Former BCHS grad, coaches win state championship
Okeene claims Class A state title
By Matt Palmer
Staff Writer, Enid News and Eagle
EDMOND Okeene coach Jeff Wardlaw got a Gatorade bath, and some Whippets players remained on the field more than 45 minutes after the game had ended.
But even with wind chill making the temperature feel below 32 degrees, they all had reason to feel warm.
The Whippets won their second state championship, their first since in 25 years, Saturday night (Dec. 9) at Wantland Stadium, beating Velma-Alma 24-14 in the Class A final.
It's great, the best feeling in the world. I love it, said Okeene quarterback Brady Wardlaw while standing in the midst of a throng of Okeene fans, players and coaches at midfield. It couldn't have ended any better.
When the last seconds ticked off the clock, the Whippets had capped a perfect, 15-0 season with the gold ball.
It may not have been if not for a huge play midway through the fourth quarter.
Tied at 14-14, the Whippets were forced to punt to the Comets, who had just reeled off a game-tying, 13-play, 65-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run by quarterback Kyle Palacol.
The punt landed in Palacol's arms inside Velma-Alma's 25-yard line and subsequently fell through and hit the turf. Hustling downfield, Okeene senior Drew Westfahl dove onto the football at the Comets' 20-yard line.
Five plays later, Brady Wardlaw found the end zone on a 3-yard run to put the Whippets ahead 21-14 with 6:08 to play.
That (recovery) was huge for us. It put us in position to score, Brady Wardlaw said. That was a turning point. ... It was the biggest play of the game, I think.
Wardlaw's run wasn't too shabby, either.
Rolling left, he then turned right, barely avoiding a blind-side attack by a Velma-Alma pass rusher. Then he took off for the end zone, leaped, was sent into a windmill by two more Comets defenders and ended up in the end zone.
I saw an opening, and I just tried to dive in there, Brady Wardlaw said. The pass play was designed to go back to the right, but they had it covered, so I saw an opening.
I just kind of closed my eyes (while diving).
The Okeene defense held the Comets to three plays and a punt on their ensuing drive, and a poor, 22-yard punt gave the Whippets the ball at the Velma-Alma 38-yard line.
Eight plays later, Okeene kicker Jacob Parrish clinched the victory with a 25-yard field goal with a howling wind at his back and 1:27 to play.
The Comets, who only completed 6 of 16 passes, didn't have the firepower to forge a comeback.
Ball control and clock management seemed to be Velma-Alma's offensive strategy the entire night, as it rushed 43 times for 174 yards.
Meanwhile, the Whippets were able to run and pass, as Wardlaw completed 11 of 21 passes for 134 yards to go with 85 rushing yards.
It may not look like much, but in a game that saw only two drives in the first quarter and three in the third, Okeene's ability to throw became vital.
The Whippets took a 14-7 lead in the third quarter when Brady Wardlaw lobbed a pass into the end zone and Westfahl jumped above two defenders for a 14-yard scoring reception on fourth-and-11.
In the second quarter, Wardlaw threw a 28-yard strike to Westfahl to set up a first-and-goal from the Velma-Alma 4-yard line. Two plays later, Wardlaw found Taylor Hooper on a 5-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 7-7.
Finally, on Okeene's final touchdown drive, Wardlaw found Sean Fuller for 13 yards on a third-and-10 to give the Whippets first-and-goal at the Comets' 7-yard line.
The Comets, meanwhile, didn't throw a pass until their 10th play, and threw only three passes in the first half.
The inability to throw against Okeene's secondary ended Velma-Alma's first drive, which went 16 plays and 76 yards to the Okeene 3-yard line before a run by Trenten Files was snuffed for a 6-yard loss to the 9.
On fourth down, Palacol threw incomplete into the end zone.
The Comets were playing without their star running back John Darton, who had 1,279 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns through 13 games. Darton tore an ACL in a 27-7 win over Crescent in the semifinals Monday.
Files filled in for Darton, rushing 16 times for 65 yards and a score, while Palacol added 22 carries for 82 yards a touchdown.
Whippets running back Matt Benham rushed 18 times for 74 yards.
NOTES: Okeene's contingent of fans came close to filling the visitors bleachers at Wantland Stadium, which seats 10,000. ... One Okeene fan said at least two businesses in Okeene closed Saturday night so their employees could attend the game. ...
Whippets cool Comets
by Kenny Westfahl the Okeene Record
The Okeene Whippets are the 2006 Oklahoma Class A Football State Champions. The Whippets defeated the Velma-Alma Comets 24 14 on Wantland Field in Edmond and completed a perfect 15 win season.
The Whippets started the game on their own 37 after a 30 yard return of the opening kickoff by Sean Fuller. Okeene drove to the Comets 38 yard line but were forced to punt after Brady Wardlaw was sacked at the 49.
Velma-Alma started at their own 21 following the punt and drove 76 yards in 14 plays to the Okeene 3 yard line. That's where the Whippet defense stiffened and pushed the Comets back, setting up a fourth and goal from the 9 yard line. The Comet's pass attempt was knocked down by Drew Westfahl in the corner of the end zone and the Whippets took over on the 9.
The Whippets were forced to punt from the 15 after a rare 3 and out. Mathew Benham's punt of 55 yards got the Whippets out of the hole and Velma-Alma started from their own 30.
The Comets were forced to punt from the 38 and the Whippets appeared to be in great shape starting at their own 41 yard line following the short punt. But three plays later, the Comets picked off a Whippet pass and returned it to the Okeene 31 yard line. The Comets scored 7 plays later on a 3 yard run and took a 7 0 lead with 5:04 to go in the first half.
The Whippets responded with a scoring drive of their own starting at their own 34. Okeene advanced to the Comet's 33 in 6 plays that included a 12 yard reception by Fuller and 7 yard reception by Benham from Wardlaw. A 29 yard reception by Westfahl gave the Whippets first and goal at the four. Okeene scored 2 plays later on a 5 yard pass from Wardlaw to Taylor Hooper with 1:30 to go in the half. Jacob Parrish kicked the extra point and the game was knotted 7-7 at halftime.
The Whippets defense forced a Comet 3 and out to begin the second half. Velma-Alma's punt from their own 44 yard line was returned 20 yards by Fuller to the Okeene 38. From there the Whippets marched 52 yards in 10 plays to the Comet 10. The Velma-Alma defense stiffened and the Whippets were looking at a fourth and 10 from the 13 yard line. The Whippet offensive line of Michael Lamle, Karson Turnham, Paul Alvarado, Chance Fisher, Winston Brown and Kyle Felder gave Wardlaw the time he needed to find Westfahl in the end zone and, following Parrish's PAT, the Whippets had a 14 7 lead with 3:16 to go in the third.
But the Comets came back with a scoring drive of their own, marching 65 yards in 14 plays. The touchdown came on a 1 yard run with 9:40 remaining in the game, tying the score at 14.
The Whippets could only manage 8 yards in 3 plays and were forced to punt from their own 35. Benham's 40 yard punt was muffed by the Comet receiver and recovered by Westfahl at the Velma-Alma 20 yard line. The Whippets took advantage of the short field, driving to the 3 after a 13 yard reception by Fuller and 4 yard run by Wardlaw. Wardlaw scored on a 3 yard scramble with 6:08 remaining in the game. Parrish's PAT gave the Whippets a 21 14 lead.
Parrish's ensuing kickoff thru the end zone gave the Comets the ball on their own 20 yard line. The Whippet defense held the Comets and forced a punt from the 17 yard line. The 21 yard punt gave the Whippets the ball at the Comet 38. The Whippets could only manage 5 yards on 3 plays and were faced with a fourth and 5 from the 33. The Whippets decided to go for it and Wardlaw hit Fuller for an 18 yard completion to the 15. Four plays later, Parrish kicked a 25 yard field goal with 1:27 remaining to ice the game, making the final Okeene 24, Velma-Alma 14.
This Championship comes 25 years after Okeene's only other State Football Championship in 1981.
The Okeene Quarterback Club is sponsoring the Football Banquet at 6:30 PM Saturday, December 16 th in the school cafeteria. The PeeWee, Junior High, and State Champion football players will be honored. All players and fans are welcome. Admission will be $10 at the door.