COMMERCE - David tackles Goliath when Ketchum meets Commerce in a key District A-7 battle here Friday night.
4 Goliath is Class A power Commerce, which is working on a string of six straight district titles as well as six straight quarterfinal appearances.
4 David is upstart Ketchum, which was 3-7 a year ago but now has secured its first trip to the playoffs since 2002. The Warriors have been only five times in school history.
“That is what its about,” Commerce head coach Mitchell Crittenden said. “They have done a good job down there. It should be a good match-up.”
Chad Burnham, Ketchum's head coach, said: “They are obviously bigger than us but I think we are a little faster. For us to win, we will have to go hit them in the mouth. We will have to outphysical them, use our speed to get us in the right spots and deliver a good blow.”
Both stand 5-0 in district play.
Commerce (6-2) crushed Copan 69-7 last Friday while Ketchum (6-1) flattened Quapaw 54-35 two weeks ago. The Warriors, whose six-game winning streak is their longest in at least 20 years, were to have played the Miami JV last week but that game was cancelled.
“We're playing well as a team,” Burnham said. “This is my third year here and the weightroom is paying off. I am big on the weights. We're still not very big as a team, but we're quick and strong.”
Commerce also is working on a six-game winning streak after opening the season with losses to Colcord and Tulsa Lincoln Christian - teams with a combined record of 14-2.
“We're playing at home and our kids have been there (in pressure situations) and know what's on the line,” Crittenden said. “Ketchum is playing with a lot of confidence right now. They are winning and are winning big.”
“They have been there every year and they expect to go,” Burnham said. “We're locked in now and we're pretty tickled.”
Junior quarterback Harrison Kay, who started at Z last year, has rushed for 1,171 yards and 19 touchdowns for the Warriors. He's the first Ketchum player to crack the 1,000-yard barrier since Ryan Baker in 2002.
“They have a good team, but he's the one to stop,” Crittenden said. “He had good speed and is a hard runner. He doesn't go down easy, so that's a pretty good combination.”
“He helps a bunch,” Burnham said. “He has about half of our offense rushing, but I've got about four other kids who with him are factors.”
Willie Evans and Brandon Balcom have alternated at fullback for the Warriors.
“We've got the two fullbacks, and really, we have three guys who play slot who are about the same,” Balcom said. “We rotate them in on defense and rotate them in on offense. I don't look at who is in there when I call a play. We run a lot of option and a lot of Kay's yards comes off that. If you add up the other four or five backs, they have more yardage than he does, but I have been spreading it out among them.”
The Warriors have scored just two points less than Commerce (247-245) and they've allowed only 121 points - an average of 17.3 per game.
“Our defense has probably been as big a key as anything,” Burnham said. “We're swarming to the ball - there's not any one person who stands out. It's our speed. We run a 4-4 defense and just swarm to the ball because we're not big enough to manhandle you.”
Senior running back James Sullivan has rushed for 841 yards and 13 touchdowns to head up the Commerce offense. He's also the Tigers' leading tackler with 89 stops.
Zach Barnes has contributed five touchdowns, a conversion and 25 PATs to the cause.
Crittenden said starting guard Jeff Judd would miss the game with a shoulder injury.
“Other than that, there's a few little dings, nothing major,” Crittenden said.
There are two other big games in the area Friday night: 4A No. 3 Wagoner at No. 2 Grove and 2A No. 9 Tahlequah Sequoyah at Wyandotte.
The Wagoner-Grove winner will have the inside track on the 4A-3 district championship since both are 5-0. The Ridgerunners remained unbeaten with a 34-20 victory over Miami last Thursday.
Sequoyah is in the 2A-8 driver's seat at 5-0 while Wyandotte, Colcord and Keys are all 5-1.
The Bears were bumped from the unbeaten ranks by Keys, which notched a wild 40-33 victory last Thursday.