By Evan Grice
If there was ever such a thing as a “must win game”, it has arrived for the Piedmont Wildcats (4-4, 3-2) football team.
Friday night against the Elgin Owls (4-4, 3-2), the Wildcats will have the chance to all but assure themselves of a berth in the playoffs as they look to take down the Owls on the road, with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m.
Last week against the top-ranked Anadarko Warriors, the Wildcats saw their three-game winning streak snapped with a 27-0 defeat. Elgin meanwhile, kept its playoff hopes alive with a 42-19 victory over Weatherford.
With a victory over the Owls Friday night, the Wildcats would maintain their hold on third place in the district standings, just ahead of Clinton in fourth place. However, a loss would mean Piedmont’s playoff destiny is out of their hands going into the final week of the regular season.
“This is a must win game for sure,” Piedmont coach Craig Church said. “We can’t allow others to control our playoff destiny. Our kids have had great focus this week in practice and in meetings, and we expect them to be ready to go on Friday night.”
Recent history against the Owls has brought a mixed bag of results for Piedmont in this series.
Last season, it was EHS escaping with a narrow 38-35 victory, while the Wildcats won their last visit to Elgin in 2011 by a score of 49-20. Elgin claimed the victory during the 2010 season with a 33-17 victory.
The road however, hasn’t been kind to the Wildcats this season, as they have lost two of three games this season away from Stout Field. But, the last time PHS played a road contest, they claimed a 52-0 victory over Elk City at Big Elk Stadium.
Elgin has compiled a 2-1 record at home this season, claiming victories over Rush Springs in week one, and Weatherford last week. Woodward has been the only team to defeat the Owls at home this season, allowing a total of just 61 points during that span.
“Our players have done a good job this season dealing with the road and traveling,” Church said. “We’ve got a few bumps and bruises, but that’s to be expected after playing Clinton and Anadarko back-to-back. It’s nothing that should keep our kids from missing practice or even games for that matter.”
Offensively, the Owls have struggled during the season, only scoring 25.7 points per game this season. However, that can be partially blamed on the tough scheduled Elgin has faced including Tuttle and Plainview.
“Elgin has a good quarterback who can move his feet really well,” Church said. “They have some receivers who are very good at finding holes in coverage. They’ve also got a strong defensive line and some good secondary players who are solid at pass coverage.”
Last week against the Warriors was only the second time this season the Wildcats had been shutout, and the first since week two against Harrah.
There will be several Piedmont players who will look to have a bounce back game this week against Elgin.
Darrius Burris will look to recapture his solid rushing attack, after being held to one of his lowest totals of the season against the Warriors last week.
Burris was held under 100 yards rushing for the first time in more than four games last week against Anadarko, while his counterpart RJ Sink, totaled more than 100 yards against the Wildcats defense.
Lucas Richert will be looking to avoid the constant pressure he was under last week against Anadarko, which led to him finishing with just 25 yards passing on the night on 6-for-16 passing after starting the game a perfect 5-for-5 on the night.
Speaking of defense, the Piedmont defense will also be looking for a rebound this week after allowing double digit points in the second half for the first time in three games last week.
Piedmont’s regular season finale will come next week against Weatherford on the road with kickoff slated for 7:30 p.m.
Week one of the playoffs would then follow, with the Wildcats going on the road to play an opponent that will be a district runner-up from District 4A-2 in the first round of the playoffs.