Carl Albert coach Gary Rose quickly points out how his teams have not dominated District 5A-2.
The Titans, though, have dominated Class 5A, winning more state championships than district titles during the past 15 seasons. They have 10 championships, but Rose can count the number of district titles they have won on one hand.
Welcome to District 5A-2, where winning the district has turned into an old fashioned game of “Trouble.”
Trouble for the teams in the district hoping to survive it, and trouble for those on the outside, who know they'll have to beat one of those teams to earn a state title.
“That tells you that our district's really, really good,” Rose said. “And also speaks to our kids that they don't give up and we keep getting better late in the year.”
Last year, the battle on the game board saw Deer Creek reach the safety of a district title, only to watch Carl Albert rally from a fourth-place district finish to the state championship.
Meanwhile, schools such as Shawnee, McAlester, Tulsa East Central and Lawton MacArthur wait for their turn on the board once the postseason arrives.
Shawnee and East Central have even come away victorious, winning titles in 2003 and 2005. But they have also fallen short, like East Central last season and MacArthur the year before.
Still, Carl Albert and Guthrie have dominated the board in the playoffs, winning 12 of the last 16 titles.
So what makes the district so dominant and often times the favorite to produce the state champion?
“There's something to be said about competition,” Guthrie coach Rafe Watkins said. “Perfect example is that's why I think the SEC is so good. They don't really have down weeks. You have to always get up.”
Last year, Deer Creek, McGuinness, Guthrie and Carl Albert spent part of or the majority of the season in the top 10. This season, they all open in the top five.
“What happens is sometimes, and I'm just going to say, when we play Guthrie, Deer Creek and McGuinness and we play three tough non-districts, our schedule has been pretty tough,” Rose said. “When you look at Lawton Mac or I'll just say East Central, that district they're in is not very tough. They haven't been pressed as much or stressed as much as we have.”
Though East Central beat Shawnee, McAlester and Guthrie last year in the playoffs, East Central coach Bobby Klinck still feels like his team is trying to catch Carl Albert or Guthrie.
“For the most part when a program gets settled to where they expect to win, they're always going to be tough no matter how talented they are,” Klinck said. “Obviously, Guthrie and Carl Albert have been kind of the cream of the crop in 5A lately and we're just trying to get our program up to speed.”
Still, there is always that small glimmer of hope, even for teams within the district, like El Reno.
“The unfortunate thing for us in the grand scheme of things you can be the fifth-best team in 5A and not make the playoffs in our district the way that it's been,” new El Reno coach Taylor Schwerdtfeger said. “We're in a dogfight right now and if we make the playoffs we've got a great chance because we've played the best all year. I truly believe you're going to have to beat our district to win.”