Piedmont opens its District 5A-II schedule Friday night at 7 p.m. at historic Taft Stadium against Northwest Classen with something it hasn’t had in some time.
The Wildcats have a real belief that they’re a legitimate postseason contender.
“I think these guys know and I think they understand that they have a chance to compete now,” head coach Drew Gossen said. “Since the beginning we’ve talked about the playoffs. That’s our goal and we want nothing less and now that opportunity is at hand. This is where it all begins.”
In each of the previous two seasons, Piedmont entered district play without a win, beat up and lacking momentum. Despite a 1-2 record, things are different this season. The Wildcats have been in close losses to Weatheford and Noble until the final minutes.
Last week, Piedmont led Noble by eight deep into the fourth quarter until a string of miscues cost them the game. It was disappointing, but Gossen said after reviewing the game film, he was pleased with his team’s performance.
“We’re going to find the mistakes we made and correct them and we’re going to take the positives and work with those,” he said. “After watching film there are a lot more positives than negatives, which is a huge plus.”
Most importantly, the Wildcats run-first offense has taken form and continued to grow against Noble. Piedmont ran for 240 yards last week, marking the third straight week running back Landon White has crossed the 100-yard plateau. He’s also scored eight touchdowns.
“That’s what we want to do and that’s what we’re going to focus on,” Gossen said of running the football. “The offensive line improvement has been huge. That’s a big deal.”
A young unit up front last season, Piedmont struggled to make holes for White consistently. With two sophomores and three juniors all with at least a season of starting experience under their belts, they’ve turned a corner this year.
“The maturity of them and the toughness they’ve gained from really working hard has been huge for us,” Gossen said.
Their next challenge is an athletic Classen squad that came through non-district play with a 3-0 record after a 52-47 win at Tulsa Hale High School last week.
“They’re athletic and they’ve got some kids that can really run,” Gossen said of the Knights. “They’ve got a good group. They have a lot of athletes and a lot of ability.”
A win over Northwest would even Piedmont’s record, give them the right kind of start to district play, and, most significantly, add to the sense the Wildcats are a postseason contender.
“People underestimate us because of our past records, but that’s not going to stop us,” senior defensive tackle Austin Mitchell said. “We’re going to go out there and compete with them.”