It took 53 years for Stillwater to claim a state championship, and it hasn’t been done again in four decades since.

In 1967, the Pioneers shocked everyone as they climbed from a 2-3 start to upset an undefeated Okmulgee team15-7 in the Class AA State Championship.

The team will be honored during Stillwater’s homecoming festivities prior to SHS’s game with Ponca City at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Pioneer Stadium. About 30 of the team’s players are expected to be in attendance, along with their 42-year-old trophy.

Friday’s game will also be the 40th high school reunion for Class of 1969. Denny Tewell, a member of that class and the ’67 championship team, remembers the glory time of Pioneers’ football.

“We only had four returning starters from the previous season,” he said. “The previous year, we were pretty good, made the playoffs, but didn’t get all the way to the finals. It was one of those seasons where we started out losing two of our first three games and ended up running off eight games in a row, including the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals game.

“It was a team that wasn’t expected to do much. We kind of surprised everybody by winning the thing. Going into the season, we were probably one of the least likely seasons for Stillwater to win the state championship. Kind of a Cinderella story, you could say.”

That historic December championship night in 1967 began with the Okmulgee Bulldogs taking an early 7-0 lead. Stillwater couldn’t answer until near the end of the first half when Fred Lawson blocked an Okmulgee punt attempted from deep in Bulldog territory. The ball bounced out of the back of Okmulgee’s end zone for a Stillwater safety, cutting the lead to five points.

Stillwater took a 9-7 lead in the beginning of the fourth on a 45-yard, six-play touchdown drive.

As the game drew to a close, the Bulldogs had only seven seconds left, enough for one play, from their own 43-yard line.

On a fourth-down desperation play, Okmulgee shot off one last pass. Pioneers’ Bobby Stites came dashing from his position at defensive back to pick the ball out of the air and run it back for a Stillwater touchdown just as the clock hit zero.

It was coach Jim Harris’ final game of his career. He coached in Stillwater for 14 years as an assistant and five years as head coach. In those five seasons, Harris accrued a 43-18 record. Harris still lives in Stillwater and will be in attendance Friday.

Stillwater’s Jack Dudley, Randy Matlock and Pat Wilsey were named to All-State teams that year.

“We just had a bunch of good solid players,” Tewell said. “It was a smart team that didn’t get penalized much, very mistake-free. That’s how we accomplished it. We just played well together and continued to improve every week. Didn’t make many mistakes and we were well-coached.”

That championship year, Tewell was Wilsey’s backup at wide receiver and played a little at cornerback. By his senior year, two years later, he was the Pioneers’ starting safety.

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