It's been a while since the stakes were this high for a Chickasha football team.
For those counting, seven years to be exact. That was the last time the Fightin' Chicks were in a win-or-go-home situation, and while the team is totally different from the one in 2006, the venue of their first round playoff game remains the same.
Oddly enough, the last playoff game Chickasha played was at Guthrie, where the Bluejays prevailed 48-7. What's even more strange is earlier that season, Chickasha beat Duncan by the same point differential they did last week, six. So while the Demons didn't appear to learn much in that seven year span, Guthrie can take a lesson from Duncan for tonight's clash: don't sell the Chicks short.
"We had all the confidence in the world that we were better than them," senior Oron Bowman said about last week's win. "They kind of took a shot at us, saying that we didn't have any talent. And they said Del City overlooked us, so that hit us in the heart. We were going to go hit them in the mouth."
They did exactly that, but this week's opponent will have Chickasha punching above its weight. Guthrie topped 5A District 2 with a 10-0 record and is the favorite to win the 5A state title. Senior running back Kai Callins came into the season recovered from an ACL tear in 2012, and if 203 yards and two touchdowns rushing against Bishop McGuiness is anything to go by, he's back on top form.
"We've got to wrap up," Bowman said. "In eighth grade we played against Kai Callins. I don't remember even tackling him. He's a superstar athlete, so we're going to focus on wrapping him up. That's the biggest thing."
On top of that, the Chickasha defense will also have to contend with senior quarterback Reed Roberts. He's also the team's punter, making short-yardage fourth down situations particularly tricky. The defense has been going strong with three weeks of a solid outing, and they'll need to extend that into a fourth to have a chance against the Bluejays.
The Fightin' Chicks' run game has also been firing on all cylinders the past few weeks. With Josh Latham's three touchdowns last week and a 108 yard game for Daniel Neff the previous game, Chickasha has benefited from continually pounding away and wearing down the defensive line. That will receive a further boost this week as mobile quarterback Cade Morris is expected to be fully recovered from what head coach Tom Cobble said were a few minor knocks that limited his abilities for a few weeks.
Finally, Chickasha has a weapon in Cobble himself. The veteran coach has twice taken fourth seed teams on a lengthy playoff run, first with Enid when they went on to play Jenks in the final and then to the semifinals with El Reno.
"Getting to the playoffs is always everybody's goal," Cobble said. "If you can figure out how to get into the playoffs where you can concentrate on strictly one game at a time, everything begins to even up and it's all about who comes in healthy and who comes in on top."
While it doesn't make the test any easier, there are reasons to be optimistic for Fightin' Chicks fans and the players who will be stepping up tonight.
"Once you put your foot on that line, you give it your all, and if it gets crushed, we all know that feeling," Latham said." So, I think some people are a little nervous about that feeling. I think if we just give it our all, Guthrie's in for a surprise. Win or lose, they're going to remember playing us. I believe it."
Friday Night Line-up
Perkins-Tryon at Blanchard, 7:30 p.m.
Tuttle at Bethany, 7:30 p.m.
Velma-Alma at Minco, 7:30 p.m.
Rush Springs at Cashion, 7:30 p.m.
Ringwood at Alex, 7:30 p.m.