Stillwater News Press

July 11, 2013

Experience key to Morrison three-peat

By Andrew Glover

STILLWATER, Okla. — There was no question that the Morrison Wildcats were dedicated in preparing for the 2006 season. In 2007, they took that dedication to another level.

“We never ended a practice without shouting ‘gold ball’,” then-starting quarterback Shawn Walls said.

Returning most of their core players from their second straight Class B state championship team, the Wildcats’ dominance continued as they added another state championship trophy.

Two of those returning players were star quarterback Walls and star running back Ricky Holba. Teammates said Holba was faster than the previous season.

“He would get in the open field and no one could catch him,” then-senior offensive lineman Will Childress said.

Holba said he had a great offensive line which made his job easy.

“I averaged 17 yards per carry,” Holba said. “It was incredible the holes we had. There were several times, I wouldn’t be touched.”

Morrison did graduate several players but because the Wildcats had so many lopsided games, the younger players got plenty of experience.

“We were used to playing on Friday nights,” then-defensive lineman Clint Sloan said. “There were games we got as much playing time as the starters.”

Beside the skill of its players, the biggest strength for Morrison, is the bond between the seniors and underclassmen.

“(Will) Childress and I focused on pushing the younger kids during the summer,” Holba said. “We go workout in the morning and come back in the evening for conditioning. In between, we were hauling hay.”

“Starting in third grade we were playing Little League football,” Sloan said. “We’ve been playing together for a long time and were used to playing with the older kids.”

Just like the 2006 season, the Wildcats breezed through the regular season. The smallest margin of victory was 30 points. Holba said some of the teams’ domination was due to playing a district with inferior teams.

“In the regular season, I think I had a little second half playing time in two games,” Holba said.

The former running back said it didn’t change how they prepared for games.

“We didn’t take anyone lightly,” Holba said. “We watched film and saw the things our opponents did well and tried to stop them.”

The Wildcats’ defense was stingy as no opponent scored more than 14 points. Childress said the defensive line was big.

“We kept two linebackers behind the defensive line,” Childress said. “We kept people off the linebackers, so they could make tackles.”

Morrison was unstoppable in the playoffs. In the quarterfinals against Weeletka, the Wildcats’ defense only allowed 85 yards and forced six turnovers in a 43-8 victory. Holba rushed for a 59-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage. Morrison scored four rushing touchdowns and got pick-sixes from Will Childress and Jake Walls.

Against Garber, Holba rushed for two touchdowns and caught two and gained 339 total yards in a 46-6 victory.

In the semifinals, Morrison rematched with Pond Creek-Hunter. Unlike the year before there was no question about who the winner was going to be. The Wildcats scored 20 points in the first quarter and led 42-0 at halftime of a 48-0 victory with 5:49 left to play in the third quarter. Holba rushed for touchdowns of 56, 66 and 50 yards. He added an interception return for a touchdown.

The state championship against Dewar was no contest. Holba rushed for two of his three touchdowns in the first quarter. Walls also scored another touchdown to lead Morrison to a 28-8 first quarter lead. The Wildcats dominated the second half outscoring Dewar 24-12 en route to a 58-20 victory. Morrison out gained 440 yards to 312. Holba said it was one of the best moments of his life.

“Other than the birth of my daughter, it was one of the highest points of my life,” Holba said. “It’s a feeling you can never get back. I remember 2004, when we lost and the sour taste I had in my mouth. That loss motivated me the next three years to never leave anything on the field and made me work hard.”

The championship was Morrison’s 13th and fourth in the last five years. The 2007 season would be the Wildcats’ last in Class B as they moved up to Class A in 2008.

“I think them winning the next year made our championship bigger,” Childress said. “No one thought Morrison could compete in 11-man football. They ended up winning it.”

Holba earned his associates degree from Northern Oklahoma College at Oklahoma State and works at H2O Sports Unlimited in Stillwater, selling boats and marine related parts. The former running back hopes to go back to college to get his bachelor’s degree.

Childress went into Air Force after graduating from Morrison and helped build bombs and recently got out. The former offensive lineman now is in the Air National Guard and works for Drumright Pump and Supply.