– BY MICHAEL KNIGHT
#1 CARL ALBERT (13-0) VS #3 ARDMORE (13-0)
One team will be walking away with a gold ball and a perfect season after squaring off on Friday night. Carl Albert ended Collinsville’s perfect season a week ago in the semifinals and will look to do the same to Ardmore. For the Tigers, this is a team that won’t just be happy to be in the championship game, they want to win the whole thing. Winning the gold ball is all they want but snapping Carl Albert’s 35-game winning streak is an added bonus.
Ardmore opened the season in dominating fashion with blowout wins over all three non-district opponents. They beat Ada, Durant and McAlester and weren’t really tested as they ran away with all three wins. They opened district play against perennial powerhouse Lawton MacArthur, in a game that very well could have been a trap game with a showdown with Altus coming the following week. However, the Tigers rolled to a 40-14 win over the Highlanders. The following week, they shut down Altus and beat the Bulldogs 21-6 in a highly anticipated match-up. Ardmore couldn’t slow down as the following week they faced an El Reno team that was one of the more improved teams in the state. They would get out with a 14-point win. After a shutout win over Southeast, the only test Ardmore would have the rest of the way would be a Fall Break match-up with Duncan. They made quick work of the Demons with a 34-7 win. The Tigers would roll the following two weeks and lock up the district championship in impressive fashion. Ardmore would open up the playoffs with a dominating win over Piedmont. The next week they welcomed a red-hot Coweta team to town and quickly put them down with a 48-13. That put the Tigers into the semifinals yet again. Desperate to end their recent bad luck in semifinal games, the Tigers jumped out to an early lead on Bishop Kelley and held off a late rally from the Comets. Ardmore would knock off the Comets, clinching their spot in the state title game.
Carl Albert came into the 2018 season as the preseason favorite with a 22-game winning streak. The Titans had won the last two 5A state championships and despite having to replace some absolute playmakers, the Titans were still the heavy favorite to win again. Carl Albert certainly had their work cut out for them in the first two weeks. They opened their season with back to back rivalry games. They beat Midwest City 28-21 in the season opener. However, they lost star running back Rabbit Taylor near the end of that game. Without Rabbit, the Titans nearly lost the following week against another rival in Del City. However, the Titans still prevailed with a 32-31 overtime win. From there, the Titans shut down everyone. They gave up 52 points in the first two weeks of the season. Over the last eight weeks of the regular season, the Titans would give up just 37 points. That included going on the road and shutting out Guthrie 21-0. They also beat rival Bishop McGuinness in the final week with a 20-14 win in a head to head clash for the district title. The Titans were tested in the first round of the playoffs. They were tied at 7 with El Reno after two quarters. They would outscore the Indians 21-0 in the second half to run away with the win. The following week, they would face Claremore in the quarterfinals for the second straight year. The result would be the same as Carl Albert rolled to a 42-6 win over the Zebras. That set up a 1 VS 2 showdown with Collinsville in the semifinals. Nobody had been able to score on this Cardinal defense. Carl Albert put up 37 points in a runaway win. The Titans are back to back champs, they’ve won 35 straight, and head coach Mike Corley is 27-0 all time as Titan head coach.
When you look at this match-up, the game may be decided by one simple thing. Can Ardmore run the football? Carl Albert has one of the best defenses in the state and they’re going up against the Ardmore option attack. And when you talk about that Ardmore option attack, things start and finish with the play of quarterback Tero Roberts. We’ve written about Roberts a few times this season and the consensus when we write about him is how dangerous is he is as an athlete. He makes the Ardmore option attack go and more times than not, when he’s on the field, he’s the absolute best athlete on that field. Roberts has an experienced offensive line in front of him that opens things up for the dynamic runner. He also has plenty of playmakers around him that can break games wide open. However, when you’re looking at this match-up, you can’t help but see the potential that Roberts has and how he completely change the complexion of this game if he gets into the open field.
And while Carl Albert’s defensive unit has the potential to play shutdown defense, the Titans have an absolute star at running back with Dadrion “Rabbit” Taylor. The dynamic senior was one of the best last year as a junior and has only continued to get better this year as a senior. Despite missing time earlier in the year with a knee injury, Taylor is still among the state’s best at reaching the end zone. Taylor missed five games and has still ran for over 20 touchdowns on the year. And Rabbit is coming off one of the best performances of his career. In their semifinal win over Collinsville, Taylor couldn’t be stopped against one of the state’s best defenses. Taylor ran for over 300 yards and scored all five touchdowns in their win over the Cardinals. What was most impressive was Taylor continuing to get stronger as the game went on. While other players got tired, Taylor kept his pace. He ran for over 200 yards alone after halftime.
Carl Albert holds an all time record of 16-7 against Ardmore. The Titans and the Tigers met in non-district play during the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Carl Albert would sweep the Tigers in both match-up’s. This will be the 8th time that these two teams have met up in the playoffs. Carl Albert holds a slight 4-3 advantage over Ardmore in playoff meetings. However, the Tigers have won the last two match-up’s in the postseason. Overall, the Titans have won two straight and three of the last four. Before meeting in non-district play recently, you have to go back to 2011 to find the last time these storied 5A programs squared off.
Ardmore: For the first time since 1992, the Ardmore Tigers are heading to the state championship game. The Tigers have been one of the best teams in Class 5A over the last decade but they’ve been hungry for that first title game appearance in nearly three decades. Before Friday’s win over Bishop Kelley, Ardmore had lost their previous five appearances in the semifinals. Ardmore won that 1992 state title and also brought home a gold ball in 1990. They have a 3-2 record in state title games. They lost their first two appearances but have won three straight since.
Carl Albert: Two-time defending champion Carl Albert returns to the state title game for the 15th time in school history and the fourth time in seven years. The Titans are seemingly a lock to make it to the title game once they reach the semifinals. The Titans are now 15-0 all time in semifinal contests, a remarkable record for an outstanding program. While the Titans are simply perfect in semifinal games, they’re nearly perfect when playing for the gold ball as well. Carl Albert is a remarkable 13-1 in state championship games. The only loss came in 2008.
Who You Got?