By Ben Johnson
CNHI News Service
History has a way of repeating itself. Exhibit A is Keys football.
After finishing second in District 3A-7 last season, the Cougars blasted their first-round playoff opponent, Valliant, to earn a ticket to Tulsa and play Cascia Hall.
Fast forward nearly 365 days. Keys is a living, breathing example of déjà vu.
This season, Keys again came in second in 3A-7 (thanks to Sequoyah being forced to forfeit its wins this season and sit out during the playoffs) and pummeled another first-round postseason opponent. This time, it was Spiro.
Now, the Cougars are packing up their things and headed to Tulsa again for the second round, only this time Keys trades in Utica Square for Southern Hills.
The Cougars’ destination in 2012 is Metro Christian — only four miles south of last year’s trip to Cascia Hall.
Keys, though, is aiming for a different outcome in this edition of the playoffs. Last season, Cascia Hall dispatched of Keys, 32-6, and finished as the Class 3A state runner-up.
Gary Willis, in his 11th season as Keys’ head coach, said there are lessons that can be learned from his club’s postseason exit last season.
“That’s what we’ve talked about,” Willis said. “We played a good first half against Cascia, and then they got after us in the second half. We’ve just preached playing a full game this year.”
Much like Cascia Hall, Metro Christian possesses a defense that has yielded very few points this season. The Patriots (9-2) allowed 27 points in a season-opening loss to Oklahoma Christian School and have only given up more than 10 points in two games since then.
“Their defense really stands out,” Willis said of Metro Christian, which deploys linebacker Hayden Hillenburg and defensive lineman, Zach Webb.
“Look at those scores and it certainly gets your attention. Lets you know that they can definitely play some defense.”
Attempting to thwart Metro Christian’s defensive effort will be the Cougars’ high-powered rushing attack. Since being limited to 38 yards on 32 carries against Hilldale in Week 8, the Cougars (7-3) have averaged 395.7 rushing yards per game.
“That’s the team we are right now,” Willis said. “We’re going against a good defense, so hopefully we can make some good things happen.”
Keys’ propensity to run the ball at a high rate of success has certainly caught Jared McCoy’s eye.
“It’s a strength for Keys and it’s an emphasis for us this week,” Metro Christian’s head coach said. “Big plays happen in football games, and you just don’t want them to happen against you in the running game.”
Cody Cole has been Keys’ biggest threat in the running game since missing the first three games of the season. The senior tailback, after racking 199 yards against Spiro last week, now has 1,202 yards on 119 carries in seven games.
“The quarterback and running back are obviously very good,” McCoy said of Cole and Keys quarterback Trevor Eubanks, who rushed for 104 yards last week against Spiro and now has run for 781 yards this season. “They’re both about to take a small play and make a big play out of it.”
Same goes for Metro Christian quarterback Matt Woolslayer. The Patriots’ senior signal caller has passed for 2,000-plus yards and is closing in on the 1,000-yard rushing mark.
“Their quarterback is a huge part of their team,” Willis said. “He reminds you of a Collin Kline-type guy for Kansas State. He’s real patient passing and he’s patient in the running game. He’s a bigger, stronger kid who’s hard to bring down.”
In Metro Christian’s first-round win against Henryetta, Woolslayer amassed 278 yards of offense as the Patriots won 41-8.
“He does it all,” McCoy said. “He even punts for us and does a good job at that, too. It’s very important that Matt has a good night, both running and passing.”
3A second round
Keys at Metro Christian
Radio: KEOK 102.1 FM
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m.