DUNCAN — Every Monday during football season, I will take some time to examine the week that was.
Winners Expect to Win
It was a familiar scene Friday night.
The Velma-Alma Comets were trailing late in the fourth quarter, needing to come through on their final drive to pull out a victory.
It was a familiar result, too, as the Comets punched in a game-winning touchdown with 27 seconds left to beat Watonga and advance to the second round of the Class A playoffs.
Velma-Alma is 2-0 in games decided by seven points or fewer this season, also beating Elmore City-Pernell 30-25 on a late score.
The reason the Comets are so good in the clutch is simple: They expect to win the close ones.
These are many of the same athletes that went undefeated during basketball season all the way into the playoffs, and the same ones that cruised to a state track championship.
Coaches and administrators often use terms like “tradition of excellence,” “winning attitude,” or “a winning culture.” What all of those expressions really mean is that teams experienced in winning expect to win, and teams that expect to win, usually do.
It’s the marker all ball carriers are measured against: 1,000 yards in a season.
In their final games of the year, two more area players came up big and reached that achievement on Friday night.
Duncan junior running back Je’Mario McCoy gave Bishop McGuinness fits all night as he ran for 185 yards, capping his season with 1,024 yards.
Empire sophomore running back/receiver/quarterback Dillon Twigg exploded for 198 yards to cap his breakout season with 1,148 yards rushing.
The two join Dallen Mercer (Velma-Alma), Kevin Harris (Central High), Austin Masoner (Waurika) and Kale Reed (Comanche) as members of this year’s 1,000-yard club.
To be frank, I wasn’t expecting a close game on Friday as I traveled to Oklahoma City to watch Duncan take on Bishop McGuinness.
Duncan’s a good team, don’t get me wrong, but we’re talking about McGuinness, a team favored by many to win the Class 5A state title just two weeks ago (prior to a Week 10 loss to Deer Creek). On top of that, it was an Irish squad that beat Guthrie 32-0, the same Guthrie team that beat Duncan 43-0 in Week 1.
Yet, with just a few minutes left on the clock Friday night, Duncan had the ball and a chance to tie the game or even take the lead.
The Demons were hoping for a win, of course, but to play neck-and-neck with a team that could easily win the state title is something to be proud of and applauded for. The improvement they showed from the start of the season was astounding, which speaks to the quality of the coaches and to the character of the players.
Three area teams brought in new head coaches this season, and none had easy tasks.
On Friday night, though, two of those teams were still playing football.
Central High’s Darren Lamar was hired just weeks before the start of the season, but got players to buy into the system, go 7-4 and reach the playoffs.
Marlow’s Rob Renshaw took over a program coming off a 1-9 season and quickly instilled toughness that carried them all the way to the postseason.
After each week I will update, who I think is in the running for Area Player of the Year, the same way that analysts debate who is in the running for the Heisman Award after each week of college football.
The two frontrunners for the Area Player of the Year award didn’t disappoint in the first round of the playoffs.
Central High junior running back Kevin Harris took on one of the best defenses in the state and once again proved just how talented he is, rushing for 141 yards and a lengthy touchdown against No. 1 Laverne.
Velma-Alma senior running back Dallen Mercer, meanwhile did his best Clark Kent impression, swooping in to save the day (and the Comet’s season). Mercer, who has stepped up for the Comets whenever things have gotten dire this season, punched in the third of his three touchdowns with 27 seconds left, lifting Velma-Alma to a 52-48 win over Watonga. He finished with 217 yards rushing..
Greg Crews is sports editor of The Duncan Banner. He can be reached at 580-255-5354, Ext. 143 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.