The Friday edition of the Altus times contained the first part of this look back at 2015. I left off in the middle of the Del City game.
I was looking forward to seeing Terry Wilson, the Del City quarterback, play against the Bulldogs. Del City managed just one score in the first half and the Bulldogs looked to be in fine form. Birdow had already gone for touchdowns of 72 and 49 yards. He also had a 65 yard scamper called back on penalty. Taven was showing out for a father who was getting to listen to him play for the first time. By the time the game ended and Taven had 371 yards on the ground and two new school rushing records, the entire state and some across the nation knew exactly who 33 was.
Honestly, it looked like Taven could have gone for 500 yards that night. “Every time I got the ball I only saw wide open spaces,” said Birdow following the game. “The offensive line gets the credit tonight. There were holes everywhere.”
Once Del City figured out that they were in big trouble on the scoreboard, they seemed to remember they had a D1 quarterback and they turned him loose. Wilson began connecting on some long bombs and managed to outscore the Bulldogs in the 2nd half before the clock ran out and the Bulldogs were winners again. I know this is not about Wilson but let me add one more tidbit. For the year, Wilson accounted for 7,011 yards rushing and passing. The kid threw for 52 touchdowns.
The Bulldogs went to Chickasha and thumped them around ,54-20, in the last match-up of these two schools as district rivals.
Then, the showdown with Ardmore on the road. Ardmore was tied with Altus in district standings and both teams were 6-1 on the year. This game was played in the slop of a rainy night on South I-35 and the Bulldogs had the ground game necessary to grind out the 27-12 win.
At 7-1, the Bulldogs welcomed rival Duncan to The Rock and again a sloppy, wet night was the atmosphere for this one. Bulldog fans still turned out in full force to support their boys in blue. The defense was just not going to give Duncan anything. Although the Bulldogs only found the end-zone three times on the evening, it never felt like Altus was threatened by Duncan all night. The final was 21-9.
The Bulldogs would be the beneficiary of a good schedule maker by facing Northwest Classen at home for the final game of the regular season before playoffs would begin.
Emotional overload for many Bulldog fans for this one as it was senior night inside The Rock. It’s games like these that every snap that the starters are in, you can feel a cringe in the stands. We just didn’t want to see any injuries going into the playoffs. Instead of the Bulldogs scoring 200 points and Birdow and Benway combining for a 1,000 yards rushing, I believe every Bulldog (including freshmen) who was in uniform saw playing time in this one. The final was 68-21.
The Bulldogs would host a playoff game for the first time in over a decade and Jayden Benway decided that he would just take over Oklahoma high school football. On both sides of the ball, Benway noticed there was plenty of room in the Bulldogs limelight and gave us an unforgettable show the rest of the year. Guthrie came to town and the revenge from a year ago was on. Bulldogs 35-14. The Bulldog faithful had packed The Rock to standing room only capacity nearly two hours before this one began. Extra bleachers were brought in and Bulldog fans spilled over into the Guthrie side. Benway had three interceptions including a pick six and some somersaulting acrobatic interception that negated a Guthrie score and landed him with one of his two plays that made the top ten list by Inside High School Sports.
The Bulldogs would travel East, way East for the 2nd round. This one was over early 59-34 was the final against Coweta. However, The Bulldog starters were out in the third quarter and were resting up for the semi-finals. The flexbone was displayed to a powerhouse from the East and it looked like it scared them silly. Benway scored three times and had two interceptions.
Bulldogs again would go to Lawton and this time battle McGuinness in the semi-finals. McGuinness was fresh off of some serious late game heroics to beat an undefeated MacAlester team that still doesn’t know what happened. McGuinness was for real. The Bulldogs kept scoring on big play after big play and McGuinness seemed to have an answer for everything. The 35 points given up to McGuinness was the most the Bulldogs would give up in the 2015 season.
However, the only thing that would matter at the end of this one was the Bulldogs were in the title game.
The Bulldogs began tailgating at Yukon at 8 a.m. The class of 1992 led by Robbi and Veronica Ybarra was set up and had breakfast burritos cooking early on. One of the main concerns of Bulldog fans for the game was mostly about whether or not the Yukon Stadium would be big enough to accommodate the Bulldog fans. It wasn’t. Our traveling crew spilled over into the Collinsville side and again was standing room only around the fence.
What a game! Wow! What a game!
Benway returns a pick six for 100 yards. Birdow ran over anyone willing to confront him. Both teams showed up for this one and it was an epic scene for sure. I remember the look on Hunter Cleveland’s face as he came out of the locker room for the start of the game. That is an image I won’t ever forget. Hunter, your day is coming. I can’t wait to see it. I remember at half-time as I chatted up the day with Yohance Brown as we looked around the sight that no one had left their seats. There wasn’t much of a line at the concession stand or the bathrooms. Maybe, people thought they couldn’t find their way back to their seats. I think it more like we were all just anxious for the game to resume. I remember as coach Reed’s son passed us on the sideline as he walked to his familiar spot on the bench, I gave him a thumbs up trying to get one in return. His was less enthusiastic so I tried again with a couple of coaches. I figured with the adjustments we usually make at half, I would see some confidence in a returned thumbs up. There was confidence for sure. There just wasn’t enough to make me relax like I wanted.
We know the rest don’t we? Gabe Barton strutted on the field after some brilliant clock management and a quick word of prayer. He lined his kick up with coach Reed’s words of confidence fresh on his ears. After, a Collinsville timeout negated Barton’s first made attempt, He lined up his second try.
From 40 yards out with 3.8 on the clock, number 38 hammered one about as clean as you can hit one that would have been good from 65 yards out.
Gabe Barton reached Bulldogs legendary status for the rest of time and the chaos of celebration ensued.
The Bulldogs walked down Broadway that night carrying their Gold with them as they waltzed into our hearts forever.
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