It's sort of a Civil War of Oklahoma high school football.
The boundary lines are clearly drawn for the Class 6A quarterfinals: the top four teams on the west side of the state (Edmond North, Edmond Santa Fe, Norman, Norman North) will face the four beasts from the east (Jenks, Tulsa Union, Owasso and Broken Arrow) on Friday night.
Can a west-side team pull an upset and finally end the east's reign on the Class 6A throne?
“I don't think it's an east-west thing. It's more of a Jenks-Union thing,” Edmond North coach Jeremy Dombek said. “You can't argue with what they've done. They are clearly the cream of the crop. They set the bar every year.”
Jenks or Tulsa Union has won every 6A state football title since 1996. Union has won the last four and six of the last eight.
“They have done such a great job with their total program and it starts at an early age for them, in the third grade,” Dombek said.
“We really don't see our kids until the ninth grade. We don't really have a chance to teach our philosophy and our schemes until the ninth grade. How much of an advantage is that? I don't know. You could debate it a lot of ways.
“I just think what they've done program-wise and the commitment the community has made to football gives them an edge.”
While Edmond North (10-1) travels to Jenks (9-2), Edmond Santa Fe (10-1) will host Tulsa Union (9-2).
“I don't think its good when Jenks or Tulsa Union win it every year,” Santa Fe coach Lance Manning said. “I know there are a lot of people that want the west to break through and do well. Nobody's goal over here is to be the best on the west side of the state.”
But is this the year it will happen? Dombek thinks the gap between his team and the top two 6A programs from Jenks and Tulsa Union has gotten smaller.
“We are getting closer,” he said. “We feel we have made some tremendous strides. Obviously, Jenks and Yukon, you would have to call them the favorites just because of recent history, but we like the fact it seems more open than in recent years.”
Manning said clubs facing Tulsa Union and Jenks either are intimidated or raise their level of play.
“I certainly hope and think that we are going to fall into that second category, that we are going to elevate our play against Union,” he said. “I think our guys are genuinely excited to play that game.”
Dombek admits his players once had a sense of awe when facing a Jenks or Tulsa Union team. But the Huskies went toe-to-toe with the Redskins last year in a 17-16 quarterfinal loss.
“Since we've been there (playoffs) and since we've made a little bit of a run with 9 and 10 win seasons, I don't think our kids will be intimidated at all (playing at Jenks,)” Dombek said.
“We are not going in to any football game thinking we can't win it,” he said. “I don't think that will be an issue at all. The issue will be how talented, how well-coached and how good a football team Jenks is.
“We are on the road and arguably playing the best team in 6A in the last few weeks. They are just beating people in dominant fashion. I don't want to say we are going to have to play a perfect football game, but we are going to have to play as good as we have all year.”
Manning said his players recognize the challenge and opportunity that is in front of them.
“I just think perspective is really important,” he said. “What I don't want them to do is sell themselves short.
“Obviously, there is a great amount of respect for (Union's) football program and things that they have done and how good they are, but our guys have to realize we are not chopped liver.”
As much as the coaches in Edmond and Norman want someone from the west to break the Jenks-Union stranglehold, their focus this week is on their own clubs, not any east-west rivalry.
“Honestly, for us, it's always about the T-Wolves and our game,” said Norman North coach Wade Standley, whose Timberwolves (10-1) host Broken Arrow (8-3) on Friday night.
“I am really eager for the T-wolves to break that stranglehold.”