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Oklahoma high school football: Looking back on the 2020 season

McAlester's Erik McCarty runs for a touchdown during a high school football playoff game against Bishop McGuinness on Dec. 4. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]
McAlester's Erik McCarty runs for a touchdown during a high school football playoff game against Bishop McGuinness on Dec. 4. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]

The craziest Oklahoma high school football season in state history is finished.

Nine gold balls were handed out the past three weekends, and there were no canceled games over the last four rounds of the playoffs. However, the regular season was a grind to finish amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Nevertheless, Bixby and Carl Albert continued their dominance while Jenks rose back to the top. Wagoner throttled opponents en route to another title. Tulsa Holland Hall won its first Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association football championship in school history. Tulsa Metro Christian went back-to-back and Cashion completed the first 16-win season in state history.

It's time to look back on the season through the eyes of The Oklahoman's staff.

Most impressive individual performance you witnessed

Cameron Jourdan: Bixby junior running back Braylin Presley had 25 carries for 302 yards and six touchdowns in a 56-14 win at Carl Albert in Week 5. He had touchdown runs of 68, 55 and 38 yards and was the best player in a game full of stars. The game came together after both had district contests canceled, so the state's top two programs over the past five seasons decided to meet up.

Nick Sardis: Stillwater senior running back Qwontrel Walker was outstanding in the Pioneers’ 48-27 victory against Del City in October. Walker ran for a 56-yard touchdown on Stillwater’s second offensive play and finished with 29 carries for 272 yards and three scores against one of the best defenses in Class 6A-II.

James D. Jackson: Tulsa Metro Christian’s Kirk Francis completed 29 of 44 passes for 367 yards and five touchdowns in the Class 2A state championship game on Saturday. The sophomore's performance propelled the Patriots to a 48-37 victory against Washington. 

Best breakout season

Jourdan: McAlester sophomore running back Erik McCarty rushed for 1,966 yards and 34 touchdowns, helping the Buffaloes to the Class 5A semifinals. He averaged 9.2 yards per carry and also caught nine passes for 230 yards and three touchdowns.

Sardis: Choctaw’s Desean Brown emerged as one of the best defensive ends in the state. The junior had 74 tackles and 15 sacks and helped the Class 6A-II Yellowjackets reach the state finals for the first time since 1960.

Jackson: Gavin Freeman caught everyone’s attention in September after tying Heritage Hall’s longest touchdown reception in school history. But the 95-yard score wasn’t the only highlight of his season. The junior grabbed 52 catches for 974 yards and 14 touchdowns to go along with 70 tackles and two interceptions on defense. Also serving as the team’s return man, Freeman was responsible for 20 touchdowns this season.

Best regular-season game you covered

Jourdan: Broken Arrow at Edmond Santa Fe. The Tigers led 14-7 at halftime, but Edmond Santa Fe had a 21-point third quarter that included Angelo Rankin Jr.'s 85-yard kick return for a touchdown. Broken Arrow tied it in the fourth quarter, but Micah Snoddy scored the game-winning touchdown to propel Santa Fe to victory.

Sardis: Tuttle at Blanchard. This regular-season finale featured a battle between two great defenses. Blanchard’s Colby Langford threw a 35-yard touchdown to Lincoln Smith in the third quarter, and the Lions beat Tuttle 7-0 for the District 4A-2 title.

Jackson: McGuinness at Carl Albert. The Fighting Irish jumped to a big lead in the first half behind Luke Tarman’s outstanding quarterbacking. However, the Titans stormed back, scoring 42 unanswered points in the second half to win 56-35.

Best playoff game you covered

Jourdan: Choctaw vs. Stillwater. This Class 6A-II semifinal at Owasso was a stellar back-and-forth matchup that ended with the Yellowjackets kicking a 25-yard field goal as time expired to upset the Pioneers and advance to the state championship game for the first time in 60 years.

Sardis: Cashion at Pawhuska. Cashion didn’t have a lead until quarterback Ben Harman threw a 52-yard touchdown to Landon Lagasse with 3:28 remaining in the fourth quarter. Lance Christensen came off a chilly bench in Pawhuska and made the extra point, sealing a 7-6 victory in the Class A semifinals. Pawhuska, which entered the matchup averaging 66.4 points per game, was held to 246 yards.

Jackson: John Marshall at Newcastle. The Racers fell behind and trailed for almost the entire game. Newcastle scored 21 unanswered points in the second half to finally take the lead with less than four minutes remaining. Newcastle’s Michael Jarko sealed the victory with an interception with 15 seconds remaining. The Racers won their first playoff game under coach Jeff Brickman.

Cameron Jourdan

Cameron Jourdan joined The Oklahoman in March 2019 to cover high school sports. He graduated from Oklahoma State University in May 2018. He had an internship with The Oklahoman and Stillwater News Press. During his time at OSU, Cameron served in a... Read more ›

Nick Sardis

Nick Sardis joined The Oklahoman in 2017, and he covers high school sports. Born and raised in Norman, he played baseball at Norman North High School and is a student at the University of Oklahoma. Read more ›

James Jackson

James D. Jackson joined The Oklahoman in January 2020 to cover high school sports. He a University of Central Oklahoma graduate. During his time at UCO, James served as a sports reporter and Editor-in-Chief of the student newspaper, The Vista.... Read more ›