By Jonathan Deal
Win and you’re in. That’s what’s at stake tonight between Ardmore and DAR. This Class 4A Region 7 contest will determine the fourth and final playoff spot in the region. With such high stakes, Ardmore coach Shannon Brown doesn’t have to say much to motivate his players entering tonight’s game.
“If you win, you go to the postseason, if you lose you go home,” Brown said. “It’s about doing something that hasn’t been done since 2006. Every successful team has to start somewhere. This could be the start of something really big for Ardmore. It has created a lot of excitement.”
All that excitement is for good reason. Ardmore hasn’t had a winning season or made the playoffs in six years. With one game remaining on the region slate, Ardmore controls its own fate. Something the school hasn’t had at this point in the season since 2006.
“We haven’t been in this situation where we control our own destiny,” said Brown, who is in his fourth year as head coach. “I’m telling the guys to do what we’ve been doing. Forget about what we did last week. We can achieve something very special.”
With a chance to clinch a playoff spot last week at Madison County, Ardmore was humbled against one of the best teams in the state. But DAR is not No. 6 in Madison County. The Patriots lost to the region champs 54-0 two weeks ago. Still, DAR has plenty to play for. A win would give the Patriots their first-ever postseason berth.
Ardmore won’t make it easy for the visitors, which began playing football in 2006. The Tigers are undefeated on their home field and have dominated visiting teams with a powerful running game and stingy defense.
“It all starts up front,” Brown said. “Three of the starting five on the offensive line are freshmen. There is a lot to be said for that. We’ve had pretty good success running the ball. Any time you can run the ball and stop the run, you’re going to have success.”
Ardmore is averaging an astonishing 311 yards rushing in its five wins this season while holding opponents to 217 total yards in those games. The recipe for running the football and stopping the run has worked for the Tigers, who sit at 5-3 overall entering tonight’s
“I didn’t know where we would be at the start because of how young they were,” Brown said. “The kids have worked hard to get here. We’ve finally had some leadership this year. We’ve been behind in some football games and to come back and win.”
One of those leaders is senior running back Tyler McCarley, who began the year as somewhat of an unknown following the departure of All-County back Gavin Calder.
“We were a one-headed monster with Gavin,” said Brown. “Our quarterback, Garret Miller, has done a good job of controlling the game. We don’t throw the ball that much, but when we do, we are effective.”
McCarley has averaged more than 100 yards on the ground this season and scored 10 touchdowns. The senior, along with running backs Ricky Lowery and Zach Ellis have teamed up to form one of the most dynamic rushing attacks in school history. With everything on the line tonight against DAR, expect all three backs to get plenty of carries.
No matter who gets the ball, Ardmore will hope to get the same result as the first meeting between these teams. That game was played exactly six years ago on Oct. 26, 2006.
A 28-7 Ardmore win sent the Tigers to playoffs for the second time in three years. At kickoff tonight, Ardmore and its fans will hope history repeats itself.