PRYOR, OK —
The path gets steeper for each area team this week, with two teams (Pryor, Salina) hitting the road. The second round will weed out the contenders from the pretenders, and there are several juicy storylines to follow as Mayes County gears up for Round 2:
Pryor (8-3) at Lawton MacArthur (9-2), Saturday, 4 p.m.
Pryor has a chance to make it to the state semifinals for the first time in the modern era with a win over the fifth-ranked Highlanders Saturday. This game was moved back from Friday to give the No. 9 Tigers some respite from the 466-mile round-trip they’ll have to endure in this 5A quarterfinal.
Pryor wasn’t the only school in this matchup that escaped with a five-point win over an unlikely foe in its first-round game. MacArthur nearly dropped its first-rounder to 6-5 Edmond Deer Creek, which held a one-point lead over the Highlanders as late as the fourth quarter.
MacArthur has shown signs of mortality during the regular season too, losing at home to Del City Sept. 27 and to 6A No. 3 Lawton Sept. 13. The Highlanders have reeled off seven straight wins since the Del City loss, racking up at least 30 points in each victory.
The opposition will take a step up for the Tigers, who needed a last-second touchdown to dispatch 4-7 Skiatook Friday.
One thing Pryor has going for it is an aptitude for winning close games. In games decided by seven points or fewer, the Tigers are 4-1, and that excludes a 35-26 win over Claremore Oct. 17 that wasn’t decided until the final minutes.
This matchup is begging for a close outcome. Pryor’s dominating offensive line will be key to keep drives going and MacArthur’s fifth-best scoring offense in the state sidelined, but it could be the end of the ball for the Cinderella Tiger squad.
Locust Grove (11-0) vs. Berryhill (9-2), Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Locust Grove's defining victory this season was at home in Week 7 against Hilldale. Against the Chiefs Friday, the No. 7 Pirates can get an even bigger trophy for the mantelpiece. No. 8 Berryhill, one of LG’s former district-mates and one of many traditional powerhouses in Class 3A under head coach Pat Harper, hasn't had a losing season since it won its only state championship in 2004, making a state semifinal appearance in 2009 and a state championship appearance in 2011.
If Locust Grove is to take its place among the mid-size school elites, it must dethrone the old-bloods. Berryhill is a great place to start. Pirate linebackers Trevor Taylor and Traden Sokoloski will need to keep a close eye on Berryhill dual threat QB Ty Walker, and the Pirate offense will need to put up points in bunches to force the Chiefs to keep up.
Salina (9-2) at Vian (11-0), Friday, 7:30 p.m.
The Wildcats pounded Pawhuska in Round 1, and now head coach Kyle Fowler will get his first shot at his old team, No. 3 Vian, in Round 2. Fowler will have a talented stable of runners at his disposal for at least one more game, with four of his five leading rushers (Jon Parsons, Bret Fite, Cale Backward, Damon Gourd) set to graduate in May.
The challenge this week will go out to the Wildcat offense, which will try to poke holes in a Wolverine defense that pitched four regular-season shutouts. Salina has only lost two games all season, and those two losses (Locust Grove and Commerce) were on the road to teams with with unbeaten records in the regular season. The Wildcats will get their third shot at an undefeated district winner Friday.
Adair (10-1) vs. Okemah (9-2), Friday, 7:30 p.m.
The sixth-ranked Warriors will take a walk down memory lane Friday when they host Okemah, their opponent from last season’s Round of 16. Adair escaped that contest with a one-point win, only to turn around and drop a 34-33 loss to Davis a week later. If Adair gets past the Panthers Friday, a trip to Davis for a rematch is likely waiting in the wings.
But the Panthers are up first, boasting six straight wins since a 42-6 drubbing against Meeker Oct. 11. After a couple sub-par weeks, the Warriors looked to click last week against Kansas in a 56-19 win. This will be Adair’s stiffest test since a 24-13 win at Nowata Oct. 4, and it will be up to freshman quarterback BJ Bradury (336 total yards, six TDs vs. Kansas) and his talented supporting cast to lead the Warriors into the quarterfinals.