Larry Bolin was an honorable mention all-state player for Vian’s last state championship team, 48 years ago.
He still lives in Vian.
Hasn’t seen a game of the current group, which is one win away from reaching the heights he and his buddies reached nearly a half-century ago. His local auto repair shop fixes cars of many of those who do follow the Wolverines.
This weekend, Bolin gets a break. The Class 2A championship game against Metro Christian is Saturday, and Bolin’s “closed” shingle is out on Saturdays.
“By the time I get done at the shop I’m too worn out,” he said. “But I’ll be there Saturday.”
Bolin has kept up through word of mouth in a community where the school and its successes is always front and center.
“More than one person has told me they have a hell of a defense,” he said.
Larry McCoy was a linebacker on the 1971 team. He saw their 35-7 semifinal win against Kingston last week and plans on being there Saturday.
“We were a 4-4 defense and the two nose tackles made heroes out of your linebackers,” he said. “They’re a different defense now but that nose tackle (Solomon Wright) and the linebacker behind him (Gunnar Griffith), they caught my attention pretty quick last week. That linebacker was making plays and that inside kid really did a good job of giving him opportunities to make plays.”
Wright is one of assistant coach Kenyatta Wright’s sons. Wright’s T-shirt and cap business is helping McCoy and his former teammates out this week.
“I’ve ordered about 30 hats that say 1971 State Champs on it and everyone from that team that goes to the game Saturday is going to get one of these,” McCoy said. “I want people to know who we are because I really think this is a bunch who is going to do what we did, and I want that connection with them. We’ve had some close calls over the years but I think this is our time again.”
The 1971 team was coached by Ron Kincade, who was in his second season following a state runner-up finish, losing 32-6 to Stroud. After winning gold, he would coach one more season, going 11-1 in 1972 and losing to Coalgate in the second round. Following that he left the coaching ranks to pursue private business.
Also, Larry Briggs was a star running back who rushed for right at 2,300 yards and was signed by the University of Oklahoma. McCoy was his fullback. Their team lost just one game, that to Paul Bell’s Eufaula team that had two of the three Selmon brothers (Lee Roy, Dewey) that all wound up at Oklahoma.
The championship win came against Lawton MacArthur, 24-13.
David Snow was a junior two-way lineman on the 1971 team. He’s driven over from Bentonville, Ark., to see them play Westville, Keys and one playoff game against Millwood.
“We’d always make the playoffs but couldn’t make that next step,” he said. “The coach makes a big difference in how they treat the kids and all that, and (Kincade) and his staff was big on fundamentals. We practiced that every day. … We weren’t allowed to make those kind of fundamental mistakes. We ran wind sprints, picked up trash, stuff like that. They reminded us of it every game and it made us a lot better.”
The late Charlie St. John, a longtime assistant who the Wolverines’ stadium is named after, was a line coach on that squad.
“I don’t think there was anyone ever that played for Charlie St. John that didn’t respect and appreciate him,” said McCoy. “He never finished school and I remember him getting an offer to join the staff at the University of Tulsa and become a regular assistant when he completed his degree but he turned that down.”
One thing that remains the same.
“It’s always been a community that supports its school teams,” McCoy said.
That will be evident tonight. And a special group of those who benefitted from it in their day will be looking for some special company to join them.