instead of his usual No. 30 uniform. ... Advance 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.