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Claremore senior receiver Brooks Sherl (4) tries to avoid Pryor linebacker Bobby Belew (28) during the Battle of Highway 20 rivalry game last week at Lantow Field. Pryor won 22-21 in overtime.

We have reached that point in the season where four words loom large over the entire playoff field – win or go home.

This is significant not only because it is the postseason, but also because that mindset hasn’t been present the past few weeks. It was more of an “exist and advance” mentality because every team was guaranteed a spot in the playoffs if they desired an opportunity.

That still applies to some extent, though, because teams that finished fifth through eighth in their districts have been granted second chances, and in some cases three chances.

Morris, which placed sixth in District 2A-7, was one of those programs gifted a third opportunity. However, it unfortunately came at the expense of a program here in Rogers County.

Sequoyah had two players test positive for COVID-19 earlier this week, forcing it to forfeit its first playoff game since 2017.

It was a tough pill to swallow for the Eagles, who ended a 22-game losing streak this year and finished the regular season with a 7-2 record. They even came within one game of the District 2A-8 championship.

According to masseyratings.com, Sequoyah had an 86% chance to defeat Morris and advance to play No. 10 Beggs in the second round. I would’ve picked Sequoyah by a score of 35-9 in this week’s column.

Instead, coach Rob Gilbreath’s squad is sitting at home while Morris prepares for a Beggs team that already beat it 60-0 just two weeks ago.

It is a heartbreaking scenario that no program deserves. Especially not Sequoyah after giving us such a feel-good story this season.

As of Thursday morning, eleven playoff games across the state have canceled for similar reasons, but none are more disappointing than the Eagles’ fate. That is because in the 10 other games called off, the higher-seeded home teams – aka the favorites – advanced.

Sequoyah didn’t get that luxury, and though it wasn’t a state title contender in Class 2A, the integrity of the playoffs is hurt by situations like this. You always want the best teams playing each other.

Luckily, there remain six games involving Rogers County teams this week, including a state championship game. Let’s start there by leaving the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association ranks for a moment to delve into the Heartland Christian Athletic Association.

At 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Bridge Creek High School, Claremore Christian takes on Destiny Christian for the HCAA Class 3A state championship.

Both teams enter the game with one loss while scoring boatloads of points. The Wildcats (8-1) average 57.9 points per game while the Warriors (8-1) come in at a 46.1 average.

Their defenses are similarly dominant, with Destiny Christian allowing 23.6 points and Claremore Christian surrendering 21.8 points.

However, it appears the Wildcats have played better competition this season.

They beat an always competitive Alex 46-28, thumped Wellston – which averages 50 points per game – by a 68-22 count and hung tight with three-time defending Class B champion Shattuck in a respectable 40-24 loss.

Meanwhile, CCS lost 52-6 to the best team it played all year, Barnsdall.

Level of competition makes a difference, and that major edge in strength of schedule will show up in this matchup and carry Destiny Christian to the championship … Destiny Christian 52, Claremore Christian 21

CLAREMORE 39, East Central 21: The Zebra offense is averaging only 21 points the past four games, but it should be able to get going early in this one. East Central has lost five of its past six, surrendering 44.2 points per game during that stretch while managing only 16.8 itself.

COMMERCE 42, Chelsea 20: These teams met back on Sept. 11, with Commerce winning comfortably at 40-18 on the road. That loss sent Chelsea into a tailspin, for it entered that game 2-0 but now sits at 3-5.

There is no reason to believe the result will be any different this time around, especially with the Tigers playing at home.

CHECOTAH 35, Inola 18: These programs entered the season with high-powered offenses, but Inola has lost its touch in recent weeks while Checotah found its stride.

The Wildcats are averaging 36.2 points per game since October, including 73 points total against No. 5 Stigler and No. 11 Seminole in close losses. The Longhorns are averaging only 14.8 points during that span and have lost four of their past five, allowing 30.5 points per game.

At that rate, I don’t think Inola can keep pace with Checotah.

SALLISAW 28, Oologah 19: Both teams have lost three of past 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 while Oologah topped a decent Cleveland team 35-28.

The Mustangs will have to play perhaps their best game of the year to steal a win on the road, and though it’ll be close, the Black Diamonds have fared too well against quality opponents to pick against them.

GARBER 56, Foyil 8: 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.

Garber, however, has a 6-2 record and owns double-digit victories over two teams that routed Foyil. The Wolverines topped Depew 64-14 and Barnsdall 42-30 while Foyil lost to those common opponents 52-6 and 44-8, respectively.

Need I write more?

Last week’s record: 7-0

Overall record: 59-10 (85.5%)

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