What COVID-19 taketh, let the Progress giveth anew.
This high school football season has been a nutty and challenging one to say the least, and we're officially in the home stretch as teams across the state prepare for semifinals (6A-I, 6A-II), quarterfinals (5A, 4A, 3A, C) and the Sweet 16 (2A, A, B). The contenders are starting to separate themselves as the pretenders are being sent home.
However, some programs — contenders or otherwise — have had their postseason opportunities stripped too soon because of COVID-19. Claremore and Sequoyah are among those that were forced to forfeit playoff games before they were played.
The Eagles were hit first, conceding their Class 2A first-round contest against Morris. A week later, the Zebras suffered a similar fate only 28 hours before kickoff against Class 5A No. 3 Coweta.
Fewer teams mean fewer football coverage opportunities for me to provide the loyal subscribers and followers of the Progress.
Of the nine programs in Rogers County, only Verdigris remains.
That unfortunate reality gave me an idea.
Although our coverage area mainly encompasses schools firmly located in Rogers County, there are several educational establishments just outside county lines.
Those include Owasso, Collinsville and Lincoln Christian, which sport a combined record of 31-0 this season and have a great chance to win their respective state championships this year.
So, in the spirit of giving and the holiday season, I am proud to announce I am temporarily adding those three schools to our football coverage the remainder of the playoffs. Had Pryor won its game last week, it would've also made the cut.
The rationale of this decision makes sense.
For one, parts of Owasso and Collinsville are in Rogers County. The only thing keeping the Rams and the Cardinals out of our permanent coverage plans is the fact that the actual schools are located in Tulsa County.
We do, however, have subscribers in both cities.
Furthermore, two former Claremore football players — DeShawn Kinnard and Seth Hammer — now compete for Owasso. If nothing else, that is an undeniable local tie to athletes our readers are familiar with.
As for Lincoln Christian, it is a private school located less than a mile west of Catoosa and the Rogers County border.
Because it isn't limited by school district lines, students living in Rogers County and other surrounding areas make up the school's enrollment. That means athletes from within our coverage area play for the Bulldogs.
Convenient, I know.
Now that you know my reasoning for making this move, I should update you on how those three schools have fared this football season.
• OWASSO (11-0, 6A-I)
The Rams have won two of the past three state championships in the state's biggest class, and they are favored to repeat with a second-consecutive undefeated season.
Owasso, coached by Bill Blankenship, hasn't allowed more than 22 points in a game all year and is averaging 37.6 points.
Austin Havens is the leader of the offense despite being only a sophomore, throwing for 1,910 yards and 23 touchdowns with five interceptions while also rushing for four scores.
Kinnard, who transfered to the Rams after rushing for 276 yards and three touchdowns in Claremore's win over Oologah on Sept. 11, is the team's second-leading rusher at 331 yards and three touchdowns on 31 carries — 10.7 yards per carry — despite playing only six games. He has also caught four passes for 117 yards and two scores.
Hammer, a fellow former Zebra, has thrown for 161 yards and two touchdowns on 9-of-13 passing through seven games of action.
Defensively, Owasso has notched 27 sacks while forcing 23 turnovers, including 16 interceptions. Gage Laney has 11 of those picks.
Up next: Owasso vs. Jenks, at Broken Arrow (Class 6A-I semifinals)
• COLLINSVILLE (10-0, 5A)
The Cardinals advanced straight to the quarterfinals after consecutive COVID-19 forfeits from their opponents, but they certainly deserve to be there.
Led by quarterback Andrew Carney, Collinsville is pumping out 51.4 points per game and hasn't scored less than 55 points since defeating Claremore 34-6 on Oct. 9.
Carney, a junior, has thrown for 20 touchdowns and rushed for another 21 scores. His passing yards aren't available, but he has rushed for 1,390 yards and is averaging 10.1 yards per carry.
Running back Brayden Gilkey has also surpassed 1,000 yards on the ground to go along with 11 touchdowns.
The pair combined for 430 yards and five touchdowns in the win over Claremore.
Up next: Guthrie at Collinsville (Class 5A quarterfinals)
• LINCOLN CHRISTIAN (10-0, 3A)
The Bulldogs lost a lot of talent from last year’s state championship team, but they haven't dropped off one bit.
Lincoln Christian is outscoring opponents by an average of 50.4-9.5, tallying 61 points or more in five games.
The only time it was significantly challenged was on Sept. 18 when Class 2A No. 6 Jones came to town. The Longhorns held a 21-7 halftime lead, but the Bulldogs rattled off 28 unanswered points in the second half for a 35-21 win.
Max Brown is a dominant dual-threat quarterback for Lincoln Christian, racking up 2,344 yards of offense and 37 touchdowns.
The junior has thrown for 1,484 yards and 26 touchdowns with three interceptions, completing 76.5% of his passes. Brown is also the team's leading rusher at 860 yards — 7.8 yards per carry — and 11 scores.
His favorite target, Kolbe Katsis, has pulled down 40 receptions for 1,045 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Elsewhere, the Bulldogs have forced 27 turnovers through 10 games.
FYI — We could have a Verdigris-Lincoln Christian showdown in the semifinals next week.
Up next: Anadarko at Lincoln Christian (Class 3A quarterfinals)