Two of the most storied high school football programs in the state will collide Friday night when the Ada Cougars make the 178-mile trip to Clinton for a Class 4A playoff battle.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at The Tornado Bowl.
The Cougars enter the contest 5-4 while the Red Tornadoes are 6-3.
“There’s a lot of history and tradition that goes into the ball game Friday night for sure,” said Ada head coach Chris Berus.
The Ada football program has 816 wins under its belt and Clinton is right behind with 815. Ada has won 19 state championships. Clinton has 16 gold balls.
Ada is coming off an impressive 47-7 win over Elk City, while Clinton dumped Harrah 38-13 in a first-round game.
Then, there are the two head coaches. Former Ada assistant John Higbee is in his third year as head coach of the Red Tornadoes. Berus and Higbee coached together at Ada High for a decade.
“There’s a lot of stories that come with this game — with who the head coach is there. And way past all of us is the Ada-Clinton history,” Berus said.
“John’s a really good friend of mine. We worked together here for 10 years,” Berus explained. “Our oldest kids were in the same class together. I’ve spent a lot of time with his family through the course of those 10 years. We’ve always stayed in touch and looked out for each other when we can. It’s fun to go compete against guys you really respect and have a lot of admiration for.”
Berus said he’s looking forward to the showdown with his colleague.
“You put two historic programs leading that charge, it’s going to make for a fun Friday night, no doubt,” he said.
What can the Cougars expect from Clinton on the football field? A whole lot of power running.
Senior star Atrel Bryson will be the focal point of the Clinton ground game. He has 104 total touches for 1,151 all-purpose yards and 13 touchdowns and averages 11.06 yards per touch. He’s rushed the ball 88 times for 942 yards and 9 TDs
We just outplayed them from start to finish. Our effort was better. Our execution was better. We hit better.
“They will run the football. Clinton has always been know for their dominant tailbacks. (Bryson) is a legacy guy. His dad ran roughshod there some 20 years ago or so. He’s fast. He’s not overly big,” Berus said. “They’re going to run the football, run the football, run the football. They throw the football a little bit to keep you honest ... but they like to run the ball.”
After checking out the talented Clinton running back, Berus said it reminded him of the famous quote by NFL legend Gale Sayers “Just give me 18 inches of daylight. That’s all I need.”
“That’s how this kid is,” Berus said. “There are times it looks like he’s bottled up then he’ll make a couple of guys miss in a scrum and all the sudden you see him coming out the back door.”
Bryson is also one of the team’s top defenders with 81 tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery.
“He also doubles up as their free safety and is really fast kid and loves to run and hit,” Berus said.
Berus said Clinton junior quarterback Caden Powell has also been impressive to watch on film.
“Their quarterback is a big, strong, physical kid. He leads out on the toss. They toss the ball to (Bryson) and No. 7 is out there leading with the fullback,” he said.
Powell has completed 42-of-77 passes for 657 yards and eight touchdowns and has thrown only two interceptions.
Two of his favorite receivers are Zade Cisneros (13 catches, 236 yards and two touchdowns) and Antonio Ceniceros (10 catches, 153 yards and one score).
One of the things that impressed Ada coaches about the Red Tornadoes’ defense is how quick everyone seems to be.
“Their team speed is probably the most we’ve seen all year at just about all positions,” he said. “They’re very athletic up front defensively. They move well offensively up front.”
Clinton leads the all-time series 6-7-0. The Red Tornadoes knocked the Cougars out of the playoffs in both 2015 and 2016, the last two times the teams met.