By BEN JOHNSON
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 second-ticket to Tulsa to take on Cascia Hall.
Fast forward nearly 365 days and 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 its first-round postseason opponent, that being Spiro. Now, the Cougars are packing up their things and headed to Tulsa again for the second round, only this time Keys is trading 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 year’s edition of the playoffs. Last season, Cascia Hall dispatched of Keys, 32-6, and finished as the runner-up in Class 3A.
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 issued 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 of Woolslayer. “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.”
Keys at Metro Christian
When: Friday night at 7:30.
Where: Patriot Stadium (6363 South Trenton Avenue in Tulsa).
Radio: Game will air live on KEOK, FM-102.1.
Nicknames: Keys Cougars; Metro Christian Patriots.
Coaches: Keys (Gary Willis, 75-46, 11th season); Metro Christian (Jared McCoy, 50-9, fifth season).
Records: Keys 7-3; Metro Christian 9-2.
Rankings: Keys is not ranked in Class 3A; Metro Christian is No. 5 in the Associated Press’ Class 3A prep poll.
Series record: First meeting.
Last week: Keys 42, Spiro 7; Metro Christian 41, Henryetta 8.
News to know: Keys finished second in District 3A-7 while Metro Christian won the District 3A-5 title. ... This Keys’ second straight season to make the second round of the 3A playoffs. ... Metro Christian’s district crown is its fourth straight. ... In the 3A playoffs last season, Keys was eliminated by Cascia Hall in the second round while Metro Christian made the quarterfinals before being bounced by eventual 3A champion Anadarko.
Players to watch
Keys: Cody Cole (RB), Blake Maxey (OL/DL), Tyler Blankenship (WR).
— Cole continued his torrid pace in the running game last week against Spiro, torching the Bulldogs for 199 yards on 24 carries. Cole increased his season totals to 1,202 yards on 119 rushes.
— Maxey will likely have several one-on-one matchups with Metro Christian’s Zach Webb. Both players will play both ways on the lines will help determine who wins the battle up front.
— Blankenship, who led Keys with 117 tackles on defense during the regular season, provides Keys quarterback
Metro Christian: Matt Woolslayer (QB), Zach Webb (OL/DL), Danny Burke (WR).
— Woolslayer, a 6-foot, 200-pound quarterback, does it all for the Patriots on offense. He has passed for 2,212 yards and 23 touchdowns on 174 of 287 tosses while rushing for 872 yards and 15 touchdowns on 157 carries. To top it off, Woolslayer, who also plays linebacker on defense, has punted 21 times for an average of 33 yards.
— Webb, a 6-2, 280-pound defensive/offensive lineman, has collected five sacks for the Patriots this season. Webb’s teammate up front on defense, Nick Anderson, has 5 1/2 sacks.
— Burke is Metro Christian’s leading wide receiver with 64 catches for 843 yards and nine touchdowns.
Looking ahead: The Keys-Metro Christian winner will take on the Seminole-Plainview winner in the quarterfinals.