Oklahoma Christian School of Edmond once was a power in eight-man football.
Five times, the Saints reached the state championship game but lost each time, including in 2001, the last year OCS played eight-man football.
The Saints had such success in eight-man football that some were unhappy about the jump to 11-man in 2002.
“They were so dominant a lot of people around the program didn't want to go to 11-man football,” OCS coach Derek Turner said. “But the school got so big they had to do that.”
The Saints haven't been slouches playing the 11-man game either.
OCS has been a perennial playoff team since moving up. But if the Saints defeat Stroud Friday night in the Class 2A quarterfinals, it will be their deepest playoff run since beginning 11-man football.
OCS, 11-1, also won its first district title this season since leaving eight-man football.
Turner took over as Saints head coach in 2008 but has been on the coaching staff since 2003.
If OCS was going to continue the kind of success it had in eight-man football, the Saints' coaches determined they “needed to do some things to kind of push ourselves to the next level,” Turner said.
To compete with the elite in Class 2A, Turner started studying them, including teams such as Hennessey, which is seeking a third straight state championship this season.
“You've got to respect those people who done it before you and try to figure out and try to emulate that the best you can,” Turner said.
One of the things Turner learned from Hennessey was to play a tough schedule.
“Their theory is if we don't play good teams, we are not going to get better,” Turner said. “That's what we've done.”
The Saints' nondistrict opponents this season included Metro Christian and Jones, two clubs who have reached the Class 3A semifinals. OCS' only loss of the season was to Jones by one point.
Another thing Turner learned from Hennessey was to try to build depth, especially in the offensive and defensive lines, so kids don't have to play full-time on both sides of the ball.
Sometimes that requires taking a chance on some kids.
“You got to find something that each one of them can do well,” Turner said. “Everyone can do one thing well. You got to find that position to put them in and when you do, you build depth.”
Of the approximately 40 kids that suit up each week for OCS, 25 will see meaningful playing time, Turner said.
Among those are a dozen experienced seniors, including quarterback, Austin Brooks, who took over as the Saints' starter his sophomore season when standout quarterback Jack Warren went down with a season-ending injury.
Brooks has been brilliant this season and in five games has thrown more touchdowns than incompletions.
Brooks has thrown for 2,639 yards and 43 touchdowns this season with only seven interceptions.
“He really makes our engine go on offense,” Turner said. “He has developed into one of the better quarterbacks I have ever seen around high school football.”