It’s the most wonderful time, of the year.
Ada head football coach Chris Berus isn’t necessarily thinking Christmas when he hears those words. That’s because it’s high school playoff football time in Oklahoma.
“It’s the best time of the year. I’m proud of our kids for putting us in the position to continue to go play,” he said.
The Cougars ended up being the fourth seed in District 5A-3 and have the daunting task of traveling to Collinsville Friday night to battle the third-ranked and undefeated Cardinals (10-0). Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Sallee Field.
Ada’s seesaw season has left the Cougars at 5-5 heading into Class 5A’s version of the Sweet 16.
“We play a great Collinsville squad that has celebrated a lot of fo success this year,” Berus said.
“They’re very good. It’s a great first-round matchup,” he continued. “They’re probably a Top 3 or Top 4 in the state. But there are 16 teams left and you want to win and advance. It doesn’t have to be flashy. It doesn’t have to be pretty. You just want to win and move right on the bracket and that’s our goal. We’re excited for the opportunity.”
Collinsville has made it look easy on most nights. The Cardinals have registered four shutouts against Oologah (49-0), Ponca City (28-0), Claremore (31-0) and Tulsa Rogers (57-0). They’ve also scored 31 or more points in eight of their 10 games.
“They play really, really good defense,” Berus said.
“They’re a 3-4 base, but they’re going to take their weak outside linebacker and put him in the box. They do a lot of bluffing where they’re showing blitz by one guy and bring the blitz with another guy,” he explained. “We’ve got to find out where their blitzers are coming from.”
Senior linebacker Trent Brown and junior linebacker Peyton Russell are two of the leaders on defense.
“They’re very physical at the linebacker position,” Berus said.
Berus said the Cardinals look a lot like Bishop Kelley — which defeated Ada 20-0 in Week 8 — on offense.
“Offensively, they’re really similar to Bishop Kelley. They’ll run a lot of two-back sets ... and they can throw the football really well. The quarterback has a strong arm. But they’re going to establish their run game first,” he said. “After that, they’ll mix in some passes and try to get you off balance with some play action and some vertical passing game.”
In their two tightest contests — a 34-27 win over Class 6A Bartlesville and a 17-3 win over a Skiatook club that had bounced around in the Class 5A rankings for most of the season, Collinsville senior quarterback Cole Dugger was anything but flashy.
Dugger completed 9-of-12 passes for 121 yards against Skiatook, but had just 11 passing yards against the Bruins.
The Cardinals have been tough running the ball.
Against Skiatook’s solid defense, the Cardinals were led by the two-headed rushing attack of Malcomn Tillman (15-88) and Jake Tuttle (22-77).
They hurt Bartlesville much worse on the ground. In that game, the Cardinals rushed for 393 yards and five touchdowns. Tuttle had 16 carries for 144 yards, Tillman added 129 yards on 15 carries while Brayden Burd tacked on 126 yards on 13 carries with three touchdowns.
Collinsville’s X-factor may be 6-5, 230-pound tight end Grayson Boomer, who has committed to Oklahoma State University. At OSU, he is expected to play the role of “Cowboy back”, a tight end/fullback hybrid position.
Boomer had lots of college options, with about a dozen offers — including Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Michigan and Nebraska.
“He’s a big kid, but he’s not alone. They have tremendous size for a high school football team. You can just tell on film they’re big,” Berus said.
All Ada can hope for is to give the Cardinals their best shot.
“They’re very sound. But we’ve had a good week up until today (Wednesday). We have a couple of more days in preparation to go get after these guys.”
Berus expects Ada’s roster will be relatively healthy entering Friday’s 5A showdown.
“Everyone’s practicing. Everyone’s healthy. We’re about in the best shape you can be in heading into Week 11,” Berus said.