And then there was one.
Twelve weeks of thrilling high school football action have come and gone, and only one of the three Rogers County teams that made the playoffs remains alive in the hunt for a coveted Gold Ball.
That honor belongs to Verdigris of Class 3A.
The seventh-ranked Cardinals crushed Idabel, 41-6, in the first round last week, but advancing won’t be as easy from here on out.
Idabel entered the contest having lost three of its last four while scoring only 27 points during that stretch. Verdigris predictably took care of business.
However, the Cardinals’ quarterfinals opponent is much more accomplished.
No. 4 Perkins-Tryon enters the contest with a five-game winning streak and a 10-1 record. Its only loss came in a 28-21 decision against defending champion Heritage Hall on Oct. 11.
Meanwhile, Verdigris (9-2) is 7-0 since losing to Cascia Hall, 35-28, on Sept. 27.
The winner of Friday night’s matchup, which kicks off at 7 p.m. at Cardinals Stadium, would set up a semifinal showdown with the victor of No. 3 Plainview versus No. 8 Checotah.
So, who has the advantage?
Let’s start with the offenses.
Verdigris is averaging just over 218 yards per game and 6.1 yards per carry on the ground with 40 touchdowns.
In nine games, freshman Caden Parnell has 725 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns on 105 carries.
Carson Cook, a junior, is next in line, but he averages less than six carries per game. He does, however, manage 7.3 yards per carry and has scored five times.
Perkins-Tryon is a run-first team, with nearly 70 percent of its yardage output coming from its rushing attack.
Led by running back Ayron Lawson and quarterback Austin Mages, the Demons have rushed for 2,563 yards and 38 touchdowns this season.
Both average more than 100 yards per game, but Lawson leads the way with 1,257 yards and 13 touchdowns on only 156 carries.
Taking advantage of designed quarterback runs and run-pass options, Mages has 1,116 yards and 24 touchdowns on 203 carries.
Collectively, the pair manages about 6.6 yards per carry and 215.7 yards per game.
The Cardinals replaced senior quarterback Hayden Jones with freshman Dylan White, and the decision seems to have paid off thus far.
White saw time behind center late in games early on, but his first start came against Jay on Oct. 11.
Despite having only five starts, White has already thrown for 1,173 yards and 12 touchdowns with three interceptions, completing 58.7 percent of his passes.
Jones, who missed nearly the entire month of October with an injury, has 1,000 yards passing to his name along with 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions on 43-of-81 passing.
Toby Willis is the favorite target for both quarterbacks, and it isn’t even close.
The senior has snagged 56 receptions for 1,208 yards and 18 touchdowns, logging 109.8 yards per game.
The second-leading receiver is Ty Moore with 17 receptions for 295 yards and two touchdowns.
Kaleson Marshall (193) and Sloan Roller (148) are the only other receivers with more than 100 yards.
In all, Verdigris has the second-highest scoring offense in Class 3A with 45.45 points per game, behind only No. 2 Lincoln Christian (51.45).
Perkins-Tryon throws less than 15 passes per game on average, but it is efficient.
Mages has completed 93 of his 158 attempts for 1,119 yards and 16 touchdowns with four interceptions.
One of those interceptions was returned for the game-winning score with 11 seconds remaining against No. 1 Heritage Hall.
He spreads the ball around well, too, with four receivers tallying 10 or more receptions. Another five have no less than five catches.
Colby Anderson leads the Demons in yards and receptions with 236 yards and three touchdowns on 22 catches.
Next is Teegan Shepherd with 13 receptions for 204 yards and three touchdowns.
Caleb Smith (175), Gannon McCutchen (138) and Cole Aldridge (106) are all over 100 yards receiving as well, combining for six touchdowns.
Perkins-Tryon sports a top-10 scoring offense as well, averaging 35.4 points per game.
As potent as both these offenses are, defense might be the deciding factor.
The Demons boast the second-ranked defense in Class 3A, holding opponents to about 10.2 points per game. Heritage Hall tops the list at 6.5 points allowed per game.
In fact, they held Sulphur, which averaged 37 points per game during the regular season, to only six points in the first round of the playoffs.
Perkins-Tryon has allowed more than 13 points only twice all season.
Treyson Dunigan has a lot to do with that, averaging 11.3 tackles per game with 79 total (38 solo, 41 assisted). However, he hasn’t played since a 14-6 victory over John Marshall on Nov. 1.
Kendrick Bell is close behind, though, with 71 tackles (41 solo, 30 assisted), while Shepherd (66 tackles, 2 sacks), Lawson (52 tackles), Alton Allen (50 tackles, 7 sacks), Luke Myers (48 tackles), Conner Williams (37 tackles, 8 sacks) and McCutchen (34 tackles, 5 sacks) all average four or more tackles per game.
Perkins-Tryon has 39 sacks and 40 tackles for loss on the year to go along with 14 interceptions and 12 fumble recoveries.
Lawson (4), Aldridge (4), Smith (3) and Anderson (2) accounted for all but one of the 14 interceptions, while Bell, Myers and Hayden Hurst each have two fumble recoveries.
The Cardinals’ defense sits just outside the top 10, surrendering 18.45 points per game.
Verdigris gave up 84 points total in losses to Sperry and Cascia Hall but hasn’t allowed more than 23 points since.
Roller is the team’s leading tackler with 94 takedowns (61 solo, 33 assisted) and six sacks.
Dylan Collins has 81 tackles (26 solo, 55 assisted) and three sacks, while Alek Hess has tallied 73 (45 solo, 28 assisted) and a team-best 10 sacks.
Elsewhere, Eli Runyan (49 tackles, 6 sacks), Evan Raines (43 tackles, 2 sacks), Reese Roller (42 tackles, 6 sacks), Kyle Pickens (42 tackles, 1 sack) and Carson Calvert (36 tackles) are also forces on the Cardinal defense.
In all, Verdigris has 39 sacks, 126 tackles for loss, 23 interceptions and 14 fumble recoveries.
Jones (4), Willis (4), Calvert (3), Moore (3), Marshall (2) and Brock Fugate (2) have multiple interceptions.
Pickens (3), Collins (2) and Sloan Roller (2) are the most likely to scoop up loose balls.
Perkins-Tryon has the slight edge following touchdowns because kicker Mads Arberg has made 51 of 52 point-after attempts.
Giovani Vergara-soto has notched 29 of 31 extra points for Verdigris, and Jax Ryan is 8-of-10.
The Cardinals do have slightly more kickoff return and punt return yards, though.
Punting wise, Verdigris’ Moore averages 32.3 yards per kick with a long of 47. Aldridge manages only 24.7 yards with a long of 44.
Neither team has recorded field goal stats.
This is by far the best season in quite some time for both these teams, and it is a shame they must meet so early in the playoffs.
Verdigris coach Travis East is looking to make school history by leading the program to its first semifinals appearance, while Perkins-Tryon, led by coach Bruce Williams, is trying to reach that stage for the first time since 2000.
Both teams have been phenomenal on offense and defense, but the Demons’ defense will limit the Cardinals just enough to earn the win late in a close game.
Prediction: Perkins-Tryon 28, Verdigris 22