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Verdigris senior Carson Calvert (14) breaks up a pass near the end zone to prevent a touchdown in the first half at Holland Hall on Oct. 30.

Welcome to the oddest high school football playoff party in Oklahoma history, Rogers County.

Despite the shadow of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic looming over the season, we made it through 11 grueling weeks of the regular season -- albeit plenty of cancellations and postponements -- to reach this point.

This time of uncertainty has provided many memorable occasions, though.

We saw Sequoyah end its 22-game losing streak and reach seven wins with a chance to win a district title in the final week.

We witnessed the return of the Battle of Rogers County three-team round robin between Claremore, Oologah and Catoosa.

We were left awestruck by countless impressive performances, including now-former Claremore running back DeShawn Kinnard rushing for 276 yards and three touchdowns against Oologah while Noah Smallwood snagged three interceptions and rushed for a score in the same game.

Now we're experiencing a postseason in which almost every team in the state -- 292 of 332, to be exact -- is taking part, regardless of their win counts.

Because of that decision by the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association, there are six teams representing Rogers County in the 2020 playoffs -- Claremore (5A), Oologah (4A), Verdigris (3A), Inola (3A), Chelsea (A) and Foyil (B).

That number could've been eight, but Sequoyah (2A) was forced to forfeit its first-round game against Morris because of COVID-19 issues, and Catoosa (4A) opted out of the opportunity after a winless regular-season campaign.

However, if not for this (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime adjustment, Oologah, Inola, Chelsea and Foyil would be checking in equipment this week and transitioning to basketball, wrestling and preseason baseball and track.

In other words, those four teams are living their second lives and have nothing to lose, becoming upset threats to any opponent in their paths.

Full brackets can be found at OSSAA.com, but here are the first-round matchups for teams in the Progress coverage area:

Class 5A: East Central (4-5) at Claremore (5-4)

 Class 4A: Oologah (3-5) at Sallisaw (4-4)

Class 3A: Verdigris (8-1) bye; Inola (4-5) at Checotah (4-5)

Class A: Chelsea (3-5) at Commerce (4-4)

Class B: Foyil (0-8) at Garber (6-2)

Most intriguing first-round matchups

Oologah at Sallisaw: Both teams have lost three of their last four but were fairly competitive against teams not named Wagoner or Poteau.

Sallisaw lost by a total of 12 points to No. 6 Hilldale and No. 9 Broken Bow, so Oologah will have to play perhaps its best game of the year to steal a win on the road.

Inola at Checotah: These programs entered the season with high-powered offenses, but Inola has lost its touch in recent weeks while Checotah found its stride and is averaging 36.2 points per game since Oct., including 73 points total against No. 5 Stigler and No. 11 Seminole in close losses.

Can the Longhorns keep pace?

East Central at Claremore: The Zebras have experienced a few valleys this year, but they are confident after taking No. 8 Pryor to the brink in overtime last week.

Meanwhile, East Central has lost five of its last six, all by double digits.

It'll be interesting to see if Claremore's offense, which is averaging only 21 points the past four games, can get going early and carry coach Jarrett Hurt to his third playoff victory.

Best potential matchup

Verdigris vs. Heritage Hall: A classic new money vs. old money matchup, Verdigris is learning about life at the top of the polls while Heritage Hall is looking to make a third state championship appearance in four years.

A win here would solidify the Cardinals as a legitimate contender and wipe away any lingering doubt left from that 52-7 loss at Holland Hall two weeks ago.

Toughest road

Verdigris: The road back to the semifinals and potentially beyond won't be easy for coach Travis East's team.

If Verdigris makes it past the Seminole/Berryhill winner next week, No. 3 Heritage Hall will be waiting in the quarterfinals. An upset of the Chargers would set up a date with No. 1 Lincoln Christian, and the ensuing state championship game could be a rematch with Holland Hall.

Taking down all three private-school powers in one postseason would be an astonishing feat. If the Cardinals end up the Class 3A champion, they will have certainly earned that prestigious title.

Oologah: The Mustangs' path might be just as difficult. A win over Sallisaw would immediately put them back in the crosshairs of No. 1 Wagoner, which beat them 48-0 on Oct. 23.

If Oologah somehow avenged that shutout loss, it would have to go through No. 4 Tuttle and No. 2 Weatherford to reach the title game, where it'd likely meet No. 5 Blanchard or defending champion No. 3 Poteau. Talk about running the gauntlet.

Easiest road

None: There isn't an "easy" road for any Rogers County team this year. Unless some major upsets (or cancellations) happen, every path leads to a highly touted opponent early in the bracket.

Nothing easy about that.

Just happy to be here

Foyil: The Panthers are 0-8 and wouldn't be anywhere near the playoffs under normal circumstances.

They haven't scored more than 14 points all year and are giving up 51 points per game.

Chelsea: Matt Hagebusch had his squad off to a 2-0 start, but success has been hard to come by since then.

The Green Dragons have lost five of their last six, including a 40-18 decision against Commerce -- their first-round opponent.

Dark horse/Championship contender

Verdigris: There is no need to mince words. Verdigris is the only Rogers County team that has a realistic shot at a state title.

The path might be tough, but with a little luck and an upset or two, the Cardinals could find themselves deep in the bracket.

Despite making it to the semifinals last year with a freshman quarterback, Verdigris is again flying under the radar, sitting at No. 6 in the final AP rankings of the season.

With a young core of talented players, anything is possible for this rising program.

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