The more things change, the more things stay the same.
About this time fifty years ago the Grove Ridgerunner football squad was making preparations for their opening playoff contest with the Muldrow Bulldogs.
This week, the 2008 Grove squad has been busy in practice leading up to their playoff opener against the Muldrow school.
While some things have remained the same from 1958 to today, namely success, sportsmanship, and community pride, the football program has evolved and changed in many ways.
For starters, ’58 Ridgerunner Head Coach Paul Davis had 31 charges under his guidance back then. By contrast ’08 Head Coach Dennis Millican and his staff greeted over 90 players when the season began this year.
Likewise, Grove’s place in the Lucky 7 Conference has given way to a perennial top spot in Class 4A.
The 2008 Ridgerunners began their season with some personnel shuffles, chief among those the movement of senior Corey Davenport from wide receiver to quarterback.
The ’58 squad had its share of musical chairs among the positions as well. Coach Davis moved two ends, Kelly Hampton and Bill Berry, to tackles to help an offensive line anchored by junior center Percy Stogsdill.
A player coming back from injury is an evergreen theme in sports and the ’58 team featured end Charles Cooper back in action after breaking a pelvis bone over the winter.
Today’s team features Dusty Gehrke as the triple-purpose (kick returns, defensive back, wide receiver) threat athlete and his counterpart on the ’58 group would have to be All State running back Eddie Huggins.
Every successful football campaign features a collage of memorable games: the come from behind win, the blowout, and the vanquishing of an old rival. The ‘58 and ‘08 clubs have shared all of those circumstances.
The come from behind win for the ’58 team was a 24-18 win over Picher. The Ridgerunners scored three times in the final 13 minutes as fullback Dwain Vice broke through for the go ahead touchdown. A late Picher rally was turned away by a Vice interception.
It will be a long time before Ridgerunner fans forget the dramatic 41-20 win over Oologah this season. Down 20-0 at the half- the first time the Ridgrunners had trailed in a game all season- the team posted 41 unanswered points to turn it into a rout.
The blowouts for each team were a 64-0 pasting over Wyandotte in ’58 and a 66-21 exercise against Locust Grove for today’s heroes.
And the win over a rival is, of course, the Jay Bulldogs. Coach Davis and his team pulled out a 24-0 win in the third game of the season; the Ridgerunners first regular season victory of that year. Coach Millican and his players posted their final regular season win of the season last week with a 24-10 decision over the Bulldogs.
And so as the current crop of Grove’s finest begin their march into post-season play they will carry with them the spirit and tradition of that successful group from fifty years ago.
And, by the way, the ’58 team downed Muldrow 40-14 in that opening round game so besides skill and determination, history is on our side as well this Friday.
Information for this article was acquired via 1958 issues of the Grove Sun as found at the Grove City Library.
Rogers (AR) 7-12 L
Quapaw 22-26 L
Jay 24- 0 W
Chelsea 34- 6 W
Fairland 42- 0 W
Picher 24-18 W
Afton 44- 0 W
Westville 30- 0 W
Wyandotte 64- 0 W
Commerce 46-14 W
Muldrow 40-14 W
Hominy 14-14, 16-13 1st dwn W
Dunbar 0- 0, 2- 0 pentrns W
State Championship Game
Lindsay 0-26 L
McDonald Cnty 56- 7 W
Wagoner 34- 6 W
Miami 27- 7 W
Tulsa McLain 21- 6 W
Vinita 31- 0 W
Collinsville 31-14 W
Oologah 41-20 W
Catoosa 31- 7 W
Locust Grove 66-21 W
Jay 24-10 W
Muldrow ??-?? ?