Stillwater News Press

November 6, 2013

Stillwater football still eyes run to playoffs

By Nick Snow

STILLWATER, Okla. — Three weeks ago, Stillwater High School football coach Tucker Barnard would have probably channeled his inner Jim Mora when it came to Stillwater’s postseason hopes.

But we are indeed talking about playoffs.

Something that seemed like an impossible dream during a one-win season has become a reality as the Pioneers head into their final regular season game against Owasso at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Ram Stadium.

There’s just one catch: Not only does Stillwater (2-7, 2-4 in district) have to win, but they have to win big and hope for a little help from a Booker T. Washington team that plays Bartlesville.

“We need a couple of things to go right,” Barnard said. “Bartlesville has to lose by a considerable margin to Booker T. and we’ve got to have a solid win over Owasso to see if we can make up that 26-point differential.

“We’ve talked about it, but quite honestly, it’s just something that we’ve just put back there in the back of their minds. We need to concentrate on winning. Regardless of anything else, we can’t control that Bartlesville-Booker T. game. We just need to play as hard as we can and fight for every inch, and hopefully come away with a win. If we get the opportunity to win by 12 or 15, then we’ll certainly try to do that.”

That’s the key — getting the win first. If not, it becomes a moot point and Owasso (4-5, 3-3) will seal the fourth playoff spot by virtue of the head-to-head tiebreaker.

“There’s pressure because everybody else wants to win,” Stillwater senior safety King Williams said. “But if you don’t think about the playoffs and just go out there and get us a W, we definitely have a great chance of sneaking our way up in the playoffs.”

For a team that has two wins this season, just making the playoffs would be a big accomplishment considering where the Pioneers were after the loss to Bartlesville.

“Sure, we’re a little surprised, but that’s just the way this district has shaped up,” Barnard said. “You kind of have Union way up there at the top and then there’s a big pile of teams that are trying to fight it out for the remaining spots. You just never know. That’s why we’ve got to keep fighting. That’s why when you lose a couple of district games, you can’t pack it in. You’ve got to keep fighting and give yourself a chance.”

The Pioneers have done that the last three weeks — fighting to the bitter end against Bartlesville and Sand Springs, before shocking a lot of people with a huge win over Enid.

“That was a big motivation boost,” Williams said. “It let us know that we have confidence and that we can win. We know how to win. We just have to go out there and get it done this Friday.”

That may be a little easier said than done against an Owasso team that’s hungry to rebound from last week’s 38-21 loss to Sand Springs.

Like Enid, the Rams offensive and defensive lines are bigger than most teams Stillwater has seen this season, which could spell trouble for the Pioneers.

“They are huge,” Barnard said. “They’ve got big, old offensive linemen. They’ve got a good quarterback and receiver that are brothers and are a deadly combination. They have a strong running game. It’s going to be a struggle. It’s going to be a battle. We’re going to have to fight for four quarters to have a chance to win.”

But while Stillwater will be trying to find a way to slow down Owasso’s running game, it’s the Pioneers’ running game that may be the biggest factor.

After having three players eclipse the 100-yard mark last week, Barnard knows his team will need a similar performance this week.

“When we run the football well, it’s a lot easier to throw the football,” Barnard said. “We’ve got 300-plus yards rushing last week and that makes (Jon Littell’s) job a lot easier.”

While the Pioneers will be looking to just get in the playoffs against Owasso, there’s almost been a playoff-like atmosphere around practice this week.

“Every game from now on is do or die for us,” Barnard said. “If we lose, our season’s over. We obviously don’t want that to happen, but we’re going to have to play smart, execute and play physical to give ourselves a chance.”

That’s all the Pioneers have wanted this season — a chance. Even if they don’t make the playoffs, at the very least they can say that they had that chance.

And considering where they started — dropping seven of the first eight games — just having that chance is a tribute to this team.

“The guys have done such a good job of staying focused over the last several weeks,” Barnard said “After such a rough start and things not going the way we had hoped they would go, they’ve just continued to not only stay focused but become more focused. They’ve come together as a team and even working harder as we got through some of this adversity late.”