Piedmont’s goal before the season began was to make the playoffs. With three games left to play in the regular season, the Wildcats can already check that off the list.
In pencil, at least.
It took the Wildcats only four weeks of district play — mathematically Piedmont could still miss the playoffs, but it’s unlikely — to all but assure themselves of a postseason berth. Now, Piedmont has its eye on a bigger prize — a district championship.
“That’s exactly what we’ve talked to our kids about this week, because now we’re in a position where that’s a reality,” head coach Drew Gossen said. “We’re in the driver’s seat for that and we can control that. It’s absolutely on our minds.
Piedmont can clinch a playoff spot with a win tonight against Guthrie.
“We’ve got to go through Guthrie first and that’s no easy task,” Gossen said.
Currently tied for first place with 4-0 Bishop McGuinness, the Wildcats (5-2, 4-0) host the Blue Jays (4-3, 2-2) tonight at 7 in the first of a three-game stretch of games against Guthrie, Carl Albert and McGuinness.
Piedmont is 0-6 against the trio of District 5A-2 powers in the last two seasons, but has no reason to think it can’t compete with them all now.
“We’re going to play with whoever we step on the field with and give it our best shot,” Gossen said.
That starts with Guthrie, who beat Piedmont 28-6 last season and 48-6 the year before that. On paper, the Jays don’t appear as strong this season. They have uncharacteristic losses to Ponca City (9-0) and Carl Albert (45-7) and narrowly defeated a 1-6 Lawton Ike team 23-20 at home last week, but Gossen said they still look like the same old Guthrie team to him.
“Guthrie is one of those teams that you say the name and it elicits a response of respect, and rightfully so,” Gossen said, “they’ve done so many good things over there to build that program to something special. We know even if their record may look like one thing, they’re going to be good, no doubt about it.”
Gossen said the Blue Jays’ personnel is ‘just a little bit different than their typical’, but not by much. He said Guthrie throws the ball more than in previous seasons, but still relies on its traditional staples — running the ball and playing sound defense.
“They’re still big and physical up front. Defensively, they’re a little bit different look just in the type of kid they have,” he said. “But they’re going to play physical and they’re going to get after you.”
Guthrie’s offensive line stood out to Gossen on film.
“Their offensive line is big and they’re probably the best group we’ve seen this year,” he said. “All in all, they’re going to be tough.”
For senior receiver Koy Priddy, a win Friday night would be yet another sign that this could be a special season for the Wildcats.
“I’ve never beat Guthrie the entire time I’ve been at Piedmont,” Priddy said. “So it’d be a real fun thing to go out and beat them at home.”
Bakewell sets school record for tackles
Senior linebacker Jacob Bakewell set a record in Piedmont’s 52-23 win at Woodward Friday night.
Bakewell recorded the 341st tackle of his career to set a new career mark for tackles, eclipsing the previous mark set by Collin Bricker in 2011.
“We knew coming into the season that he had a chance to do it, but you still have to go out and play hard every game to do it,” Gossen said. “He has been phenomenal this season. Obviously we were excited about it.”
Piedmont’s cross country teams have their most important races of the season Saturday morning in Norman, and if they run well enough in them, both teams will earn the chance to run at the state meet on Saturday, Oct. 29.
First things first, though. Piedmont has to qualify at Class 5A regionals Saturday in Norman.
The teams enter the race from different perspectives. The boys took second in the Suburban Conference meet and enter regionals with confidence.
Blake Cope placed first as an individual at conference followed by Colton Lindsey, Garrett Bickley, Davis McDermott and Zachary Swindell. McDermott says he thinks the team is peaking heading into regionals and points to the contributions from younger runners as a big reason why.
“We’re running very solid,” McDermott, a senior, said. “When we were freshmen we weren’t touching the seniors, but all these freshmen are right there with us, which helps us know we can all run together.”
Individually, McDermott hopes to drop his time below 18:00 at regionals after running an 18:37 at conference.
“If I could get there in the Top 15 at regionals that would really score some points for us,” he said.
Head coach Kelly Beck thinks a Top 3 finish is in the cards for the Wildcats.
“I’ll be disappointed if we’re below three,” he said. “Top 7 gets to state, so that’s what’s important, but if we could get second or third it would really give the boys some confidence going into state.”
The Lady Wildcats, meanwhile, struggled to a third place finish at conference and Beck isn’t sure what to expect from them Saturday.
“They’re just going to have to run well or they’re not going to make it,” Beck said plainly. “Which would be a shame, because I think the talent is there. It’s just whether or not they’re willing to put in the work.”
Piedmont is paired with six teams that they’ve finished behind as a team at various races this season. Of those same six teams, the Lady Wildcats have finished ahead of three previously, so the potential exists for a variety of outcomes.
Senior Kylie Burris led Piedmont at conference and says that the possibility of the team’s season being over after Saturday will serve as some motivation.
“I would say it is one of the factors,” she said. “But honestly we can only do the best that we can and if we don’t get there then we don’t.”
The girls will run at 10 a.m. followed by the boys at 10:45.