NORMAN — Norman North senior linebacker Jordan Evans expected Southmoore's prolific offense to pull off a few big plays, and even piece together some strong drives in Friday's first-round playoff game.
“They're a great offensive team; they've got some great athletes on that team,” Evans said. “Of course, they're gonna have big plays and drives. But our job is to not get overwhelmed by those drives and just keep our mentality OK and handle our business.”
The No. 6 Timberwolves' defense did just that, stopping Southmoore's last four drives Friday on downs to preserve a 21-6 win on Harve Collins Field.
Next week, No. 6 Norman North (10-1) will host third-ranked Broken Arrow in the Class 6A quarterfinals.
The SaberCats (7-4) trailed 14-6 at halftime, but moved the ball effectively in the second half, reaching the Norman North red zone twice after the break.
The first time, Southmoore drove 70 yards to North's 11-yard line, where SaberCats running back Karltrell Henderson took a handoff on fourth-and-1 before being met in the backfield by North linebacker Lavonte Doxey and subsequently stuffed for a four-yard loss.
On Southmoore's next series, it drove 82 yards to North's 8 before quarterback Tre Edwards' fourth-down pass was dropped.
“Our motto after we give up a big play is, ‘Bend but don't break,'” said senior linebacker Jaxon Uhles. “That's what our defense did. We had big players make big plays tonight.”
Evans' big plays in the first half provided all the points Norman North ended up needing. He scored on a 10-yard run early in the second quarter to give the Timberwolves an early 7-0 lead.
Southmoore and Norman North exchanged interceptions the game's next two offensive series; SaberCats senior Johnathan Martin returned his pick to the Timberwolves' 2-yard line, setting up a Jackson Stallings touchdown run on the next play.
Evans took the ensuing kickoff, though, and stole the momentum right back from Southmoore; North senior Bryan Payne cleared Evans' path the whole way, laying a huge block near the end of the 84-yard touchdown return.
“That little dude B.P., he's got the greatest vision I've ever seen,” Evans said of the 5-foot-5, 150-pound Payne.
“When he sees a hole, I just follow him the whole way. That's all I did.”
Evans, one of four Norman North players to take snaps at quarterback, led the Timberwolves with 81 yards on 12 carries.
Last season, North qualified for its first postseason since reaching the 2008 quarterfinals. Friday's victory represented program's first playoff win since that year.
“We've got to keep it rolling through the playoffs,” Uhles said. “I looked up to those guys before us that had good seasons, and we had a little drop-off, but to be the group that brings it back is pretty special.”