By: Scott Emigh, Editor-in-Chief
Photo: Austin Evans
Football is more than just a sport in a small town like Sand Springs. It's an opportunity for a community to come together, forget the hardships of their week, and find common ground and unity.
Football is a way of life that continues well beyond the gridiron.
It's strange to think that I could be so enthralled by a sporting event, less than 24 hours after I sat in a room filled with grieving family saying goodbye to a loved one. But, that's what football does. It brings out the best in people--and yes, sometimes the worst. But it's an escape.
When those Friday night lights illuminate the turf, the cold crisp air whips across your face, and you and your friends huddle together for warmth, focused intently on the next play...the rest of the world fades away. You're in a moment that the movies will never manage to live up to. It's not just about the players, it's about the town.
It takes a village to raise a child, and during those games, the whole team are our children. We have their backs, we have no problem giving the refs a piece of our mind if we feel our kids were wronged. We're one community. One family.
It also helps when you're winning.
Charles Page has been to the playoffs four years in a row now. We've won games the last two years. This time we made it to the Championship.
Once upon a time, Sand Springs went 12-0 and defeated El Reno 14-7 for a 2A state title at the Taft Stadium in Oklahoma City. That was nearly half a century ago. Since then, the Sandites have had more losing seasons than winning seasons, and have only made the playoffs 15 of those 49 years.
The program never really turned south until 1998. That season we posted a 5-5 record, ending 3-straight seasons of playoff appearances and winning records.
From 1999-2006, we went 21-59, and we didn't see a winning season till 2008, during Dustin Kinard's second year at head coach. That year we got our first playoff appearance since 1997. It wouldn't be a trend-setter, however.
When I was in school we went 8-22.
I remember being at the University of Oklahoma and hearing about how we were winning games back home and I couldn't believe it. Sandites didn't win games.
One night I decided to make the long trip back to Tulsa to catch a game against Booker T, and we won 21-7 at their stadium. That season finally brought a change to Sandite football. Despite being killed 35-6 in the first round of the playoffs--we had posted an 8-2 regular season record.
As we saw in 2008, however, some seasons can be isolated incidents.
The next season wasn't quite as hot; we only went 6-4 before losing to Westmoore in the playoffs.
In 2014, however, it became clear that this wasn't just a couple of decent seasons. It was a legitimate turnaround for a school that most teams in the state laughed at. That season saw a 63-6 rout of Nathan Hale, two shutouts, and the first post-season win since 1997.
It was 20 degrees in Midwest City, but I have never been so happy as when that overtime 2-pt conversion attempt failed, and a 1 point victory was sending Sand Springs into uncharted waters.
The Charles Page Class of 2016 is the only team in the history of Sand Springs athletics to make it to the playoffs all four years.
The season started rough: two forfeitures, one cancelled game, and a defeat at the district opener mean the Sandites were 0-3 and were in a district with the top 3 teams in the division. Making the playoffs would be far from easy.
Sand Springs took it one step at a time. A 27-7 homecoming win over Claremore. A 44-10 rout of Highway 97 rival, Sapulpa. A 44-21 win over Ponca City and a 34-10 win against Muskogee. In week 9, the Sandites went up against the #1 team in the state. A team that had just slaughtered the defending state champions 52-7, and came within a field goal.
In week 10 Sand Springs dealt the Spartans their first shutout in 7 years, 20-0 on senior night. At Stillwater, Sand Springs won their quarter-final game for the second year in a row, 49-14, then upset #1 Booker T Washington 30-23 at Sapulpa. The Hornets learned there that it's hard to beat a good team twice.
This time it was the Sandites who had to learn that lesson.
The Class of 2016 can't focus on their 38-28 loss to the Bixby Spartans. A lot of people have been talking about how these Sandites are making history. I disagree.
The Class of '67 made history. That season is shrouded in legend. The Sandites didn't make the playoffs for another decade after that.
The Class of '16 isn't making history.
They're building a future.
What Charles Page seniors like Lane Lettich and Jacob Taber have done doesn't belong in the history books. It belongs in the forefront of every student's mind in the coming years. What these boys did isn't just what's possible. It's what's going to continue happening. Their torch may have been dampened tonight, but it was far from extinguished. And tonight they passed it off to the next generation.
As cool as it is to make history, it's far greater to build a future. That's what the resilience and perseverance of these great athletes has done. They showed their underclassmen that it's not your ranking or your record that matters, it's your heart. "We had a lot of heart," said junior QB Hunter Greathouse after the loss. "We put a lot into it all year...and we'll get them next season."
The Class of 2016 may have been disappointed tonight. Hell, we all were. But their great sportsmanship has paved the way and set the example for their young peers.
These boys will go on about their lives. Some may play college ball. Most won't. They'll probably end up in the history books, and one day they may be giving a pep talk to a future team like the Class of 66 did for them earlier this week. But they accomplished a lot more tonight than they'll ever know. They proved that it doesn't matter where you came from, it matters what you're made of.