NORMAN — Two years ago, Corbin Cleveland was part of Norman North’s stellar sophomore class that saw playing time throughout a 2-8 season.
Jake Higginbotham was in the stands or elsewhere on Friday nights, having not thought much about playing football since giving up the sport after seventh grade.
Now, Cleveland and Higginbotham have teamed up to become one of the most formidable receiving tandems in the state for Norman North, which plays Jenks at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Boone Pickens Stadium for the Class 6A title.
“It hits home thinking that high school football is almost over,” Higginbotham said. “It’s crazy to think where we are right now.”
Higginbotham and Cleveland are a big reason why.
Last Friday in a 49-42 win over Owasso, the pair combined for 251 yards receiving and four touchdowns.
All four of the scores were from 29 yards out or more.
Cleveland said it hasn’t always been comfortable sharing the spotlight on a team that passes as much as North does, but he also realizes that Higginbotham’s success — and that of fellow receiver Channing Meyer and the rest of Norman North’s targets — helps get him space.
“At times, you might get a little upset because the ball gets shared around and you don’t have as many catches as if it was just one of us out there,” Cleveland said.
“But it really helped us all out because somebody’s going to have a really great game almost every night.”
When Wade Standley arrived to take over the Timberwolves after that 2-8 season, Higginbotham had little thoughts of playing, outside of some neighborhood football games with his longtime friend Jaxon Uhles.
“You’re 6-1, you need to come out,” Higginbotham recalls Standley telling him.
“It ended up working out pretty well I guess,” he said.
Even after he was convinced to join the team, though, Higginbotham was unsure whether the experiment would pay off much.
He saw some time in junior-varsity games but little action on Fridays until Week 7 against Moore,
“He was discouraged after awhile,” said Uhles, a Timberwolves linebacker. “I told him just to give it a couple more weeks and stick to it. Then he gets a chance against Moore and scores two touchdowns and ever since then, he’s shown out and been a really great receiver.
“To go from where he was, not playing, and doing what he’s been able to do as been pretty incredible.”
Now, Higginbotham has teamed with Cleveland and the other seniors to get Norman North into the title game for the first time in the school’s history against one of the most tradition-rich teams in the state.
“There’s not one person in that locker room who doesn’t believe that we’re going to go out and just get it all,” Higginbotham said. “We know what we’re getting ourselves into, but we know that if we play our game we’re going to be able to pull it out.”