STILLWATER — Wagoner coach Dale Condict walked up to Kevin Peterson before the Class 4A state championship game against Clinton on Friday night and had one thing to say.
“I told him, ‘Go be the man.’ He was on a mission tonight and even ran hard when he wasn’t making any yards,” Condict said. “He made a couple of unbelievable runs. He’s a great player and he finished on a great note.”
No truer words have been spoken.
Peterson, a 6-foot, 175-pound senior, rambled for a game-high 240 yards on 20 carries and scored two touchdowns to power the Bulldogs to a 23-0 victory and the state championship at Oklahoma State University’s Boone Pickens Stadium. It’s the first state title in school history and the first in three times to the finals in the seven years since Condict has been at the school.
Peterson scored on runs of 86 and 16 yards.
The first TD came with 3:31 left in the first half and thanks to a powerful pancake block by Devin Hawkins, Peterson broke away for the score. The TD padded the Bulldogs lead to 9-0 at that point.
“I was trying to let it fly with these amazing teammates,” Peterson said. “I knew I couldn’t leave anything in the bag. I knew we needed it.”
The block impressed Peterson.
“It was great as he knocked the guy off his feet and that made it real good for me to score,” he said. “I saw the hole, jumped over the guy a little bit and took off from there.”
Hawkins, who later scored a touchdown himself, loved blocking for Peterson this season.
“He’s an amazing running back,” the 5-foot-7, 165-pound sophomore said. “When I made the block, I just put up hands to say ‘Touchdown, baby.’ I blocked for him and let Kevin lead the way.”
Before the TD, the Red Tornadoes apparently got a first down run by sophomore Devon Mitchell with 4:12 left in the half. But Clinton was penalized for holding to nullify the run. Clinton punted the ball and on the first play of the ensuing possession, Peterson showed his speed and scored.
That wasn’t the only time Peterson scored. He also had a 16-yard TD scamper with 9:24 left in the third quarter to increase Wagoner’s lead to 16-0. He also had a 51-yard scamper on six-play drive leading to the touchdown.
Even Condict marvels at Peterson’s ability on the field.
“We tell our linemen that when Kevin gets out in front of you, just put your hands up so they don’t call us for clipping,” Condict said. “It’s nice to have a guy that fast.”
Not to be overlooked, Hawkins ran for 84 yards on 10 carries. His TD with 1:10 left in the game closed out the scoring.
“Kevin was great tonight,” Condict said. “He won’t make the 80-yard run, but he’ll make the 10-15-yard runs and break tackles for you. He’s a real good open field blocker.”
The Bulldogs, ranked No. 3 in the final Associated Press poll, got their other points on a 29-yard field goal by Decarius Clark with 3:11 left in the first quarter. Wagoner finishes the season at 13-1 and the No. 2 Red Tornadoes, who have won 15 state championships in their history, finish up at 12-2.
The victory broke a quarter-century drought for the area in terms of state championships, the first since Muskogee’s in 1986 against Tulsa Washington.
Condict had a feeling the numbers were falling his way after his team avenged two previous losses to Bishop McGuinness in last week’s semifinal win. Going in he also knew that it was on this field that his father, Tom, won state as Broken Bow’s head coach in his third try.
“It all added up, didn’t it?” the Bulldogs coach said. “I always wanted to know how this felt. Now I think I’m going to go put Christmas lights up tomorrow.”
Even the rain which started late in the fourth quarter ceased as the final seconds counted down. Condict was perhaps the wettest, following an water cooler bath administered by a handful of Bulldogs.
Defensive lineman Heath Wilson was overwhelmed by the emotion.
“It broke my heart out here last year to go through losing like we did,” the senior said, sobbing. “The very next week I went to work in the weight room. I was not going to go through that again.
“Our coaches told us to leave it all out on the field. I’m pretty sure we did.”
T.J. Ponds, co-douser of his coach, can attest to that.
One early example of the hard-hitting defensive play set the tone when Ponds, a junior linebacker, laid a shoulder into Clinton quarterback Garrison Mendoza on a third-and-short at the end of the first quarter. Mendoza was slow to get up, as was Ponds.
“I drove my shoulder into him and came up with a stinger,” Ponds said. “It hurt pretty good at first but I wasn’t going to let it get me down.”
It forced a punt. A couple of series later, Ponds was back in position on defense.
Clinton (12-2) came in averaging 43.5 points and got shut out for the first time since 2002. It would get no closer to avoiding that whitewash than it did late in the third quarter when Mendoza tossed a screen pass to Austin Dupree, who carried it to the Bulldogs 5. It was there where he met up with defensive back Jimmy Carter, whose jarring hit left Dupree laid out on the turf without the ball.
Carter made the recovery, and Wagoner (13-1) went 95 yards in seven plays, finishing on senior Kevin Peterson’s second touchdown of the game, a 16-yard carry on a fourth-and-2 call.
It was a sweet ending to a tough year for Carter, a member of last year’s All-Phoenix team and a major player in the previous drive to the finals. The senior had struggled through academic ineligibility among other off-the-field issues and missed most of the season.
After some key plays in last week’s semifinal in his first game back, Carter, a member of last year’s All-Phoenix team, was even bigger in this one. His interception with 6:25 to play put the seal on the win, but it was that hit that broke the game in Wagoner’s favor.
“Early on, all those missed games, I felt I let my team down, but they got stronger as the season went on and I realized I was going to have to get myself back to do what I could do to be a part of what they were doing,” he said.
“I like hitting people. These guys call me Jimbo Slice because of that. And I guess you can say I did some slicing and dicing.”
And it all paved the way to the redemption Wagoner so desperately wanted.