As the playoffs dive into the deeper rounds in Class 5A, the chance for upsets and surprises becomes that much more dangerous.

As the playoffs dive into the deeper rounds in Class 5A, the chance for upsets and surprises becomes that much more dangerous.

At 7:30 p.m. tonight, the No. 5 Ardmore Tigers will be looking to avoid both of those scenarios, as they welcome the Noble High School Bears to Noble Stadium in the State Quarterfinal round of the playoffs.

Noble will enter this contest against Ardmore with a 9-2 overall record, having been the third place team out of district 5A-3 along with Shawnee and Coweta. Ardmore was the district champion out of district 5A-1 and also sports a 9-2 record entering tonight’s contest. 

But to judge the Bears as just any normal three seed would be a grave mistake.

Last week, NHS went on the road and took down No. 6 Bishop Kelley in Tulsa, giving the Bears their first playoff victory in 14 years.

This wasn’t just any close win though as the Bears held a commanding 36-0 lead, allowing just one Comets touchdown late in the game.

Last week might have come as a surprise to many who had picked Bishop Kelley to meet Ardmore in a playoff rematch, but it wasn’t a shock to the Ardmore coaching staff.

“I tell you what, Coach (Greg) George, Coach (Kyle) Davidson, and the rest of the Noble coaching staff have done an amazing job with those kids,” Ardmore coach Josh Newby said. “They’ve been getting the ball to the right people, and those guys are believing. Noble is playing confident and playing fast right now. Our kids know they are going to have their hands full.”

The last time these two teams met up was just over 13 weeks ago in the first preseason scrimmage of the season for both squads.

While the score wasn’t officially kept that warm August evening in Ardmore, the Bears have certainly made up for lost time throughout the season, as have the Tigers.

Including last week, AHS has now registered 20 or more points in nine games this season, while being held below the mark twice against Carl Albert and Lawton MacArthur.

As for Noble, the Bears have been held below 20 points three times this season, going 1-2 in such games, which included a 12-3 non-district victory against Piedmont. On the other side, NHS has scored 20 or more points eight times this season, winning each game in the span.

Friday night will mark the first time in the Josh Newby era the Tigers have hosted a State Quarterfinals game, having been on the road last season in the second round.

Ardmore hasn’t hosted a State Quarterfinals game since the 2014 season, when the Tigers defeated Bishop McGuinness before falling in the state semifinals.

Speaking of the state semifinals, a victory for the Tigers would give them their second trip to the final four in three seasons, while a victory for the Bears would give them their first trip to the semifinals in school history.

Ardmore has reached the state semifinals three times in the last decade including 2014 and 2011.

Last week against the Guthrie Blue Jays, the Tigers raced out to a quick 21-7 lead in the first quarter, eventually claiming a 41-14 victory.

The name of the game last week for Ardmore was turnovers, as they forced the Blue Jays into three of them, including a 70-yard interception return by Braeden Vance for a touchdown.

AHS also forced a fumble on Guthrie’s opening drive which led to a touchdown, while recovering a muffed punt by GHS, which also led to another score. 

Chants Scurry led the rushing attack for the Tigers, finishing with 18 carries for 113 yards with one touchdown, with Vance totaling eight carries for 98 yards with a pair of touchdowns. 

For the Tigers to be successful they will have to stop the dynamic duo of Chance Felchlin and Isaiah Wilhoite, who have torched opponents all season.

Felchlin is the Bears top overall receiver with 47 catches this season for 1,067 yards and seven touchdowns, with Wilhoite close behind tallying 41 catches and 629 yards and nine touchdowns.

Last week against the Comets Felchlin totaled six passes for 218 yards with a pair of scores.

The Bears will also bring with them a talented running core, led by Danny Arebalo, who totaled 31 carries for 110 yards last week with three touchdowns.

NHS quarterback Hayden Lingle overcame a pair of interceptions to finish with a solid performance of 8-for-12 passing with 258 yards.

The Bears will be entering tonight’s game missing an important player, as starting middle linebacker Ethan Wallace suffered a season-ending knee injury last week against the Comets.

“Noble has made some really good decisions offensively, and they have a very intelligent quarterback,” Newby said. “Their offensive line has really come on lately and is playing at a high level. Noble’s execution level last week against Bishop Kelley was something that caught our kids attention when we watched the film.”

“In any game starting fast and getting the momentum is the key,” Newby added. “Getting the crowd into it is going to be a big part of Friday night.”