NOBLE — Steve Barrett has done this before.
In his second stint as Noble's head football coach, Barrett — along with a coaching staff that includes some former players — has the Bears on verge of making the playoffs.
Noble has to beat Shawnee on Friday to earn the fourth and final spot in District 5A-3, clinching its first playoff appearance since 2007.
“It's kind of magical,” senior lineman Chase Mercer said. “My third-grade year, I came and watched them when they went, like, 10-2. It just kind of motivated me.”
Barrett first came to Noble in 2002; the Bears had gone 7-53 during the preceding six seasons, winning two games the year before the former Norman North assistant arrived.
But in Barrett's first season, Noble went 7-4, losing in the first round of the playoffs but also achieving its first winning season since 1995.
The Bears went to the playoffs in each of the three years of his first stint, even winning a district title in 2003.
After the 2004 season, though, Barrett stepped down to become a principal at the school, unable to be both an administrator and coach.
Until 2010, when he took back over, this time bringing in former players who helped him reach the postseason in 2002-04 — the only three-year playoff streak in school history.
Kyle Davidson, Matt Lane and Tyler Solomon now serve as examples that football success is possible at Noble.
“They saw what it takes to move forward,” Barrett said. “I was fortunate to be able to get a hold of those guys and bring them back into the program when I came back. It's obviously helped.”
Barrett started by bringing in Lane, a former running back/safety. In 2011, Davidson, who quarterbacked the 2003 district title team, and Solomon, who played center, joined the staff.
“When we got the opportunity to come back, it was kind of a chance to see if we could help bring some of the success back that we had,” Solomon said. “That was the main reason to kind of just get the program going back in the right direction again.”
Noble went 1-8 in 2010 and 2-8 in 2011.
But this season, something clicked. The coaching staff attributes a strong senior class, led by running back/linebacker Jimmy Wood, who leads Class 5A in rushing with 1,583 yards. But the coaches' history with the school is also a reason.
“These guys have led the way,” Wood said. “They've showed us how to lead. They've gotten better just as we've gotten better as players throughout the season … and everything seems like it's falling into place right now. Something great could come out of it.”
Great things are already happening. With brand-new facilities being built, the school hosted Notre Dame's marching band for a public practice before last Saturday's football game in Norman.
Things are also great on Friday nights.
Noble is 5-4 overall and 3-3 in district play, a far cry from the past few seasons.
“I think it started turning the corner last year,” Lane said. “If you look at the team two years ago, we weren't very good. Last year, we won two games and we were a lot more competitive.
“I think this year has been that cornerstone of it all coming together.”
And perhaps Barrett's second Noble turnaround in a decade is beginning to help change the perception of the town, which sits on the outskirts of Norman.
“I think we're kind of getting out of that ‘Noble is a dump'-type place that everybody talks about,” Solomon said.