By Andrew Glover
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Entering the 2003 football season, the Morrison Wildcats were on the doorstep of bringing home a Class B state championship trophy. In 2000, they were state runners-up and in 2002, they reached the semifinals.
With that previous playoff experience, the Wildcats broke down the door and won their first state championship since 1994.
“We hadn’t fallen off the map, we just weren’t able to bring home the gold ball,” former coach Joe Sindelar said. “The expectations in Morrison are always high and the community expects you to win all the time. It was a big deal for us to get that championship.”
“We had a large senior class,” current Morrison coach Cory Bales, who was defensive coordinator under Sindelar said. “They had been runner-up and got to the semifinals a couple times. They were probably one of the better teams that we had.”
Morrison opened the season by avenging last season’s semifinal loss to Weleetka, who was the defending state champion with a 22-8 victory in the home opener. Quarterback Beau Shiever ran for a touchdown and threw another. Berry Shouse scored an insurance touchdown in the third quarter.
Weleetka would be the closest game the Wildcats would have all season, as they won the rest of their games by at least 17 points. Morrison averaged 43 points per game.
“We were really good that year,” said Garrett Childress, who was a sophomore receiver. “Our district was pretty weak and we were able to roll through it.”
In the playoffs, Morrison continued rolling. In the first round, Shiever ran for two touchdowns and threw for one in a 38-6 victory over Okay.
Shievar and Shouse combined for five total touchdowns in a 48-12 victory over Tipton in the second round. In the state semifinals against Medford, Shouse scored three touchdowns and sophomore tight end and linebacker Lance Barrick scored a pick six. The Wildcats returned to the title game with a 42-12 victory and would once again meet up with the Outlaws of Weleetka.
The championship game lived up to the hype as both teams combined for 104 points and 869 total yards. Barrick said it was an amazing game to be a part of.
“It was one of those games that all eight players were doing their part,” Barrick said.
The Outlaws struck the first blow with a 31-yard run by William Bencoma. Shiever gave the Wildcats their first lead with a 31-yard run and a conversion pass. The momentum was short-lived as Bencoma returned the kickoff 87-yards for a touchdown. That’s where the momentum would shift again.
Shiever scored his second touchdown on a 47-yard run and threw a 45-yard pass to Childress to give Morrison a 24-12 first quarter lead. From that point forward, the teams exchanged scores.
Morrison led 38-26 at halftime and 50-34 after the third quarter. At the start of the fourth, Rodney Bencoma scored on a five-yard run to cut the Wildcats’ lead to 50-42. Shouse scored his third touchdown of the second half to push Morrison’s lead to 14. The Bencoma brothers connected as William caught a 24-yard pass from Rodney to cut the lead to 56-48 with 4:17 left.
The Wildcats would be forced to punt, the ball went between the legs of punter Cody Leigh, who fell on the ball for a 22-yard loss, setting the Outlaws up at the Morrison 29.
Weleetka immediately converted a first down on a 10-yard pass. On second down, Morrison freshman Josh Day knocked the ball out of Rodney Bencoma’s hands into the hands of fellow freshman Dustin Sloan, who returned the ball to the Weleetka 44. After a 14-yard run by Shouse on third-and-11, the championship trophy was heading back to Morrison.
“It was something we weren’t used to,” Childress said about Weleetka’s scoring. It got pretty hazy towards the end of the game but Dustin Sloan came up with that fumble. It was an amazing feeling.”
Sindelar said the game was emotionally draining.
“We were really good and they were really good. We couldn’t stop them,” Sindelar said. “It put a lot of pressure on our offense. If we would make one mistake, it could cost us the game. ... “I was so exhausted that I slept on the bus, when we left the restaurant until we got to the field house parking lot.”
Childress said it was amazing to win that championship after Morrison went nearly a decade without one.
“We had our struggles in the past years but it was nice to bring the trophy back to the community that came around to support us.”
Sindelar led the Wildcats to a state runner-up finish the next season and then took five years off from coaching. He taught at Morrison for the 2005-2006 school year then became principal at Woodland for four years before returning to the sideline at Woodland in 2010.