High school football: Norman North, Bryan Payne have come a long way
In Bryan Payne's sophomore year, Norman North went 3-7. Now, Payne is a senior, helping lead the Timberwolves into Friday's Class 6A semifinals.
Norman North running back Bryan Payne was frustrated with his sophomore year.
The Timberwolves went 3-7 and struggled to get there, winning one game in overtime and the other two by a combined 17 points.
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“I felt like as a team we could've done better,” Payne said. “We were a good team, I just felt like we just didn't give it our all, or at least not everybody did.”
Two years later, much has changed with the Norman North program.
Wade Standley took over as head coach before last season, working to instill a similar culture to Tulsa Union, where he had previously served as an assistant.
Now, Payne is a senior, helping lead the Timberwolves into Friday's Class 6A semifinals against Owasso at Tulsa Union.
“We're just hungry,” Payne said. “That's all it is. We're trying to go out there and get that gold ball.”
That would be quite an achievement. No West-side team has won a title in 6A since 1995, and if the Timberwolves get past a 9-2 Owasso team that has won nine consecutive games, they would face either Jenks or Union in the championship game.
Standley remembers seeing Payne for the first time on the first day he arrived at the school. Payne, all of 5-feet-5, was at track practice working with the 400-meter relay team.
“He's just flying,” Standley said of that first look. “Then, when we got him on the field and look at him, he's a little water bug. He just goes 100 mph any way you want him to — forwards, backward or sideways.”
Payne wasn't the only sophomore from two years ago to see solid playing time. Corbin Cleveland, Jordan Evans, D.J. Gasso, Beau Proctor and Jaxon Uhles are other seniors on this year's team who saw action as sophomores.