Special to the Grove Sun
AFTON — Don’t expect Afton to just phone in the results tonight when they battle 2-8 Barnsdall in the first round of the Class A football playoffs.
“We don’t want to count our chickens before they’ve hatched, but the kids have put themselves in a good position to win,” head coach Zach Gardner said. “Now we just need to go win.”
While the fifth-ranked Eagles have become just the fifth team in AHS history to go unbeaten and are averaging 44.7 points a game, they still have to shake a jinx that has seen them exit in the first round in four of the previous five years.
Barnsdall’s two wins are the fewest for a team in the 2010 playoffs.
It is one of 10 teams in post-season play with losing records. The other nine have twice as many wins as the Panthers.
The victories came back-to-back against Yale (32-6) and Drumright (13-12).
The win over Drumright got the Panthers into post-season play for the first time since 2004 and broke a four-way logjam for the No. 4 slot in District A-7.
“We beat Liberty, Yale beat Liberty (20-19), we beat Yale and Drumright beat Liberty (30-10) and Yale (18-14), then we beat Drumright … and get in on head-to-head wins by one point,” first-year Barnsdall head coach Marlon Houston said.
Three of the Panthers’ losses were by a total of 15 points — 21-13 to Caney Valley, 13-7 at Oklahoma Union and 7-6 to Liberty.
Despite having seven seniors, the Panthers are still very young, Houston said. He’s got freshmen at quarterback, slot and at two offensive line spots.
“I like our match-up,” Gardner said. “They are a team that is going to throw the ball on us. It will put our secondary to the test and hopefully we can get a good pass rush on him.
“They are young up front,” he said. “I think that is where we will win it, in the trenches. They have a couple of freshmen starting as linemen, nobody really huge. I like our match-up there. That is where a lot of games are won, especially in the post-season.”
Afton has ridden the one-two punch of Matt Wisdom and Brennon Fuser.
Wisdom, a senior, has been one of the state’s leaders with 1,400 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Fuser, a junior, has thrown for 1,427 yards and 25 scores.
But Gardner said the Eagle offensive line — Brooks Victor at left tackle, Austin Johnson at left tackle, Bo Johnston at center, Jacob Atchison at right guard, Dillon Johnson at right tackle and Jacob Mustain at tight end — has had a lot to do with that success.