Piedmont could already be so satisfied that it’s qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2011, that it’s first round game at Ardmore on Friday night at 7:30 takes a backseat to the accomplishment.
That mindset wouldn’t bode well for the third-seeded Wildcats’ chances to spring an upset, but wouldn’t be completely unexpected considering most preseason predictions had Piedmont watching the playoffs from home.
Senior receiver Parker Smith says that Wildcat-backers have nothing to worry about, though and that Piedmont’s focus is 100 percent on beating the Tigers.
“What’s the point of playing one extra game in a season if it doesn’t mean anything,” Smith asked. “This is about being able to show our community that we’re playing for something more than just ourselves.”
Piedmont (6-4, 5-2) enters the game on a two-game losing streak after losses to third-ranked Carl Albert (49-21) and No. 2 Bishop McGuinness (21-0) with a district title on the line, but doesn’t necessarily feel like it has lost momentum. If anything, head coach Drew Gossen said, his team feels as prepared as ever to win important games because it’s played in so many already.
“Every game has been a big game and every game has been against a quality opponent,” he said, “so it’s just like it escalates into this. From here on out they just keep getting bigger and bigger.”
Ardmore (8-2, 6-1) played for a district title down the stretch as well and had the title within its grasps in a 28-27 loss to Lawton MacArthur that Ardmore led in the fourth quarter. The Tigers had won six in a row before the loss.
“They’re very physical and very athletic across the board,” Gossen said. “They’re another one of those teams where you don’t find a lot of weak links. They’re sound in what they do and very well-coached.”
The Tigers offense is as unique as any as Piedmont has faced this season. It’s an option attack with all of the traditional components that come along with that – pitches, dive plays and quarterback runs – that can produce methodical drives or big plays depending on how sound the opposing defense plays.
“Any time we’re not playing our responsibilities they could take one to the house,” Gossen said. “They’re that athletic and run it that well.”
Gossen was in his first year as an assistant coach at Piedmont the last time the Wildcats, seeded third then also, made the postseason. PHS lost a thriller at Glenpool, 28-25. What, if anything, did Gossen take away from the trip?
“I think a lot of it is just knowing that once you get to the playoffs, it’s anyone’s game,” Gossen said. “Rankings and where you’re seeded – yeah it kind of matters – but in all reality all 16 teams could go win it.”
With that in mind, Gossen wanted to keep practice focused, but fun this week.
“We’re trying to keep it exciting,” he said. “We’re going to do some things here over the next four weeks, hopefully, that keep us fresh and ready to go.”