By BEN JOHNSON
After not factoring into last season's postseason equation, Tahlequah returns with quite a chore this year. The Tigers will take on Class 5A No. 1 East Central tonight in Tulsa at the East Side Sports Complex.
"We like the fact that we are playing East Central," Tahlequah coach Gary McClure said, "there's a sense of familiarity."
The Cardinals may be the top-ranked team in 5A, but Tahlequah hung tough with East Central in early March. In the season opener both clubs, the Tigers played East Central to a 2-0 final score.
Now it's just a matter of Tahlequah making adjustments after facing of with the Cardinals earlier this year.
"They like playing it through the midfield and down the side," McClure said. "So we are making adjustments."
Tahlequah enters the playoffs with a 7-6 record. The Tigers didn't qualify for the postseason until the final week of the season when they rallied in the closing minutes to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 victory over Metro Christian on April 22.
The Tigers wrapped up District 5A-3 play on a two-game winning streak and finished at 4-3. But if you ask McClure, his club started playing its best soccer prior to district play.
"Really started playing pretty good at the Stilwell tournament," said McClure, whose team lost to Heavener in the Stilwell tournament finals.
And after missing out on the playoffs last season, McClure said it's nice to be back.
"It's a good sense of accomplishment," he said. "We went back to the basics this year. We tried to simplify things and it seems to have really helped."
The winner of the Tahlequah-East Central game will take on the Coweta-Cascia Hall winner on Friday.