ADA — With last week’s 26-20 victory over a stubborn Dickson squad, Sulphur wrapped up a postseason berth out of rugged District 3A-2. But if the 10th-ranked Bulldogs are going to have any kind of playoff future, they’ll probably need a win Friday night at No. 11 Purcell.

“If we lose, we’ll be fourth (in the league standings behind Plainview, Marlow and Purcell),” Sulphur coach Jim Dixon said. “If we win, we have a pretty good chance to be second, depending on the Marlow-Plainview game (Friday night at Plainview). We probably have to beat Purcell by two points, but who knows how their game will be against Dickson (in Week 10). This is the toughest I’ve ever seen a district for the top seven teams.

“We need to finish second to get that first game at home,” Dixon added, “and especially against the district we’re bracketed with.”

While 3A-2 is the only district in Class 3A with four teams ranked in the top 11, the teams finishing second, third and fourth in the league will meet three of the top five teams in the state — Clinton, Tuttle and Kingfisher — in the first round of the playoffs.

With a fourth-place finish, Sulphur has a good chance to open the postseason at No. 1 Clinton — although the Red Tornadoes still have to beat No. 5 Tuttle Friday and No. 2 Kingfisher in Week 10 to wrap up the 3A-1 title — and make a quick playoff exit. A runner-up finish in 3A-2 will still send the Bulldogs — who will move into a tie for second with a win Friday and a Plainview victory over Marlow — against a top- five opponent in the first round, but at least the game will played at Agee Stadium in Sulphur.

The Sulphur-Purcell clash isn’t the only area contest Friday night with playoff implications. Coalgate rebounded from an 0-6 start to upset Kingston and Antlers the past two weeks, and Brian Haynie’s young Wildcats can wrap up an unlikely postseason berth out of District 2A-4 with a victory over league runner-up Tishomingo at home. Even with a loss, Coalgate (2-6, 2-3) can slide into the fourth and final district playoff spot with a victory over winless Atoka in Week 10.

In other action this week, Stratford will play its third top-five opponent in four weeks when the Bulldogs (3-5, 2-4) visit No. 5 Washington in a District A-4 clash; Konawa (1-7, 1-6), coming off back-to-back losses to A-4 powers Rush Springs and Maysville, will visit Dibble; and Allen (5-3, 3-3), stinging from a 48-0 loss at No. 4 Dewar last week, will host No. 2 Cashion.

SULPHUR AT PURCELL

The last time Sulphur (6-2, 3-2) visited Purcell, the Bulldogs — who beat the Dragons for the 2004 Class 2A title — dropped a 28-7 decision in the first round of the 2005 playoffs. Friday’s game will be their most important since that loss, and Dixon said his club will probably have to play its best game of the year to beat a Dragon squad that has won four of its last five games.

“Purcell (5-3, 4-1) is good,” Dixon said. “They’re 5-3, but of their losses came in their first three games before they got their quarterback (Seth Barrett) back. Since then, they’ve only lost to Plainview.

“We have to take care of the ball and play our best ballgame,” he added. “We have a chance to win, but we have to play well. We just need to put everything together this week and see what happens.”

Dickson (which hasn’t won a district game this season) used a ball-control option attack to come within a touchdown of pulling off the upset at Sulphur last week, but the Bulldogs forced three key turnovers — including a fumble recovery in the final minutes with the Comets threatening to take the lead — to blunt promising Dickson drives.

“Purcell is a different kind of team than Dickson,” Dixon said. “They run the wishbone, but they spread you out, and their skill players are much better.

“They don’t have any weaknesses, either offensively or defensively,” he said. “They have good size and quickness on defense, and their kicker (senior Matt Berrey) is as good as I’ve ever seen kicking field goals. If they get close, they have three points.”

As expected, Sulphur’s offense has relied heavily on senior quarterback Robert Thomas, who has thrown for over 400 total yards the past two weeks in the win over Dickson and a controversial one-point (20-19) loss at Marlow in Week 7. Dixon said his offense will have to be more balanced this week against a quick, physical Purcell defense.

“We need to balance our offense up and get more out of the run than we’ve been getting, and that won’t be easy against Purcell,” he said. “Our passing game has been good this season, but hopefully we’ll run the ball a little better this week.”

Sulphur took a blow on both sides of the ball last week when senior Luke Agee — the Bulldogs’ tight end and backup quarterback and one of the team’s top defensive players — was lost for the season with an ankle injury. Despite the loss of Agee, Dixon said Thomas’s role (he is Sulphur’s free safety and one of the state’s best kick returners in addition to being one of 3A’s best quarterbacks) won’t change.

“We have to have (Thomas) on defense, Dixon said. “We’re just not very deep in the secondary.”

TISHOMINGO AT COALGATE

While Tishomingo (5-3, 4-1) sits alone in second place behind Davis in the 2A-4 race, Coalgate is in a four-way tie for third, but the Wildcats beat two of the other three teams in that logjam (Antlers and Kingston) in the past three weeks, and the fourth (Marietta, which beat Coalgate in Week 5) has tough games remaining with Davis and third-place Valliant.

“If we win this week, you can virtually say we’re in (the playoffs), and if we lose, we’ve still got a good chance,” Haynie said. “If we lost to Tish, Kingston (which faces the Indians next week) would have to win twice.

“We’re excited about our opportunity,” he said. “We know it’s a big game, but we’re going to approach it like any other game.”

Led by junior quarterback Jordan Vasquez and senior wideout Rhett Parrish (who had a huge game in Tishomingo’s Week 9 win over Coalgate last season), the Indians have lost only to Davis in league play and, even with a loss Friday, figure to be the runner-up in the district.

“They beat Valliant, which is pretty impressive,” Haynie said of the Indians. “They struggled a little bit early in the year when Vasquez was out, but they’ve been on a roll lately.”

Coalgate has also been on a roll since a 48-20 loss to Davis in Week 6. The Wildcat offense has flourished under senior quarterback Curtis John, and the defense has been outstanding, despite the fact that Haynie starts three freshmen and seven sophomores.

“Curtis will scramble around and find somebody open,” Haynie said of John, who had over 300 yards in total offense against Kingston Friday night. “He plays backyard ball. He’s fun to watch, and the great thing is that he competes.”

John moved under center when freshman quarterback Dale Powell was injured in the Davis game, and the versatile senior has been the focus of the Coalgate offense ever since. To make his job even tougher, the team’s No. 1 tailback, D. K. Spears, moved to Arkansas the day after the team lost to Antlers, leaving freshman Shay Loudermilk to join John in the backfield.

Despite the injury to Powell and his team’s overall youth, Haynie said the Wildcats’ recent surge has given him hope for the future.

“We expected to win a couple of games earlier in the year and were disappointed that we didn’t, but our kids kept a good attitude, and they’ve been playing inspired football,” Haynie said. “As a coach and player, you have to believe that if you do things right, it will all come together. It’s finally starting to come together for us a little bit.

“The Marietta game (a lackluster 18-0 loss in Week 5) was a turning point for us,” he added. “We took a long hard look at ourselves after that game, and the kids came back with a renewed spirit. It’s about the kids. As coaches, we don’t have any mystical powers. It’s about the kids going out and controlling the ballgame and making plays.”

And, Haynie said, he doesn’t believe his team’s attitude will change now that the Wildcats are on the verge of their school’s first playoff appearance in two years.

“I keep telling them our playoffs have already started,” he explained. “Because of the way we started out, that made every week from here on our the playoffs for us. We’re not going to change anything. We’re pretty much an underdog every week.”

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