Clinton will need big plays from its three playmakers Saturday if the Red Tornadoes are going to win a 16th state football championship.
The Red Tornadoes meet Anadarko at 12:30 p.m. Saturday in Stillwater for the Class 4A title.
Clinton has been led offensively this season by sophomore running back Marquiz Simpkins, who has rushed for 1,871 yards and 27 touchdowns this season.
“He's probably as good as any sophomore that I have ever been around,” Clinton coach Mike Lee said. “He's a powerful dude. He breaks a lot of tackles.”
Simpkins was held to fewer than 100 yards rushing in only two games this season, and those were Clinton's only two losses.
The first was in the season opener against Lawton MacArthur when Simpkins didn't start at tailback.
The second was at Anadarko on Oct. 5, a game the Red Tornadoes lost 28-21. Simpkins rushed for 88 yards on 13 carries and two touchdowns in the game.
“He has just gotten better and better all year long,” Lee said. “He runs hard. He is not afraid. He has been that way ever since I have known him.”
The Red Tornadoes can't rely on Simpkins alone to beat Anadarko, which is seeking to win the Class 4A state championship after capturing the 3A title last year.
Clinton also will need production in the passing game from senior quarterback Garrison Mendoza and junior wide receiver Devon Mitchell to beat Anadarko, which has a 28-game winning streak.
“He (Simpkins) has had a really big year, but if you want to win big games, you have to be diverse,” Mendoza said. “We will have to make some big plays downfield. We are not just going to run over them.”
Anadarko's defense was the best Clinton played this season, Mendoza said.
“They have big inside and outside linemen that can move and get to the ball,” he said.
Mendoza has thrown for 1,286 yards and 11 touchdowns this season. He also has rushed for five scores, but his carries have been limited this season in an attempt to keep him healthy.
Mendoza injured his knee and missed most of his sophomore season. Clinton's backup quarterback was lost for the year at the beginning of the season with a torn ACL.
“We don't run him more at quarterback because we are not deep at that position,” Lee said. “He is as good as a linebacker as we've had here in the last five or six years, but we've limited his playing time there to try to keep him healthy.”
Mendoza's 12 rushes for 40 yards in Clinton's semifinal win over Ada were the most he has carried the ball this season.
“There is no saving anymore,” Mendoza said. “It's all hands on deck now.”
Mendoza's favorite target in the passing game is Mitchell, who has 41 catches for 854 yards this season. He also has rushed for 415 yards on 58 carries. Mitchell has scored 11 touchdowns.
“We don't throw it much, but he makes a ton of plays,” Lee said.
Simpkins, Mendoza and Mitchell will be counted on heavily Saturday in the 4A title game.
“They are our major weapons,” Lee said. “They have been the key for us, along with being decent up front.”