Tigers win and they're in on Senior Night
What better place to secure a playoff berth than on home soil?
Ardmore has just that opportunity tonight against Altus — a chance to extend the Tigers' winning streak to three games and to lock up, at worst, the No. 4 spot in the postseason out of District 5A-1.
Altus (2-6, 2-3 District 5A-1) enters with losses in three of its last four games. Ardmore coach Douglas Wendel didn't have to remind his team of the importance of tonight's contest.
It's not only a chance to get back to the state tournament, or get over .500 for the first time this season, but it's a final Noble Stadium sendoff for seven seniors.
"They know that if they win they're in," Wendel said. "We mentioned the work that we did this spring, last offseason, the running we did this summer. It's all come down to this game.
"We've talked about playing our best game of the year this Friday night."
The Tigers appear to be trending that way. Wendel spoke of the steady increase in Ardmore's play in each game this season, none more evident than in a 60-6 demolition of Capitol Hill on the road last week.
In that game, it was a quick night's work for the Tigers' seniors. Wendel said he's been happy with all of their play leading into the final home contest.
Senior defensive back Jeff Surrell leads the team in interceptions with four, and defensive lineman Elijah Clay is tops on the team with four sacks and tied for second on the defense with eight tackles for loss.
Wendel said Surrell has shown maturity in a position switch at mid-season, and that Clay is playing at an All-State level on both sides of the ball.
"He has played just about every down of the season, and at a real high level," Wendel said of Clay. "He's done everything asked of him.
"And Jeff, I've just been amazed at his maturity, and how much he's grown as a person. He's a good athlete, but how he's put the team first has been real amazing."
In last Thursday's game, the Tigers scored on seven of its eight offensive possessions — including twice on defense. Altus should provide more resistance than Capitol Hill did, however.
The Bulldogs have a running back in Diquon Woodhouse who ran for 89 yards last week in a 37-13 loss to Lawton MacArthur. Woodhouse is being courted by several Division I schools.
"He's a good back, and they've got an ellusive quarterback," Wendel said. "Our kids are going to execute the plan, we've just got to wrap up and tackle, and get extra bodies over there when we get there."
Like Ardmore, Altus is a ground-based running attack. The Tigers and Bulldogs also share common district victories against Southeast and Chickasha.
The two teams are also separated by one spot in the 5A-1 standings. Ardmore has a 32-point district advantage over Altus with two games to play. Ardmore will play Lawton MacArthur in week 10, while Altus will face Capitol Hill. Del City, Lawton MacArthur and Duncan have all locked up playoff spots.
Wendel was honest in his assessment of the season if the Tigers don't make the playoffs.
"In our mind, it's whether you achieve a goal or not, which is the playoffs," Wendel said. "We've had successes throughout the course of the season, we've had the growth of young men and a lot of kids improve. But as a team, in Ardmore you need to make the playoffs."
Erik K. Horne