Skip to main content

Norman North advances past Edmond North in opener of Oklahoma Class 6AI playoffs

Owen Eshelman accounts for three total TDs in Timberwolves' triumph
  • Author:
  • Publish date:

NORMAN, OKLAHOMA - After Norman North ended Edmond North's season Friday night and things got out of hand, coaches from both teams turned their players in opposite directions. 

There would be no handshakes after heated words were exchanged by players from both teams.

"I wanted to get them off the field and get them in (the locker room) and get them settled down," Norman North head coach Justin Jones said after the Timberwolves escaped with a 30-17 win in a Class 6AI first-round playoff game that was closer than the final score indicated.

Norman North (9-2) trailed 14-10 after three quarters, but scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns, including one on a fourth-down run by quarterback Owen Eshelman that went for 33 yards with time running out to put the game out of reach.

"We have to keep our composure," Jones said. "Obviously, a lot of emotions out there on the field. A tight ball game.

"Hat's off to Edmond North, and the way that they played. They played an extremely physical game and did some really good things."

Oklahoma high school football Top 25 rankings (11/8/2023)

The Huskies (3-8) fell behind early, but battled back to take the lead and might have pulled off the upset if a fourth-quarter interception that was returned 78 yards for a touchdown by free safety Reese McManis wasn't called back because of a roughing the passer penalty.

The penalty gave Norman North a first down on the Huskies' 11-yard line. Eshelman scored four plays later on a 1-yard keeper to extend a 17-14 T-Wolves lead to 23-14 after the extra point was blocked with 6:51 remaining.

Edmond North quarterback Pryce Bender passed for 217 yards, including a 50-yard scoring pass to Kaden Dickman to give the Huskies their first lead of the game. The visitors also scored on a double pass from Reece Fisher to Cade Karbs to pull to within three, 10-7.

"From the bottom of my heart, I love you guys," Edmond North head coach Carter Whitson told his players. "I'm so freaking proud of you guys. I'm so proud to be your coach. I hate that result.

"Young guys, remember this feeling. Seniors, keep leading these guys because you feel it right now and they don't know how bad you feel."

Eshelman, a junior, completed 16-of-23 passes for 158 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 99 yards rushing and two scores.

Norman North QB Owen Eshelman making huge strides after emergency start in last season's playoffs 

"That was fantastic complimentary football," he said. "Our defense was getting stops, and our offense came back and scored a touchdown to put us up.

"We just kept putting stops together. There were some ups and downs throughout the game, but at the end of the day it was just playing together, and we didn't give up on each other."

The T-Wolves got big performances on defense from Curtis Miller — who picked off Bender twice — and Garrison Utley, who recorded a sack and two tackles for loss, including one to force a turnover on downs.

Miller returned his first interception 39 yards to the Edmond North 29-yard line. Four plays later, Eshelman threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Zain Prater to put the T-Wolves up, 10-0, with 9:33 left in the second quarter.

"It's really big, it's definitely a game-changer," Miller said of his second two-interception game of the season. "It really helped the team out a lot."

Miller's second interception came with 5:33 left in the game and Norman North leading 23-14. The T-Wolves, however, gave the ball right back on a fumble by wide receiver Mason James that was recovered by Edmond North cornerback Mathew Breath.

A late hit on the play gave the Huskies a first down on the Norman North 16-yard line. But the defense stiffened and Edmond North had to settle for a 27-yard field goal by McManis to cut the lead to six, 23-17, with 2:41 left in the game.

Norman North recovered the onside kick at the 50-yard line and bled the clock before Eshelman's fourth-down keeper went for 33 yards and a touchdown with nine ticks left on the clock.

The Timberwolves will move on to next week's 6AI quarterfinal round, traveling to Owasso to face the Rams, who had an opening-round bye Friday.

Photo of Norman North QB Owen Eshelman (10) by Michael Kinney 

-- Tim Willert | @SBLiveOK