Stillwater Pioneers Championship Commemorative Special

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Stillwater News Press • Weekend, December 31, 2022
Stillwater Pioneers
2 Stillwater News Press • Weekend , December 31 , 2022 From Your Friends At: 1524 E. 6th Avenue •Stillwater 405-743-4486 INCREDIBLE SEASON PIONEERS!!!


How it all started. The opener against a traditional Arkansas power gave us a glimpse of a disruptive, ball-hawking defense and a versatile offense.

Cameron Johnson could sense what was about to happen.

Late in the first quarter, he had a suspicion that Greenwood High quarterback Hunter Houston would throw the ball in his direction, and Johnson was ready to foil his opponent’s plan.

After inconspicuously waiting in the right location, senior linebacker Johnson leapt and secured the football with one hand, putting Stillwater High in prime position for a touchdown. The

Pioneers’ disruptive defensive plays gave them a quick advantage as they rolled past Arkansas powerhouse Greenwood, 4127, on Friday night in their season opener at Pioneer Stadium.

“I knew we were gonna do good, we were gonna set the tone,” Johnson said. “... We just have to play mean all the time.”

Johnson’s interception was the second of the night. On Greenwood’s opening drive, sophomore defensive back Tan Booth picked off Houston near Stillwater’s 20-yardline and returned it for 31 yards. The Pioneer offense capitalized on the opportunity, capping the ensuing drive with senior running back Noah Roberts’ 36yard touchdown.

Johnson’s takeaway also led to points. He snagged the football at Greenwood’s 19-yardline and carried it to the 10, rewarding the offense with a short path to the goal line. Again, Roberts delivered for the Pioneers (1-0), punching into the end zone on a 4-yard rush as Stillwater extended its lead to 14-0.

The Bulldogs didn’t back down, ending the game with four touchdowns, but Stillwater’s defense maintained control with a smothering presence in the backfield and agile plays to rip away the visiting team’s momentum. In the fourth quarter, senior safety Julius Talley sealed the victory with an interception, Stillwater’s third of the game.


The Pioneers trailed early, ran away late but got their biggest scare when star offensive lineman Jakobe Sanders was carted off the field

A cart drove out and hundreds of prayers went up.

In the late stages of the second quarter Friday night, a pile up happened near the Yukon Millers end zone. Stillwater Pioneers senior lineman Jakobe Sanders didn’t immediately pop up after the whistle. He was helped up and moved into the cart placing no weight on his left leg.

It was a crucial moment in Stillwater’s 55-9 win in Pioneer Stadium Friday night.


“(Jakobe) is a big leader,” Stillwater (2-0) quarterback Gage Gundy said. “Me and him are big leaders on this team so when he went down everybody was kind of looking at me and I didn’t really do a good job because I was kind of feeling down cause that’s my friend, but we bounced back and did good.”

The play after Sanders left the field, Gundy ran 11 yards to the 1-yard line where senior running back Noah Roberts capped off the drive with a plunge for a touchdown. It gave the Pioneers a 7-3 lead they would not give back.

After the game, Gundy said the team found out nothing is broken and Sanders has a little sprain.

Stillwater coach Tucker Barnard didn’t say


he knew what Sanders was dealing with and Sanders was seen walking in a boot and he will get checked out Saturday.

The Pioneers found another gear after Sanders left.

On the ensuing Yukon (0-2) drive, Pioneer senior Cameron Johnson picked off Miller quarterback Logan Troxell when the ball was tipped by senior Julius Talley. It was Johnson’s second game in a row with an interception. The Pioneers capitalized on the short field with an 11-yard rushing score from Roberts.

“It definitely changed the whole game,” Gundy said. “Once we got that going, everybody was going crazy on the sideline and we never looked back.”

Stillwater News Press • Weekend , December 31 , 2022 3
STILLWATER YUKON JASON ELMQUIST/STILLWATER NEWS PRESS Stillwater High senior Cameron Johnson bats down a pass to intercept it during the season opener against Greenwood, Arkansas, at Pioneer Stadium. JASON ELMQUIST/STILLWATER NEWS PRESS Stillwater High senior running back Noah Roberts (24) celebrates with a teammate after scoring a touchdown during Friday’s game at against Yukon.



The first real scare for the Pioneers led to a defining moment for the offense. It was this game they realized they could rely on Gage Gundy’s grit to get them out of a jam.

Sept. 16:

There was just one problem with Tias McClarty’s heroics.

They came too soon.

Stillwater beat Norman 36-33 at Pioneer stadium on Friday night.

The notion of a Pioneers win seemed improbable at times, and even more doubtful with 2:11 remaining.

remaining in the game, facing their first deficit with the newly minted 33-28 Norman lead, the Pioneers were calm.

They had a guy.

“Gage (Gundy) is a dude,” Stillwater coach Tucker Barnard said.

“When he walks into the football locker room, the environment changes. When he walks into the baseball locker room or onto the baseball field, the environment changes. I don’t coach out there (baseball), but I guarantee you the environment changes. He has that kind of effect on his team.”

The conversation in the Stillwater huddle was succinct.

like ‘We have this,’’’ Barnard said. “This is a really tough group. We’re a tough out, even when we kick ourselves.”

Senior Julius Talley jump-started the drive with a deep catch where he fought through defensive pass interference. It set Stillwater up at the Norman 41-yard line. Gundy followed a couple plays later with a thunderous rush where he evaded and ran over tacklers.


As McClarty, Norman’s senior quarterback, rolled to his right it seemed a game-winning play was imminent. The shifty Tiger veteran took the snap from the Pioneer 3-yard line on third and goal. He worked to his right and threw a strike to junior receiver Max Wilson who had wiggled free in the end zone. But as the Pioneer offense trotted onto their turf field with 2:06

“Right when they scored I got everyone together and told them we’ve got to go score,” Gundy said.

Barnard said that despite the gut punch Norman had delivered, when his team got to their 11-yard line with just over two minutes remaining, the Pioneers were confident.

“We’re in the offensive huddle before we come down … the look in every one of their eyes is

Gundy careened to the Norman 4-yard line with the clock melting away. Then senior running back Noah Roberts, who finished with a Stillwater teamhigh 107 rushing yards, plowed to the 2-yard line.

With seconds left on a running clock, the Pioneers substituted. Players hurried on and off the field in a confused rush as the crowd worked itself into a frenzy. At that moment, Roberts became responsible for the final heroics of the night. He plunged through a mass of teammates blocking on the goal line and fell into the end zone.

4 Stillwater News Press • Weekend
December 31
Ne s Press Stillwate r CONGRATSPIONEERS! Excellent Effort on a Great Football Season!!!
Stillwater High senior quarterback Gage Gundy runs into the heart of the Norman defense during Friday’s game at Pioneer Stadium.


Grant never really stood a chance in this district opener.

Javon Schutte scooped up the football and rumbled toward the pylon with a hoard of Stillwater Pioneers propelling him from behind.

The cluster of players lost momentum as the few U.S. Grant Generals in the vicinity piled on to slow Schutte. But eventually, Schutte, a senior defensive end with about

700 pounds of linemen pushing behind him, bullied his way into the end zone.

“I just felt all those people on me, and I was like, ‘I just got to make it to the end zone,’” Schutte said.

On that play and so many others in Stillwater’s 85-0 win Friday, the Pioneers felt inevitable.

Even when the Generals possessed the ball the Pioneers were a threat to score.

Stillwater’s defense scored four times, including Shutte’s play that made the score

43-0. The next possession, Stillwater senior defensive back Cameron Johnson waltzed untouched into the end zone for a 15-yard interception return.

U.S. Grant (0-4) didn’t pick up a first down.

Stillwater lived in the U.S. Grant backfield. The Pioneers regularly penetrated the line on run plays and held U.S. Grant to one rushing yard on 11 attempts. Jonathan Anderson, the Generals’ leading ball carrier, finished with -6 yards on five attempts.

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Stillwater High senior Javon Schutte scoops up a fumble and ran it in for a touchdown during the Sept. 23 game against U.S. Grant.



This might have been the first district test as Stillwater traveled to face a traditionally sound Booker T. Washington team. Really, it was just a preview of things to come and how dominant the Pioneers would be in district play.

30: TULSA – A tale of discrepancies could be told from the opening kickoff in Stillwater’s 38-6 road win over Booker T Washington on Friday night.

As Stillwater quarterback Gage Gundy breathed into his hands, he patiently awaited the play call from the sidelines. He then walked from offensive lineman to offensive lineman, screaming an audible towards his interior teammates in the trenches as the rampant crowd roared from the stands at S.E. Williams Stadium.

As Gundy backed up under center, he took the snap and scanned the field. Moments later he found fullback Josh Ford roaming around in the open on his left from eight yards out to put the Pioneers on the board first.

match for the 6A-2 conference standings.

Once the Pioneers plowed into the end zone on their inaugural drive, a drastic boost of confidence flowed along the Stillwater sidelines. Gundy knew his team was going to come out on top – there wasn’t a doubt in his mind.

An errant snap to Booker T Washington senior quarterback Lathan Boone resulted in a fumble recovery by Stillwater defensive lineman Kailer Page to set up the Pioneers on the Hornet 32-yard line. Gundy led the herd of white and blue uniforms back onto the field, in hopes of capitalizing off of an early turnover by the opposition.

Heading into Friday night’s contest, the Pioneer offense had averaged 54 points per game through four games. With how his team had been playing offensively, as of late, the senior quarterback practically visualized an upcoming Stillwater touchdown, seemingly destined to happen just moments later.


“That was a really good start to the game for us right there, that’s what we needed to get things going for us,” Gundy said. “It was a perfect, ideal start.”

From that moment on, the trajectory of the contest was fluent as No. 1 ranked Stillwater (5-0) took down No. 5 ranked Booker T Washington (2-3), in what was a pivotal

out a lengthy drive, eliminating close to six minutes of clock to find the end zone for the third time in three drives.

On a night where everything seemed to go the Pioneers’ way – one-handed catches, successful hurdles, and last-second shoestring tackles – the exact polar opposite transpired for the Hornets. Through as many drives, BTW did not score a touchdown once, turning the ball over twice while not even crossing the 50yard line in that span. It was an accurate encapsulation of the night, and a perfect foreshadowing of what was to come.

The Pioneers managed to score a touchdown for the fourth time in as many drives off of a 38-yard, breakaway touchdown run by running back Noah Roberts – who went on to have a dominant, 155-yard, three-touchdown night, averaging 7 yards per carry.

“I was confident in our team heading in,” Gundy said. “But after we (intercepted Boone) in their own territory, I knew we were going to score again.”

Seven plays later, Gundy found the end zone from one yard out to make it a two-possession ballgame in favor of Stillwater at the 3:41 mark in the first quarter.

Nothing changed offensively for the Pioneers on the ensuing series as Gundy and the offense churned

“I tell people, if you don’t have a successful run game, you won’t be able to throw the ball like (we did),” Gundy said. “(Roberts is) always successful so that opened up some of the passes that we get.”

A 30-yard field goal as time expired in the first half of play left the crowd at S.E. Williams Stadium in complete and utter silence – outside of the halftime music and dull, non-football related chatter transpiring in the stands. The Pioneers took a 31-0 lead heading into halftime – a lead they would not come remotely close to giving back.

6 Stillwater News Press • Weekend
December 31
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Another rout for the Pioneers was a milestone for its head coach.



Standing on Memorial Field in the aftermath of his team’s 58-7 win over Sand Springs on Friday evening, Stillwater High football coach Tucker Barnard let one important tidbit slip his mind.

Barnard couldn’t stop raving about his senior quarterback’s dominant outing. He couldn’t help but joke about his defense giving up a single score, which didn’t come until his starters were pulled in the third quarter.

But he needed his memory jogged on the fact that he had just picked up his 100th win at the helm of the program.

“It’s pretty cool, man. It’s just one of those landmarks,” Barnard said. “I actually forgot about it until someone was videoing me at halftime. I was like, ‘What are they doing?’ It’s pretty neat. I’ve been really fortunate.”

The Pioneers (6-0) didn’t wait long to show their coach he was going to reach the milestone, and it’s in part due to the connection between senior quarterback Gage Gundy and junior wideout Heston Thompson.

In fact, all they needed was 84 seconds.

After receiving the opening kickoff, Stillwater stunned the Sandites (3-3) with their offensive approach. The Pioneers shifted away from their usual runheavy attack and put the game in Gundy’s hands – or more accurately, on his right arm.

Gundy put the punctuation on the game’s opening drive with a 27-yard touchdown pass to Thompson, a strike that foreshadowed what was to come from the duo.

“We didn’t really come into the game with necessarily that thought process, but that was really good for us to be able to throw the ball around,” Barnard said.

Stillwater News Press • Weekend , December 31 , 2022 7
JON WALKER/STILLWATER NEWS PRESS Stillwater High junior wide receiver Heston Thompson jukes a defender on his way to the end zone during the Pioneers’ 58-7 win over Sand Springs Oct. 7 at Memorial Stadium.
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With the front end of the schedule so full of home games, it meant ending the regular season on the road. A big crowd came to see the Pioneers’ last game at home until the postseason.

The Stillwater High football team has a keen history of defending its home turf.


“We just wanted to show ’em that this is our field, our Senior Night,” said Pioneers senior linebacker Trey Gregory, who finished with 11 tackles. “We’re gonna protect our house.”

While the final product was everything the Pioneers (7-0) wanted, it didn’t start exactly how they envisioned – at least not for the offense.

that was proved errant when senior running back Noah Roberts was stuffed three yards short of the line to gain.

The defense answered the call for a second time in as many drives, though, forcing the Bruins to punt.

In fact, the Pioneers entered Week 7’s matchup against Bartlesville with a 37-1 record at Pioneer Stadium since 2017.

This year’s senior class has been a key part of that stretch, going 19-1 over the last four years prior to Thursday night’s meeting with the Bruins. and they added to that mark with a 55-7 beatdown of Bartlesville on Senior Night in what was their final regular-season game in front of a home crowd.

After Bartlesville (3-4) received the opening kickoff, Stillwater junior defensive back Trey Tuck intercepted Bruins sophomore quarterback Nate Neal on the fourth play from scrimmage. It was a forced turnover that gave the Pioneers their first possession of the night on the Bruins 25.

An incompletion on first down, no gain on second down and a pass for 6 yards left Stillwater facing a fourthand-4 from the 19-yard line. and the Pioneers went for it, a decision

That’s when Stillwater struck first, inching down the field before senior quarterback Gage Gundy connected with junior wideout Talon Kendrick for a 38-yard score to give the Pioneers a 7-0 lead with 4:17 left in the first quarter.

In the moments following the 48-point win, Stillwater coach Tucker Barnard didn’t think the early struggles were because of anything Bartlesville was doing. Instead, he believes it had everything to do with the week leading up to the eventual win.

“I really think it was more just about our preparation and our mindset, really,” Barnard said.

8 Stillwater News Press • Weekend
December 31
JASON ELMQUIST/STILLWATER NEWS PRESS Stillwater High senior receiver Trent Hardesty hauls in a touchdown pass from Gage Gundy during the Oct. 13 game against Bartlesville.
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Stillwater High senior running back Noah Roberts cuts through the defense during the Pioneers’ 49-7 win over Putnam City West at Patriot Stadium. Roberts matched his season-high with four rushing touchdowns.


The Pioneers, though still undefeated, were looking for a more complete performance. They got it.


– The Stillwater High football team entered its Week 8 road contest against Putnam City West on the heels of a blowout win over Bartlesville. That’s been the theme of this season so far for the Pioneers, who collectively outscored their first seven opponents 374-89.

And their dominant ways of winning continued Friday evening, when the Pioneers

remained unblemished with a 49-7 win over the Patriots at Patriot Stadium.

“It’s a big deal, you know?” Stillwater coach Tucker Barnard said. “Winning is hard, so we try to not take it for granted.”

Barnard thought his team “left a little out there” during Week 7, mostly referring to a slow start on offense. But the Pioneers (8-0) came out firing on all cylinders this week.

After forcing the Patriots (2-6) into a threeand-out on the game’s opening drive, Stillwater struck first with a 3-yard touchdown run from senior running back Noah Roberts.

Another three-and-

out resulted in another touchdown, with the Pioneers’ second score in as many drives coming on a 27-yard toss from senior quarterback Gage Gundy to junior wideout Heston Thompson.

The Pioneers’ third drive of the game paled in comparison to the first two, though.

Gundy entered the contest with a single interception on the season. Picking off the prolific passer hasn’t been something that’s come easy to defenses thus far. But a tipped pass led to an interception from Patriots linebacker Dujuan Knight, who returned it 40-something yards for West’s lone score of the game.

Stillwater News Press • Weekend , December 31 , 2022 9
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At this point in the season, the Pioneers are just rolling.

Just full-on juggernaut mode.

With two weeks remaining in the regular season, Stillwater High football coach Tucker Barnard said the thing he wanted to see most was better execution during his team’s Week 9 road matchup against Tahlequah.

Whether it was up to Barnard’s liking or not, the Pioneers executed to the tune of a 55-0 win over the Tigers on Friday evening at Northeastern State University’s Doc Wadley Stadium.

Stillwater (9-0) continued its winning ways, and it didn’t take long for the Pioneers to show that was going to be the case.

After forcing a threeand-out on the game’s opening drive, Stillwater struck first on a 6-yard touchdown run from senior quarterback Gage Gundy. On the Pioneers’ ensuing possession, Gundy capped another scoring drive with an 8-yard touchdown pass to senior wideout Trent Hardesty.

The onslaught wasn’t done there, though.

Three possessions meant three touchdowns for Stillwater, and four possessions eventually meant four trips to the end zone.

Senior running back Noah Roberts was dominant on the ground, gashing through the Tigers’ (3-6) defense for a 30yard strike. The first interception of the year from senior linebacker Trey Gregory put the Pioneers on Tah-

lequah’s 3-yard line, where Gundy kept it to himself on an option for his second rushing score of the night.

One of Tahlequah’s highlights on the night was a long connection between freshman quarterback Brody Younger to junior wideout Eli McWilliams, which put the Tigers on the Pioneers 20. But a defensive stand, aided by penalties, resulted in the Tigers having to punt.

And to put the finishing touches on the first half, Stillwater drove 92 yards on seven plays and scored, again, when Gundy threw a 14-yard strike to junior wide receiver Heston Thompson in the back corner of the end zone.

Stillwater scored on every one of its five first-half possessions to take a 35-0 lead into the break.

As well as the Pioneers had been playing, so too had Muskogee. The Roughers entered undefeated as well, which set up a regular-season finale for a district title.


The first half of the long-awaited regular-season finale between unbeaten Stillwater and unbeaten Muskogee was everything a matchup of such magnitude was supposed to be.

The Pioneers and Roughers traded haymakers en route to a 14-14 tie at the break, going back and forth with each other for every second of the first 24 minutes.

But the second half was everything Still-

water hoped it would be – and everything Muskogee wished it wasn’t – as the Pioneers coasted to a 38-21 win over the Roughers to clinch the Class 6A-II District 1 title on Thursday night at Roughers Village.

“Just really excited for our kids,” Stillwater coach Tucker Barnard said. “We’ve worked hard. This was a goal. You know, we wanna be conference champions. We wanna be district champions. We want to be undefeated. It’s just another one we’ve checked off.”

The 17-point triumph marked the ninth time this season that the Pioneers (100) have won by double digits. This time was different, though.

After stomping through the first nine

weeks of the regular season, this win wasn’t against a program still trying to find its footing. It came over a Muskogee program that had been running in full stride until Stillwater stopped the Roughers in their tracks.

“We’ve had a lot of games where we’ve kind of cruised through and haven’t been tested,” Barnard said. “So it was a lot of fun. I think our kids enjoyed that.”

Entering the contest with one of the best defenses in the state, Stillwater won the coin toss and elected to defer, giving that unit a tall task early in slowing down a Muskogee offense that averaged 44 points per game in the first nine weeks. And they answered the call.

10 Stillwater News Press • Weekend , December 31 , 2022
GAME 10: STILLWATER 38, MUSKOGEE 21 GARY TREMBLY/TAHLEQUAH DAILY PRESS Stillwater Pioneer wide receiver Trent Hardesty catches a touchdown pass from Gage Gundy in the first quarter of the game in Tahlequah. JON WALKER//STILLWATER NEWS PRESS Stillwater High senior quarterback Gage Gundy dashes through the defense during the waning moments of the Pioneers’ 38-21 win over Muskogee.

The Stillwater High defense swarms around a Bartlesville ball carrier during the Class 6A-II quarterfinal game at Pioneer Stadium. The topranked and undefeated Pioneers pitched their third shutout of the season with a 56-0 beatdown of the Bruins to advance to the state semifinals.


The Pioneers had a first-round playoff bye and their first opponent of the postseason was a familiar one.

Stillwater football defensive back Julius Talley couldn’t wait to play Bartlesville in the Class 6A-II quarterfinals on Friday evening at Pioneer Stadium.

He was motivated by the Pioneers’ 55-7 win over the Bruins in Week 7. He wanted to dominate them again.

“I think it’s gonna be pretty enjoyable knowing that we have a chance to beat them twice,” Talley said on Wednesday afternoon. “We can show them who’s better twice. That’s pretty cool.”

And that’s exactly what the Pioneers did.

Talley and Stillwater’s defense absolutely stymied Bartlesville en route to a 56-0 win, effectively making the Pioneers one of four teams left in the hunt for the Class 6A-II title.

Stillwater outscored Bartlesville 111-7 throughout the two meetings this season.

“I think we were locked in, and we were prepared to play the way we needed to play,” Pioneers coach Tucker Barnard said. “We did what we needed to do and executed well in all three phases, really.”

The Pioneers (11-0) have owned one of the most prolific offenses in the state during the fall, but they hang their hat on the defense each and every week. That was no different against the

Bruins (5-7).

Bartlesville’s offense is predicated on a rushing attack led by PJ Wallace. A sophomore running back, Wallace rushed for 84 yards on 32 attempts in the first meeting, a line good enough for 2.6 yards per carry.

Stillwater’s defense thwarted the Wallace’s effort again, too, limiting him to 73 yards on 28 carries for an eerily coincidental 2.6 yards per attempt.

“You can’t really put a price on that,” Barnard said of his defense, which only allowed 146 yards of offense. “They play so fast, and they play so hard and disruptive.

There was really no space for Bartlesville to operate tonight, and those guys, defensively, they just kind of pride themselves on that.”

Stillwater News Press • Weekend , December 31 , 2022 11
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It can be hard to judge teams that come from the other side of the bracket. Deer Creek had lost only one game all year – to the team that finished first in the west.

PONCA CITY — Gage Gundy couldn’t help but look. He had no choice.

Pacing the sideline in the final moments of Stillwater’s matchup with Deer Creek in the Class 6A-II semifinals on Friday evening, the Pioneers senior quarterback knew what was coming. He just didn’t know how it’d end.

“Praying to God that we can pick the ball off or knock it down,” Gundy said.

Once holding a 30-0 lead, the Pioneers had one play to save their season. And the Antlers had one play to prolong


With 3.2 seconds remaining, and with Stillwater leading 33-28, Deer Creek sophomore quarterback Grady Adamson took the snap, dropped back and launched the ball 49 yards to the end zone at Sullins Stadium.

Those handful of seconds it hung in the air had Stillwater senior defensive back Garhett Reese thinking one thing and one thing only.

“Catch the ball. Catch the ball. Catch the ball,” Reese said.

And he did, effectively slamming the door shut on Deer Creek’s comeback attempt to send Stillwater to the Class 6A-II title game for the first time since 2019.

“I mean, the game was on the line,” Reese said. “So it had to be done.”

“It feels good,” Pioneers coach Tucker Barnard said after the

5-point win. “This is what everybody dreams of, is a chance to play for the championship.”

Slow starts have been something the Pioneers (12-0) have tried to avoid throughout the season, but that wasn’t the case against the Antlers (10-2). In fact, it was one of the fastest starts Stillwater has had all season, and it was perhaps the fastest start Barnard and Co. could’ve imagined.

On the second play from scrimmage, Pioneers senior running back Noah Roberts sliced through the Antlers defense for a 69yard touchdown. Then Deer Creek fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and a Stillwater recovery started the drive on the Antlers 21.

And on the first play of that possession, Gundy connected with junior wideout Talon Kendrick for a touchdown.



For all the marbles.

EDMOND – Stillwater High football coach Tucker Barnard took two steps forward, two steps back and then stopped. With his hands on his hips, he wanted to see it with his own eyes.

A few seconds later, immediately following Pioneers quarterback Gage Gundy taking a knee to put a bow on the 26-21 win over Choctaw in the Class 6A-II title game on Friday afternoon at Chad Richison Stadium, Barnard received the Gatorade bath he’s been waiting on for nearly 12 years.

That’s what almost dropped him to his knees. Barnard matched the players’ jubilation for his first few steps onto the field. Then he stopped, hunched over and let it

all out.

“I wasn’t ready, honestly. I wasn’t ready,” Barnard said before choking up. “It was just kind of a rush of emotions, man. It’s an emotion dump right now. You put in a lot.”

The 5-point triumph marked Stillwater’s first Gold Ball since 1967, rewarding a storied program that’s had its fair share of success since, and before, Barnard took over prior to the 2011 season.

Throughout all of the trials and tribulations, the Pioneers, once again, are able to call themselves champions.

“I’ve been praying for this for probably 14 weeks now,” said Gundy, a senior. “And it came true.”

The Pioneers (13-0) overcame their slowest start of the season to eventually get rolling. At the end of the first quarter, Stillwater’s offense had run 10 plays for a total of 31 yards.

Those struggles continued deep – almost too deep – into the second quarter. And then, facing a 7-0 deficit in the waning moments of the first half, the Pioneers dialed up one of their most creative plays of the season.

Gundy received the snap and handed it off to junior wide receiver Talon Kendrick, who has served as Stillwater’s Swiss Army knife all year. Kendrick faked running to his right before throwing downfield to fellow wideout Julius Talley, a senior, who went up over the defender for the catch and kept his footing on his way to the end zone with 19 seconds left before the break.

“It was awesome. Big momentum shift,” Talley said. “I saw the ball and the air and knew I had to go get it. Once I caught, I was like, ‘I gotta go score. Nobody’s gonna stop me here.’ It was amazing.”

12 Stillwater News Press • Weekend
December 31
JASON ELMQUIST/STILLWATER NEWS PRESS Stillwater High defender Garhett Reese (27) intercepts a Hail Mary on the last play of the Class 6A-II state semifinal game against Deer Creek in Ponca City. JASON ELMQUIST/STILLWATER NEWS PRESS SHS head coach Tucker Barnard gets a Gatorade shower as he walks onto the field as time expires in Stillwater championship game.
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