NORMAN — The “Ala-bam-a” chants started before Norman North's star quarterback, David Cornwell, even touched the football for his first official game as a senior.
But the Alabama commit didn't have a Roll Tide kind of night.
Credit Norman's Cade Parker for that. He was called the X-factor by his coach, the game-changer by his quarterback.
The defensive lineman was in North's backfield all night during Norman's 38-31 season-opening victory against the Timberwolves on Owen Field.
“We had a goal of seven sacks,” Parker said of Norman's game plan.
So Parker set out to fulfill the team goal. He didn't realize until the final seconds counted down that he recorded five of the team's nine sacks.
“We were just out there by any means necessary to meet our goal but still staying within what we were coached,” Parker said. “I just did what I was coached to do.”
The spark started with Kierstan Pendleton early in the second quarter. Cornwell, on third-and-26, threw the ball into coverage and Pendleton picked it off, then ran the ball 36 yards for a touchdown.
“I tell them every night, ‘Who's going to provide that spark to turn this game into ours?'” Norman coach Greg Nation said. “That's what happened.”
Cornwell's night was full of dropped passes, slams into the turf and passes thrown too far. He did throw a 30-yard touchdown pass to tight end Payton Prince and a 68-yarder to Z'Quan Hogan.
While Parker and Co. flustered Cornwell's offensive line, the Tigers' offensive front keyed a good rushing attack. Norman quarterback Jakcob Dean ran 21 times for 63 yards. Running back Darius Manning scored three touchdowns in the second half, including a 72-yard sweep down the right sideline.
“We knew ever since his freshman year he would be a star,” Dean said. “We always knew, but nobody else really knew because he didn't play last year. Tonight, he exploded. That's exactly what we expected.”