Ardmore football focused on high-stakes district clash at Lawton MacArthur

Beau Bearden
The Daily Ardmoreite
Ricky Smith and the Tigers make the trek to Lawton on Friday as they'll face MacArthur in the regular-season finale. Ardmore needs to beat the Highlanders and notch 20 or more district points to clinch a district championship.

Sometimes a tough loss late in the season can help light a fire under a squad. It doesn’t always happen that way, but don’t tell that to the Ardmore High School football team.

The Tigers learned a lot from an overtime setback to Noble last week and they’ve carried that focus into preparing for a critical district clash at Lawton MacArthur on Friday night.  

“Monday’s practice was a sign of things,” said Ardmore head coach Josh Newby. “I was wondering if we would come out and be flat or if it would be the best practice of the year. And it was the best practice of the year, so that game taught us something. It taught us attention to detail. You’ve got to have detail to win ballgames. Our kids realize that now.”

The Tigers will need that full attention, too, as the regular-season finale is against the undefeated Highlanders. Ardmore couldn’t past them last season in a 37-22 loss, but tallied a 35-21 win in 2019.

Even with that said, the Tigers need to do more than just tally a victory. They also must notch 20 or more district points to clinch a district championship.

“Notoriously, MacArthur over the past 20 years has controlled this district and our kids know the challenge,” Newby said. “We have to go over there and win. And we have to win by a certain amount, so it’s a super big challenge. Our kids are excited about it, but I know coach Brett Manning will have his kids ready, too.”

It doesn’t take too much research to see what Manning has done as MacArthur is averaging 48.1 points per game, while holding opponents to 16.3 points. The Highlanders’ closest game was a 28-21 victory over Class 6A's Enid on Sept. 17.

“If you watch Lawton MacArthur on film, there’s not many weaknesses,” Newby said. “Their quarterback does a good job of managing the game. They have two running backs that are just amazing. Isaiah Gray is incredible and Devin Bush, who’s a big kid, is running the ball hard. It’s like every year, coach Manning always does a good job with his kids. We have our hands full.”

Only time will tell what happens, but the Tigers proved they can shut down high-powered offenses in crunch time.

Ardmore’s defense prevented Noble from scoring during three trips into the red zone. Those stops were crucial to forcing overtime, but other miscues proved costly down the stretch.

“Overall, I was super proud of the entire effort,” Newby said of the Noble game. “I thought it was championship-style effort. It just wasn’t championship-style execution. We can’t turn the ball over in big games. We’re close and the kids know it. We just have to go do it.”

And the Tigers know they’ll have to get better in a few areas if they want to find success. Ardmore may have won eight straight games, but that doesn’t mean it’s been perfect football.

“I always think there’s room to improve,” Newby said. “Anytime you turn the ball over, there’s room to improve. Then defensively, I think we have to tackle a little better. Friday night, you have to tackle Isaiah Gray or he’s going to make you look foolish. Then offensively, you have to execute and try to keep the ball out of Lawton MacArthur’s dynamic offense’s hands. In the end, we’re going to have to play really well.”