Stigler has won two playoff games for the first time since 1965. Ada has won 19 state championships.
But both schools share something very similar this season. They have both faced tragedy.
Stigler, which plays at Kingfisher on Friday night in the Class 3A quarterfinals, has gone on a historic playoff run while dealing with the deaths of two players this season.
Ada's wound is more fresh, losing teammate Cody Johnson just last week in a motorcycle accident.
Edmond North coach Jeremy Dombek feels the pain of both Stigler coach Chris Risenhoover and Ada coach Matt Weber. Last year, Ryan Smith, a 16-year-old sophomore defensive lineman for the Huskies, died one day after breaking his leg at football practice.
It wasn't the first time Dombek had to grieve over the death of a player. It happened three times when he coached Plainview, where he lost two players in an automobile accident and another from a drowning.
“As coaches, those kids become your kids,” Dombek said. “No matter how many times you go through it, you can't prepare for it. My heart goes out to those coaches.”
Risenhoover said it's been difficult at times this season for the Panthers. Players were confused and hurt by the deaths of Cory Cassinger, who died in a single-car accident in July, and Gordon Parsons.
“I was thankful we had football season and we had practice and you had to go to work,” Risenhoover said. “That made it, I wouldn't say it easier, but it helped keep your mind off of it. I was just thankful we had the season.”
Stigler, a team with hopes of winning a district championship, had seemed to let that slip away with a Week 7 loss at Checotah. After that game, Risenhoover held a team meeting.
“There obviously wasn't a whole lot of pep earlier in the year,” Risenhoover said. “We just kind of had a Saturday meeting where we visited about how we were blowing a great opportunity.
“We needed to understand that all we had was this year, and all we got was what was in the locker room and we needed to take advantage of it. I think it kind of redirected our kids. Since that point, practices have been sharper and on the field on Friday nights, we are just making plays.”
Checotah lost to Spiro in the season finale, giving Stigler the district title. After all the Panthers had been through during the season, “it was karma, I guess,” Risenhoover said.
Ada meets Clinton Friday night in the Class 4A semifinals at Putnam City while Weber and the rest of the Cougars are still trying to deal with Johnson's unexpected death.
“For me and every coach, it's the worst fear you have in this profession,” Weber said. “It changes, really, our outlook on everything right now. I don't know that we have a blueprint for dealing with something like this. I know time will help heal, but it's still pretty fresh with us.
“I never had to deal with this before and hope to never have to deal with it again. Time will help, but it's not going to bring Cody back.”
Dombek said it was difficult for him to stay focused on football after Smith's death last season.
“You try to be as strong as you can for the players and the families associated with the program because you have to lead that program and continue on,” he said. “It took a toll on me. I am not going to lie. I struggled with it.”
Dombek's advice to Risenhoover and Weber is “to speak with your heart and say what you are feeling.”
Dombek still thinks about the kids that died a decade ago at Plainview.
“You remember the good times and keep their families in your prayers and you keep going, and you pray that nobody else goes through it,” he said.