Oklahoma high school football: Carl Albert, Bishop McGuinness a Class 5A rivalry to remember
Mike Corley gathered his team around after the dominant semifinal win over Collinsville on Friday night.
Headed to the Class 5A state championship game, the Carl Albert football coach knew he’d be preparing the Titans to become the fifth program in Oklahoma history to win five consecutive state championships. He also had a good idea that standing in the way of the accomplishment would be a familiar foe, one that is loaded with talented players.
So, he gave them one message.
“You’ve got to prepare to win,” Corley told his team. “You’ve got to go win it. None of the other games matter as far as what happened in the past whether they won or we won, it doesn’t matter. This is a new game and you have to prepare for what they do now.”
With a come-from-behind win against McAlester on Friday, Bishop McGuinness cemented its chance at another state title matchup against Carl Albert. For the two powerhouse programs, it will be the fourth time they have met each other for the Class 5A title in the past five seasons.
“It’s been a long-standing rivalry,” Bishop McGuinness coach Bryan Pierce said. “But they’ve come out on the winning side obviously the last several times so it’s one of those deals where we need to come out and take advantage of what they do and see if we can get them this time.”
Oklahoma fans have seen state championship runs between two powerhouse programs before. Such as Midwest City and Tulsa Washington in the 1960s and ’70s, Clinton and Ada in the ’90s, and most recently Jenks and Union in the 2000s. Each series has offered fans and everyone involved memories that are filled with happiness, excitement and sometimes despair. And even though it’s been a one-sided result, the Carl Albert and McGuinness series will join the history as one for many Oklahoma football enthusiasts to remember.
“It shows the dynasties that Bishop is building and we’re building,” Carl Albert senior quarterback Ben Harris said. “They win, we win, we always seem to meet each other and it’s always that big game. But it’s honestly a great experience.”
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Jenks coach Keith Riggs remembers experiencing the Jenks-Union series and what it was like preparing for the big game nearly every season. Serving as the defensive assistant from 2003-09 and then the defensive coordinator through 2010-17 before becoming the head coach, Riggs has spent many years in the thick of the rivalry.
“You know each other so well when you go into a matchup that there aren’t a whole lot of surprises as far as what the teams do,” Riggs said. “When you’re in the heat of the moment trying to prepare that week for the game it’s a lot of sleepless nights, a lot of long hours trying to figure out a way to gain some advantage and to make sure your team is prepared as it can be.”
Just like his eastside counterpart, McGuinness' Pierce understands the battle he is preparing for. Carl Albert is undefeated in the playoffs and has only lost two regular-season games during Corley’s four-year tenure.
The Titans are even more stingy with their losses in the state title game. In 16 state championship appearances, only once have the Titans failed to win the big trophy. Tulsa Washington the lone team getting the best of Carl Albert with a 28-17 win in 2008.
But Pierce has one thing going for him.
Like those Tulsa Washington teams had a speedy quarterback in Eric Bennett, McGuinness fields a quarterback with similar big-play ability.
“He’s been in the big games,” Pierce said of Tarman. “Now as a senior, he’s really taken this team on his shoulders and he’s just separated himself in his class as far as an athlete goes. The game comes to him pretty easy now and I just think he has a lot of confidence going into this game on Saturday. I think he’s going to be a difference-maker.”
Tarman has proven to be someone who can rattle the Titans. In the regular-season matchup between the two teams in October, he accounted for five touchdowns to give McGuinness a big lead heading into halftime.
However, Carl Albert came storming back in the second half, scoring 42 unanswered points to win 56-35. Harris was the igniter in the second half, leading the Titans on a 79-yard scoring drive to open the half and then eventually running for the go-ahead score later in the game.
Just like the regular-season game displayed, it’s athletes like Tarman and Harris who will add a spark to the team's fourth matchup. Each quarterback will go down as one of the best in its school history. Both having started in multiple state title games.
“Me and him are buddies,” Harris said of Tarman. “Playing him the past three or four years, that’s always the topic like, ‘Who’s going to be the better QB tonight?’ Obviously, I hope to play better on Saturday.”
Harris will chase his fourth ring in hopes of becoming one of the few quarterbacks in Oklahoma history to start and win four state titles while Tarman will look to earn his first. The final matchup between the two will surely bolster bragging rights.
“Hopefully I can steal one from him this last time,” Tarman said of Harris. “But he’s a great player, he’s a great competitor, he’s a great dude and I enjoy playing against him every time. So, it’ll be a fun last one.”