For the first time in more than two decades, the Oklahoma high school football playoffs include no Lawton high schools.
But there are still 14 teams across seven classifications in our coverage area in the OSSAA playoffs. And while the 21-year streak of Lawton Public Schools teams making the postseason has come to an end, another streak still exists.
Each season since 2011 has ended with at least one of the teams in the Constitution’s coverage area raising a Gold Ball. Considering nearly half of this year’s qualified teams from the area are hosting first-round games, the odds for that streak to continue might seem decent. However, a quick view of the playoff brackets reveals how difficult it might be for local teams to just get out of the second round. So, of the teams left standing, who has the best chance to represent Southwest Oklahoma in a state title game?
Tier 1: Just happy to be here
I know that’s putting it bluntly, but several local teams are blessed to simply be in the playoffs. The first round is likely as far they’ll go.
Includes: Duncan, Comanche, Rush Springs, Central High, Empire, Cyril, Snyder.
Why they’re in this group and who’s stopping them from winning it all: Truly, Duncan is just happy to be here. Had they lost one of their last two games, the Demons would not be in the playoffs. The reward for making the playoffs? A trip to face 3-time defending state champion Carl Albert.
Comanche is excited to be in the playoffs considering the Indians won more games in 2019 than they had in the past three seasons combined. But with No. 3 Washington on deck, I think Comanche’s Cinderella story ends quickly.
Rush Springs faces the top-ranked team in Class A (unbeaten Cashion) in the first round. Central High draws a Burns Flat team that just barely lost out on winning its district. The team that beat Burns Flat to that district crown — Alex — is Empire’s first-round foe. And despite making the playoffs, Cyril and Snyder did not play well enough against the top two teams in their own district to make me believe they will give Waurika and Wilson, the top teams in District 4, much to worry about.
Tier 2: Tough (but winnable) first game
Just because you are hosting a first-round game doesn’t necessarily mean you are the favorite. Conversely, you might be expected to win but have tough circumstances in front of you.
Includes: Mountain View-Gotebo, Hobart.
Why they’re in this group and who’s stopping them from winning it all: Mountain View-Gotebo is a tough team with just two losses. Each was to a good opponent (Canton and Tipton) and each was a two-score game. However, Timberlake has an impressive resume too. This set of Tigers has wins over Covington-Douglas and Sharon-Mutual, and like MVG, the losses are close and to good teams (losses by 8 points to Ringwood and Pond Creek-Hunter and 2 to Waynoka). Jeff Coakley’s boys can win this one, but it won’t be easy.
And even if they were to win, MVG would get a date with Southwest Covenant in the next round. Woof.
Then there’s Hobart. In a matter of a few hours Friday, the Bearcats went from the favorites to win District A-2 to dropping to third place. But the real downer is having to go all the way to Goodwell to face Texhoma. While it’s a little more manageable than it would have been for a team like Frederick, its still a four-hour drive. Hobart is probably the better team. But does the drive affect how Colt Allison’s boys play?
Tier 3: Likely to get one win, but nothing more
As mentioned, there are six area teams hosting, and five of them are ranked in the final AP rankings. But even for the teams who are ranked and are expected to win their playoff openers, some giants loom in the second round. If any of these teams are going to make it to Thanksgiving weekend, they’ll need to spring huge upsets.
Includes: Cache, Marlow, Frederick.
Why they’re in this group and who’s stopping them from winning it all: Quite frankly, Hobart could have fit in this group, too, as a win over Texhoma would likely pit the Bearcats against Cashion.
But as ecstatic as Cache, Marlow and Frederick are to be hosting playoff games, each has the misfortune of playing in a loaded bracket with state Goliaths not far in the distance.
After ending a long playoff drought last season, Cache is hosting a playoff game for the second week in a row. The last time the Bulldogs won a playoff game, however, Lionel Richie was topping the charts. But with a precision passing game and punishing ground game, they will be favored against Tecumseh. However, a win sends Cache to play No. 2 Poteau in the next round. Not great.
Marlow has proved it has what it takes to play with the big boys by taking down Sulphur. And while the Outlaws are likely still going to be favored this weekend, Kingfisher certainly has pedigree as a program with athletes. And like Cache, Marlow would have to face the second-ranked team in its class — Lincoln Christian — if it won.
Frederick took care of business Friday night and never really looked like it was going to let up. The Bombers host Oklahoma Bible, a game they look like favorites to win. However, once-beaten Ringling would await in the next round. Not an easy task at all.
Tier 4: Chance to make deep run
If we’re being honest, there is not a title favorite out of Southwest Oklahoma this year. But two schools look like they could make it at least a couple rounds deep.
Includes: Mangum, Tipton.
Why they’re in this group and who’s stopping them from winning it all: Mangum is two points away from being unbeaten, which would probably have them a bit higher in the rankings. The Tigers have wins over Ringling, Frederick, Sayre and Apache. A win over Mooreland potentially puts Mangum against Dibble in the second round. That would not be an easy game by any means, but Dibble was shut out by Ringling late in the season and barely beat Elmore City, so for the time being, let’s give Mangum the benefit of the doubt.
That would likely set up a matchup with undefeated and third-ranked Pawnee. And what a quarterfinal that would be. Pawnee is fresh off a win over Pawhuska and also took down Morrison and Hominy. That might be where Mangum’s run ends. And if not there, likely in the semis against Cashion.
That leaves us with the three-time defending Class C state champions, Tipton. The Tigers were all but written off after an 0-3 start to the season. However, after blowing through its district, Tipton looks to be hitting its stride. A win over Sharon-Mutual would set up a big one against Coyle. A win against Coyle would send Travis White’s crew back to the state championship game again. And even if Tipton is not what it’s been in the past, the two best teams in the class (Southwest Covenant and Pond Creek-Hunter) are on the same side of the bracket, opening up the Tigers’ side of the bracket and meaning they’d only need to beat one of them.
Whether we have a champion in our area or not, there’s still plenty to be excited about. After all, it’s the playoffs — anything can happen.