Players see game vs. Chicks as 'must-win'

The district picture will become a lot clearer after Ardmore's game tonight in Chickasha.

The Tigers (2-4, 1-2 District 5A-1) face the Fightin' Chicks with plenty on the line. The winner of tonight's contest can move into the driver's seat for the fourth spot in the district.

Chickasha, Southeast, Ardmore and Altus each have two district losses, with Chickasha holding an 11-point advantage over Ardmore in point differential.

"I think this is a must-win situation for us," Ardmore junior linebacker Wendel Williamson said. "We have to win the next three games to get into the playoffs.

"I think it's a really key game for us."

Chickasha is coming off a 44-18 loss to Lawton MacArthur last week. The Fightin' Chicks have lost to Altus 27-21 and defeated Capitol Hill 58-6 in district. Ardmore coach Douglas Wendel said that last year's Chickasha squad was similar to the current Ardmore team in its youth.

Last season, Ardmore throttled Chickasha 55-7 at Noble Stadium, but Wendel stressed that the teams are very different now.

"I think they're better than they were last year," Wendel said. "They played a lot of sophomores last year. Their defensive line is very active. (In) the videos I have, nobody has run the ball effectively on them. Even when they did try to run, their defensive line seemed to get off the line and make tackles."

With the run game being the Tigers' bread and butter, how might Ardmore respond if it's stiffled early on? Wendel said he's confident in freshman Clay Atwood being able to make plays in his second consecutive start at quarterback.

"I'm seeing progress," Wendel said. "We have as much offense in now as we did any time when we had Jeff (Surrell) in (at quarterback). I feel like we have a good chance to be effective with our entire offense with him (Atwood) playing quarterback. Now with Jeff at slot, Jeff opens up a lot of things for us."

On a scale from 1 to 10, Surrell said his comfort level in the slot right now is a "10."

"I can move better on the outsides to make plays," Surrell said. "They're getting me moving in the passing game, spliting me out a little bit, making it easier for me to get the ball."

Just two points separate district leaders Duncan (+44) and Del City (+42), who each are 3-0 in 5A-1. But Duncan has a litmus test against Lawton MacArthur tonight (4-2, 2-1), while Del City is highly favored against Capitol Hill.

With a win tonight, the schedule lines up to where Ardmore can make up ground on at least two teams ahead of it.

"It's obviously a big game as far as playoffs are concerned," Wendel said. "I know they're gonna be up for us and I know they believe they can beat us."

Erik K. Horne