Local sports in 2015 took fans on a wild ride to understate things.
The year ended the same way it began. Bulldogs competing for championships was the theme of year as far as local sports was concerned.
As 2014 rolled into 2015, The Bulldogs were crowning the boys swimming team as state champions. The girls also qualified for the state meet.
The Bulldog wrestling team crowned Cameron Loving and Montorie Bridges as state champions. The team fell just short of the team title. However, nine Bulldog wrestlers qualified to wrestle at state. Loving signed on with Wyoming to continue his wrestling career. On top of winning the Mitch Wendell Award, Loving was named the Oklahoma 5A wrestler of the year. Bridges has also committed to Wyoming.
The Lady Bulldogs finished a strong basketball year by making an appearance in the state tournament.
The Bulldog track team sent several to compete at the state meet. Some were crowned state champions in their events. Some others finished very high on the podium as well.
A Bulldog golfer, Milton Pebeahsy qualified for a round in the state tournament. Pebheasy was also an All-State selection later joined Mark Fink of Hinton as the defeated their All-State match play opponents from the East in the All-State games in the summer.
WOSC Pioneers came within one out of winning the national title in baseball.
Some very exciting Spring action for sure. Hopefully, I didn’t leave anyone out that deserved their due.
Something could easily slip my memory since this whole time I’ve been trying to put the Bulldogs football exploits in some sort of chronological time line.
Although the 2014 season didn’t end exactly how we had hoped for on a cold, cold night in Guthrie, the Bulldogs had given us a wonderful turn around effort and finished 8-3. We had glimpses of great things to come from the football program and expectations were high for the second season under coach Reed.
It was in late January during a phone conversation a half a continent away that I learned of Taven Birdow’s imminent return from Florida. Although I was sworn to secrecy, my excitement heading into Spring football practices had a boost in anticipation.
I was excited for the team and the town. I knew that what the Bulldogs had coming back was plenty to make a run in the playoffs. So, to add Taven in the mix should only make the Bulldogs that much stronger, right?
I was aware of Taven’s abilities. I’m not sure any of us were thinking ready to suggest that come summer workouts when Birdow would be back in town that the Bulldogs were adding the Oklahoma Player of the year.
However, we all were thinking that if cards could fall right and some balls bounce in our favor, the Bulldogs just might have enough to make a run at a championship.
The locker room and coaches’ offices got a new face lift. It was long overdue and the new lockers, floors, paint, etc. made the facilities feel new.
Team camp was a success in that it showed that the retention of things learned a year prior had indeed stuck in the minds of these Bulldogs.
However, an injury to the Bulldogs leading tackler from 2014, Hunter Cleveland, would sideline him most of the 2015 season. Hunter led the Bulldogs with 125 tackles during his sophomore season. The 2nd and 3rd tacklers were Mikey Abuan and the 2015 District Defensive MVP, Baylor Feller. They were tied with 82. Hunter had 43 more tackles than those two Bulldog defensive stars.
A loss to such a crucial component on defense would derail the hopes of a title run for most programs. However, the Bulldogs have a motto, “Next man up.” Meaning the Brotherhood would take care of itself.
The pre-season hype wasn’t unanimous across the state. I saw one publication picked Altus as the 15th best team in class 5A. This would prove to be a bad pick for those writers.
I previewed the season in a three part article for my preview issue called “The Hype, The Hope and The Hiccup.”
If you go back and look at my outlook for the season, I did everything but tell you straight out that I felt the Bulldogs would win the title. I believe my words were, “The Bulldogs have a legitimate shot to win every game on their schedule.” Then win it was time to make a prediction, I mentioned that I wasn’t prepared to be the jinx on the season so I couldn’t actually say the words. I added that didn’t mean that you, the readers, couldn’t say it. The “it” is referring to the Bulldogs winning the championship.
Perhaps, just as big of a story as the Bulldogs were in 2015, was the story of the Bulldog Nation fan support reputation that we are gaining across the state.
It started at Guthrie for the playoff loss in 2014. I was shocked to see so many Bulldog fans willing to make a three hour drive to see some high school football in frigid conditions.
Well, Bulldog football isn’t exactly just some high school football. I knew then, at Guthrie, that if the Bulldogs looked like they would live up to pre-season predictions that there were stadiums on the Bulldogs schedule that could not hold the numbers we would be bringing.
The Bulldogs brought home the win across the border and the road home across the bridge was bumper to bumper as far as your eyes could see.
The train was just heating up and in front of a packed out “Rock” for the 1st home game against Anadarko, the Bulldogs brought their “A” game. The boys in blue showed out for all in the state to see as the Bulldogs 49-21 assault on Anadarko put an end to their 52 game regular season streak.
Elk City tried to dirty up the game in week three and despite the extra “after the play” shenanigans and personal fouls, the Bulldogs were 3-0 and rolling.
El Reno was no cause for concern as the Bulldogs hung half a hundred for one of the six times they would do this on the year.
This set up the showdown with Mac at Cameron Stadium. It was the game of the year so far in the state as it pitted #1 vs. #2 in 5A for the lead in district standings and a glimpse at the true power status in the state.
Just as in 2014, Mac ended the game as the winner by two tiny little points. This was a brutal slugfest every snap. One of the better contests I’ve ever witnessed. Before any dumb controversial discussion gets ignited over this loss concerning decisions not to kick a field goal before half, let me make this as plain as I can. The Bulldogs second touchdown was followed by the extra point being easily blocked by a Mac player who managed an incredible feat in 2015. He managed to block a kick in every single game that he played in 2015. He blocked 13 kicks this year. That is absolutely astonishing to me. Not only are each of those lost point opportunities for Mac’s opponents but blocked kicks can completely shift momentum and change games. “He is amazing,” said Gabe Barton. “We had watched him on film going into that game and in two steps he was already all over every kick. He has made it (blocking kicks) an art form really.”
The Bulldogs had little time to lick wounds from the Mac loss as Del City was coming to town. The state’s ranking experts were not disappointed with the Bulldogs efforts in Lawton. Altus remained near the top of the 5A board just a couple of spots behind Mac.
Del City quarterback, Terry Wilson, had recently withdrew his verbal commitment to Nebraska and instead made it clear of his intentions to attend Oregon. There was plenty of star power that Friday night. Wilson lived up to his hype. However, the night would belong to the Bulldogs and Taven Birdow.
Birdow had one of the best nights in high school football history. His 371 yards on the ground was a good 50 yards beyond his own record set during his sophomore season.
Look for the rest of the 2015 season in review inside the Sunday edition of the Altus Times.
Reach Brad Gilbert@482-1221 ext. 2076