The Altus High School cafeteria was nearly filled to capacity on Wednesday night as the Altus High School football players and coaches, friends, family and Bulldog football fans filed into the cafeteria to celebrate and remember another remarkable football season.
The 2017 season was a rememberable one for many different reasons. The Bulldogs finished 10-2, losing only to Ardmore early in the season and Skiatook in the second round of the playoffs.
During those 12 games, this group of Bulldogs broke records. Some were long-standing and seemingly unbreakable records while others were more recent — one such record was broken twice during the season.
The Bulldogs set a single-game rushing record of 605 yards against El Reno, breaking the previous record of 567 yards against Elk City earlier this season. The team also set a single-game record for total offense with 646 yards against Elk City. The previous record was 625 in 2015.
Additionally, the Bulldogs had the fewest passes intercepted in Bulldog football history with just one.
Whether it was breaking records or winning games, one thing is certain, the players and coaches gave everything they had for the Altus community and continued to stack bricks on the solid foundation that was built four years ago when coaches Jeremy Reed and Todd Vargas came to Altus and revitalized the then struggling Bulldog football program.
Vargas began the banquet by thanking all of the people who have helped keep the team going by volunteering their time and energy into helping wherever it was needed. He said it was because of the dedication of the players, parents and volunteers that the season was a success.
“I want to thank the parents…” Vargas said. “The lives that you have entrusted under us and the many, many, many hours spent getting up at 6 a.m. and bringing your kids to lift weights every Monday through Thursday, I just really appreciate you. I can tell you this, the coaching staff knows this, the administration knows this, I’ve told everybody, this is the best group of kids when you talk about behavior, leadership, character, integrity, moral values — this is the best group of kids I’ve ever coached and that’s a testament to you parents.”
Vargas became emotional talking about the coaching staff and the players and reminisced about the work that went into making the season a success. From early morning workouts to summer camps and volunteer work in the community, Vargas said time, commitment and work put in by the players is second to none.
“I can assure you…” Vargas said. “There are many, many schools, not only in Oklahoma but also across the nation that do not put in the time, the effort and the commitment of these guys and I’m very appreciative of this team.”
Vargas moved on to single out the seniors who he said finished 31-6 over a three-year span, helped break 13 team records, had three playoff appearances and were part of the 2015 state championship victory.
As the current seniors moved on from their sophomore and junior years, Vargas said there was more asked of them. Each player was tasked with new responsibilities this past season and Vargas said that is how players and leaders are developed in the Bulldog football program. He said that each player stepped up and answered the call.
Vargas wore his heart on his sleeve as he talked about each senior, his voice breaking during every player as he spoke of his favorite memories with each player. He said that every group means a lot to him but this group was very special to him.
“These seniors mean a lot to me,” Vargas said. “These guys were the first guys when I got here so it’s kind of hard for me.”
Things got especially difficult for Vargas when it came to talking about his son, District 5A-1 Player of the Year, Jake Vargas.
Coach Vargas said that it’s not easy being the coach’s son, but he thinks Jake has handled it well over the years.
“It’s hard being the coach’s kid…” Coach Vargas said. “I think Jake has done a tremendous job of being the coach’s kid. I think he has deserved everything he has done and everything he’s accomplished. It wasn’t because of his daddy. He didn’t play because of his daddy, he played because he’s a good player. He doesn’t get special treatment because of his daddy, he gets special treatment because he’s a great kid.”
After a speech by Chamber of Commerce president, Brian Bush, the banquet moved on to allow the senior players to speak to the crowded room but more specifically, the coaches.
District 5A-1 Offensive Lineman of the Year, Keegan Shive, started things off and explained what the program meant to him.
“This program has meant everything to me,” Shive said. “It has given me relationships for life. It has set me on the path for success no matter what I choose to do. The core value most important to me is ‘Family.’ This team is more than a team, it’s a huge family and every one of these coaches has opened up their families to us. I know that even though I will not be here next year, I know these coaches, their families and my teammates will always be my family and be there for me.”
District 5A-1 Player of the Year, Jake Vargas, stepped up to the podium next to speak and talked about how moving to Altus was one of the best things that ever happened to him.
“It meant the world to me to play for the Altus Bulldogs,” Jake Vargas said. “I wouldn’t want to play for any other school or any other people. This is my family and I’ve been so happy to spend the time here with my brothers. During my time here, I’ve learned a lot. Mostly, I’ve learned how to be selfless. I learned I was never by myself. The one core value I valued the most was ‘Toughness.’ Toughness has helped me on and off the field. I believe this team was the toughest it has ever been and I truly believe we were the toughest team in Oklahoma.”
District 5A-1 Linebacker of the Year, Kory Beach, followed and spoke about how the coaches were more than just coaches to them.
“To put on the helmet with the Bulldog decal was a blessing,” Beach said. “I’ve always been extremely proud to be a part of the Altus Bulldog football team. I’ll never forget the amazing memories and moments where we all smiled, laughed and even cried. It was a blessing to play for such amazing coaches that instilled in us 10 core values that will stay with us forever. My favorite core value was ‘Sacrifice.’ Sacrifice is being at the field house at 6:15 in the morning with your brothers. These coaches made us more than just football players, they showed us what it was like to be men and we can never repay them for what they have done for us.”
Several other seniors followed the three district award winners including, Jazzerick Pitts, Ernesto Rosas, Gage Vernon, Brandon Phillips and Garrett Yeager.
Coach Vargas wrapped up the banquet thanking the parents and the administration for always being supportive and understanding.
Coach Vargas said when he came back to coaching, he knew he had to do some things differently and with the help of his coaching staff, he has been able to transform this program into something none of the players will ever forget.
Reach Ryan Lewis at 580-482-1221, ext. 2076.
Reach Ryan Lewis at 580-482-1221, ext. 2076.