By Scott Hansen
Norman North has the best defense in the state - period.
The swarming Timberwolves defense forced six second half turnovers in a 35-6 rout of ninth-ranked Putnam City North, claiming sole possession of first place in District 6A-1 in the process.
To add to the misery of the Panthers, 205-pound battering ram Beau Blakenship steamrolled to 217 rushing yards and four touchdowns for Norman North. In a state full of can't miss talents at running back, the junior is arguably better than all of them.
In the second quarter as Norman North trailed 6-0, Blakenship appeared to be stopped behind the line of scrimmage until, like a freight train, he flattened a PC North defender. Blakenship relied on his deceptive quickness from there, zigzagging his way for a 47-yard touchdown run. It was the only offensive touchdown in the first half as Norman North led 7-6.
Blakenship would add three more short touchdown runs in the second half, his fourth of the night the only time he would cross the goal line untouched.
"We played really well. Our defense played great and it looks like they are really starting to gel," said Blakenship, who has rushed for 1,352 yards and 19 touchdowns this season.
In the second half, Norman North's defense was relentless. Defensive lineman Nathan Badger and linebacker Beau Traber, both juniors, are the catalysts for a unit that allowed just 190 yards per game coming into the PC North game.
A week after PC North's Josh Booker rolled to 211 yards and four touchdowns in a 35-26 victory over Moore, the junior running back was stopped in his tracks against the Norman North defense. Booker rushed for minus 5 yards on seven carries. As a team, the Panthers only managed 13 yards on 28 carries.
Matt Veazey's normally steady performances as PC North's quarterback turned nightmarish just 65 seconds into the second half. Sophomore Nick Canavan picked off a Veazey pass and returned it 12 yards for a touchdown. After the defensive touchdown, the floodgates opened.
Just over a minute later, junior Hayden Dupell picked off another Veazey pass to set up a 2-yard plunge by Blakenship to put Norman North in front, 21-6.
With 6:47 remaining in the third quarter, Traber recovered a fumble for the third turnover of the half. Later in the third quarter, Sunny Law would add another interception for the Timberwolves defense.
According to Traber, the Timberwolves defense is not only starting to click, they are having fun doing it.
"We knew we had potential all along, we have been waiting to hit our stride. We are having a lot of fun right now in the huddle and everything like that. We all hang together off the field, too. Together, we just like to get after it."
In the fourth quarter with a 28-6 lead, Norman North refused to shift into cruise control defensively. Canavan recovered a fumble to turn away any threat of a PC North resurgence.
In all, PC North had 92 total yards on the evening, 40 of them coming against Norman North's second team defense. Nathan Badger, another junior, registered two sacks and a tackle for loss while anchoring the defensive line. K.J. Williams, a Texas A&M commit, was disruptive from the defensive end position.
Despite the loss, Putnam City North is likely to head into the state playoffs with only two losses. The Panthers finish the regular season with Putnam City West and U.S. Grant. PC West has two wins this season, while U.S. Grant has once again limped through the season without a victory.
"We really wanted to come out and send a message that we are for real," said Blakenship.
Norman North 35, Putnam City North 6
NN 0 - 7- 14- 14- 35
PCN 6- 0- 0- 0- 6
PCN: Leo Gross 13 interception return (run failed)
NN: Beau Blakenship 47 run (Eric Oliver kick)
NN: Nick Canavan 12 interception return (Oliver kick)
NN: Blakenship 2 run (Oliver kick)
NN: Blakenship 3 run (Oliver kick)
NN: Blakenship 2 run (Oliver kick)
Tulsa Washington Upsets Muskogee
Tulsa Washington upset third-ranked Muskogee 28-13 in one of the most shocking results in Thursday's full slate of games.
Sophomore quarterback Eric Bennett was the catalyst behind the upset, compiling 327 total yards and four touchdowns to lead the Hornets (5-3, 3-2) to the victory.
Bennett rushed for 132 yards, including touchdown runs from 19 and 39 yards, the latter coming with 2:23 remaining to seal the victory.
Muskogee's usually potent aerial display was grounded, being held to just 37 passing yards. Army All-American Bowl selection Jameel Owens, one of the top receivers nationally, did not record a reception in the loss.
Muskogee drops to 5-3, 3-2 on the season in a rough District 6A-4. The Roughers finish the campaign with games against Owasso (7-1) and Sand Springs (4-4). If Muskogee fails to take care of business to close out the season, a playoff spot could be in serious jeopardy.