Piedmont head coach Drew Gossen’s phone was busy this weekend.
Congratulatory calls, texts and emails poured in following Piedmont’s 22-14 victory over Guthrie that secured a playoff berth for the first time since 2011 and kept the Wildcats in the conversation for a district title. Piedmont even made its first appearance in various Class 5A Top 10 rankings for the first time all season after the win.
“Our kids are gaining a ton of respect and we feel pretty good about that,” Gossen said. “People are noticing what we’re doing.”
But part of the key to Piedmont’s five-game winning streak has been its under-the-radar trajectory, a perceived lack of respect and the figurative chip on the shoulder that helped create. So heading into a matchup with third-ranked Carl Albert (7-1, 4-1) tonight at 7 in Midwest City, will Piedmont (6-2, 5-0) be able to keep the same mentality?
“It’d be hard to feel like anyone is going to have us over anyone that we play from here on out,” Gossen said. Piedmont hosts No. 2 Bishop McGuinness after Carl Albert. “To have the feeling that we’re still not respected, I have a feeling we’re still going to get that same look. Our kids know that even though we continue to win, people are still going to pick against us.”
Even Gossen admits those same people might have good reason to side the Titans, who’s only loss came to McGuinness.
“What doesn’t,” he said when asked about what stands out about the Titans team. “They’re excellent. There’s not a weak link and I think that’s probably the biggest thing that stands out. Their quarterback is a great player, they’ve got receivers that can run and their running back is the best we’ve seen.”
Defensively, Gossen said Carl Albert is athletic in the secondary, disciplined at linebacker and big and quick along the front. That’s not all, though.
“They’re very well-coached as you’d expect from a Gary Rose team,” he said.
But Piedmont doesn’t plan on changing much about what has gotten it here. Running back Landon White carried the ball 28 times for 77 yards against Guthrie and will get plenty of touches Friday to setup deep shots from quarterback Noah Ellis.
“We feel confident in who we are so we’re going to go out and play our brand of football and kind of take it to them a little bit,” Gossen said.
With its win over Guthrie, Piedmont continued a season-long progression of gaining belief in themselves. Gossen said the coaching staff had a sense this team could be a special after a hard-fought 33-27 loss at Noble in the third week of the season.
The players, none of which were in high school the last time a Piedmont team made the playoffs, started to believe after the Wildcats 27-12 victory over Lawton Eisenhower. That confidence turned to full-blown swagger after back-to-back wins over Woodward and Guthrie. Another win Friday would secure at least one home playoff game.
“These kids continue to say that we know that people don’t necessarily believe we’re going to beat Guthrie or whoever it may be,” Gossen said. “But we’re going to go out there and do it.”