NORMAN — From 1-5 to the state finals.
Carl Albert's incredible turnaround climbed yet another step with a 56-33 football win over Bishop McGuinness on Friday night at Harve Collins Field.
Quarterback Steven Thompson rushed for three touchdowns, threw for two more, and intercepted a fourth-quarter pass that sealed the Titans' seventh straight victory and a spot in the Class 5A state championship game against Tulsa East Central.
“These kids didn't give up,” Carl Albert coach Gary Rose said. “When we were 1-5, we were on them. We weren't happy. We were pushing them, and the kids really responded. They didn't get sulky and pouty.
“They've responded to all the difficult times we've had.”
Thompson has led the charge. He became a workhorse runner from the quarterback position, in line for 30-plus carries virtually every week the last two months.
He added another 32 carries for 200 yards Friday, while completing seven of nine passes for 108 yards and two second-half touchdowns.
Bryan Williams deserves a piece of the credit for the big momentum swing. He returned the opening kickoff of the second half 95 yards for a touchdown, and McGuinness fumbled the ensuing kickoff.
Moments later, on fourth-and-11, Thompson hit Hunter Gomez for a 28-yard TD, and the Titan offense was unstoppable from that point on, scoring on every second-half possession.
“We felt like we had it after that,” Thompson said. “At first, we were kind of down, kind of nervous. But after that, we stepped it up and started playing.
“Our offensive line played great. They were physical and held their blocks. They blocked perfectly.”
Minimizing mistakes has been one of the biggest differences in the Titans who were 1-5, and the team that will play for the gold ball next Saturday at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater.
In the last meeting with McGuinness, Irish receiver Cody Chancellor had 359 receiving yards, running open all night. While the Irish were hurt by a few dropped passes Friday that limited them to 277 passing yards, Carl Albert also covered better and intercepted three passes.
Looking like a completely different team from two months ago, the Titans are ready for their shot at a state title — which would be the 11th in their school's illustrious history.
“Words can't explain what this opportunity means to us. I'm flabbergasted right now,” said Williams, who caught a 26-yard TD pass in addition to his kickoff return. “To be going 1-5 and winning seven straight, it means a whole lot to us. We gotta go work hard and win one more. That's what we gotta do.”