After a successful 1976 season running the football, Stillwater High opted to install an aerial attack in 1977.

Mike Field was the offensive leader in 1976, rushing for 1,058 yards as SHS went 10-0 in the regular season before losing to Jenks in the first round of the state playoffs. Field was sidelined by injury early in the game.

The returning personnel was more suited for a passing game prompting the change in offensive philosophy in 1977 by then head coach Bob Holladay and staff.

Senior quarterback Kevin Sasser had a productive 1977 season, passing for 1,495 yards and 18 touchdowns. His top targets were senior receivers Eugene Dirks and Zach Webster, a pair of swift, athletic receivers.

Led by this trio and a hard-nosed supporting cast on both sides of the ball, the Pioneers advanced to the Class 3A State Championship Game, where they lost to Duncan.

Memories of that special season and those talented players were rekindled last week when it was learned that Dirks, a 1978 SHS graduate, died after a battle with cancer.

Dirks, 55, lived in Arlington, Texas, at the time of his death. His funeral was held Saturday. He is survived by his wife Diane, four children and five grandchildren.

Dirks, a two-sport star for the Pioneers, was a two-way player in football and ran track. His legacy is one of outstanding performances in both sports.

In 1977, he had 41 catches for 617 yards and seven touchdowns. He also led SHS with nine pass interceptions that season. Dirks finished with 21 career pass interceptions, which remains a school record.

“Eugene and I played together since the eighth grade,” said Webster, who finished 1977 with 656 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns while also playing in the defensive backfield. “He was the type of guy you loved having on your team.

“He was a go-to guy as a wide receiver and was a guy on defense who made tackles and had nine picks his senior year. He was also a punt returner. He was a fun guy to be around. He would laugh at you and with you,” added Webster, who lives in Dallas, Texas.

“It really helped both of us having the other one on the field so defenses couldn’t double team us. We were both two-way players. We worked hard because coach Holladay always kept us humble.”

Dirks also excelled in track as a hurdler. He won the 300 intermediate hurdles in 1978 at the Class 4A State Meet in a time of 38.19.

Thirty years passed before Stillwater crowned another 300 intermediate hurdles state champion. Former Pioneer Nathaniel Winfrey, who ran collegiately as the University of Oklahoma, was a two-time Class 6A state champion in the event, winning with a time of 38.35 in 2008 and 37.78 in 2009.

Ron Holt is a sports columnist for the Stillwater News Press. He served as sports editor for more than 30 years. He resides in Bixby.

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