By Glen Brockenbush
Photo of Jenks quarterback Ike Owens, left, by Michael Kinney
It should come as no surprise that this was easily the most difficult Top 10 list I’ve done (I can’t speak for Christian Potts, who did the Top 10 columns the first nine weeks of the season).
We have reached a hallowed point in the postseason, as nearly every coach preaches to his team about “practicing on Thanksgiving.” And in Oklahoma, for most of the classifications, it’s semifinal week.
We’re at the point in the playoffs where nearly every game features a must-see matchup with massive stakes. Six of the nine classifications are in the semifinal stage, with most of the heavy hitters still left in the brackets (with Coweta being the only top-ranked team having been knocked off).
While there are plenty of important games, including many that didn’t make the Top 10, there is one game that has top billing.
1. Jenks vs. Bixby, at Broken Arrow HS, 1 p.m. Friday (Class 6AI semifinals)
It’s the rematch we’ve been waiting for, a Round 2 of the game that had the entire state talking for several days.
Since Jenks snapped Bixby’s 58-game win streak at the beginning of the month, the teams are both unbeaten, but their quarterfinal games were won in different fashion. While Bixby plowed through Enid, 63-0, Jenks had to stage a miraculous comeback to top Mustang.
Are the teams’ trajectories headed in different directions and will that matter in the rematch? What did the Spartans learn from the loss in the regular season finale? Was the Trojans’ Week 10 victory a one-off or a sign that the gap between the Bixby machine and the rest of the state is shrinking?
We shall find out on Friday.
2. Edmond Deer Creek vs. Stillwater, at Ponca City HS, 7 p.m. Friday (Class 6AII semifinals)
Each team has made it to the state championship game in the past few years, but neither has won the 6AII title.
The quarterback matchup is intriguing to say the least. Grady Adamson has emerged as a legitimate star for the Antlers, while Gage Gundy has led the Pioneers to another unbeaten record, thanks in no small part to the exploits of running back Noah Roberts.
3. Muskogee vs. Choctaw, at East Central University in Ada, 7 p.m. Friday (Class 6AII semifinals)
With Bixby up in Class 6AI now, there’s actually some suspense as to who will take home the 6AII title, and these two teams have a great opportunity.
The Roughers beat Ponca City, 18-0, in the quarterfinals, a Ponca team that Choctaw beat, 42-13. This is also a battle of excellent quarterbacks in Muskogee sophomore Jamarian Ficklin and Choctaw senior Steele Wasel.
4. Midwest City Carl Albert vs. Grove, at Owasso HS, 7 p.m. Saturday (Class 5A semifinals)
Carl Albert made yet another statement last week by shutting out a highly rated Del City team. Running back Xavier Robinson set a single-season rushing record for the storied CA program, and he’s just one of the many weapons the Titans have.
But if there’s a running back in Class 5A who might be as good as Robinson, it’s Grove’s Emmanuel Crawford.
5. Elk City vs. Cushing, at Putnam City HS, 7 p.m. Friday (Class 4A semifinals)
A matchup between the top two teams in the Class 4A rankings. So why isn’t it ranked higher on this list?
That’s how loaded this week’s slate of games is. Also, it’s hard to tell just how good of a game this will be.
Cushing has looked utterly dominant all season long with a high-powered offense fueled by quarterback Blaze Berlowitz and receiver Camden Crooks. Meanwhile, the Elks run a more plodding, run-based offense, and are coming off a quarterfinal where they had to hold off Hilldale late.
Which team will prevail?
6. Poteau vs. Wagoner, at East Central University in Ada, 1 p.m. Friday (Class 4A semifinals)
Poteau survived a triple-overtime thriller against Clinton, while Wagoner won a slugfest against Tuttle.
Wagoner’s defense is for real, and made life tough on the Tuttle run game on Friday. How will the Bulldogs handle Poteau’s electrifying Dax Collins?
7. Tulsa Metro Christian vs. Tulsa Lincoln Christian, at Oologah HS, 7 p.m. Friday (Class 3A semifinals)
Two Tulsa private schools who have great offenses, led by very prolific passing games.
Luke Milligan has had an outstanding season (and playoffs) for the Bulldogs, while Kirk Francis hopes to continue his illustrious career for the Patriots. This could be an absolute fireworks show.
8. Tipton vs. Timberlake, at Alex HS, 7 p.m. Friday (Class C semifinals)
The 8-man boys get some love here, and if you know your Class C football, it’s easy to see why. You have the defending champs in Timberlake against the top-ranked team in Tipton.
Coach Travis White’s Tipton Tigers have a lethal run game with the two-headed monster of seniors Prince Dweh and Dakota Sheffield. Timberlake (also the Tigers) may technically be seen as the underdog, but keep in mind that Merric Judd and company gave Waynoka its toughest test of the year.
9. Verdigris vs. Oklahoma City Heritage Hall, at Prague HS, 7 p.m. Friday (Class 3A semifinals)
I could be wrong, but I would guess the Cardinals have plenty of coaches from public schools around 3A rooting for them to snap the dominance of the private school powers in the class. And this Verdigris team has the horses to do it.
Caden Parnell and Dylan White can do so much on offense, while Reese Roller is a beast on defense. Heritage Hall has a stingy defense and a pretty crisp offense led by Andy Bass and River Faulkner.
10. OKC Bishop McGuinness vs. McAlester, at Jenks HS, 7 p.m. Saturday (Class 5A semifinals)
This would have been higher on the list, but there’s a serious elephant in the room – the injury to Buffaloes’ star running back Erik McCarty in the quarterfinals against Piedmont. If he is unavailable, how will McAlester look on offense?
Meanwhile, McGuinness is coming off of an emotional upset of No. 1 Coweta. Can River Warren, Mike Taffe and the Irish keep that momentum rolling into the state championship game?
Honorable mention: Owasso vs. Tulsa Union (6AI semis), Idabel vs. Washington (Class 2A quarters), OKC Millwood vs. Claremore-Sequoyah (Class 2A quarters), Oklahoma Bible vs. Dewar (Class B quarters), Hominy vs. Hooker (Class A quarters).