Joe Claxton Guest Writer
The 19N96 Ada High football campaign took on a different cachet than the three state title teams before it.
It was framed by the departure of coach Larry McBroom and O-Line coach Don Byrd, be-monocled with Roughriders hats, on horseback and ready to ride up the San Juan hill of Tejas, Weatherford, Texas.
Jim and son Jeff Waters were the only holdovers for Coach Gary McBroom and Coach Craig McBroom to build around.
So coach Gary went out and brought in four gunslingers — two Ada High alum move-backs, one move-up and a stranger from way up north.
The alum callbacks were Steve Dean from Perry; Jay Johnson from the hotel industry; T.D. Teel, a teammate of Johnson’s in 1984, moved up from AJH; and the northerner, John Higbee, a Dewey grad with stops at Noble and Haltom City, Texas.
Their only assigned mission? Win state. And, oh yes, extend the 40-game winning streak, preferably by 14 games.
Ranked No. 1, even with a move up to Class 5A, Ada quickly dispatched two highly touted teams — Ardmore and Midwest City Carl Albert.
Next up, a trip to Durant and another win in the series that now stands 56-11-2, far into Ada’s dominance.
It would turn out to be one of the darker days in Ada football history ... and maybe one of the brighter in retrospect. Durant 14, Ada 9.
An unconfirmed rumor has it than Durant’s cable TV broadcast the game for a week, maybe two.
Red Carpet treatment
Gary Patrick, the extremely popular bus driver of the day, was rumbling along into Durant.
Everyone was in good spirits, except the coaches, of course, who alone knew that a tremendous upset was possible. It had been a bad week of practice. The kids were going through the motions, walking instead of running though the plays. Almost strutting through the plays, some say.
Patrick drove Red Carpet charters out of Tulsa — he, and only he, drove the Cougars during the championship years.
En route to Durant, Patrick summoned coach Gary to the front of the bus.
“We are a little early. Do you want to take the scenic drive around the lake?” Patrick offered.
It was McBroom’s third game as head coach at his alma mater. He had replaced his all-winning younger brother, Coach Larry.
He was on a roll, 42-14 over always powerful and arch-rival Ardmore, and 28-10 over newly added big time 5A opponent Carl Albert.
The year before at McAlester, always-scheming head coach Tom Redding offered several of the Cougar entourage free hot dogs. Most declined when noting the POTAC written on the dog in mustard. Patrick consumed, noting that he had to keep his strength up to drive his Cougars back home.
Like Jamie, his brother before him, John Hart led the troops out of the locker room. So it was Sept. 20, 1996, at Durant.
The staunchest of the staunch, over-measured at 5-8 but every bit of the listed 260 pounds, was right guard John “Skippy” Hart. Hart, today a veep with a restaurant chain in Oklahoma City, is said have gotten so low on the line, that he was able to get under the shoulder pads of his counterpart on the National Midget Team.
Towering seemingly a foot above him was best buddy and quarterback Bubba Babb, 6-3 x 200.
“Everyone knew how good we were, the teams we had already beaten, the rest of 5A, the state, the Durant bunch ... and worst of all, we knew it best of all,” Babb recalled.
Now with Sysco Foods, Babb described the misery and the pain ... then said it was maybe the best thing that ever happened to the team.
“In retrospect it was all on us, the players. Not the coaches who had an excellent game plan, but totally on us, those 16-17-18-year olds who thought we were unbeatable,” Babb said.
“We were angry, I think Jeremiah (300-pounder Jeremiah Adams) threw his helmet through the chalkboard we carried with us to drew up plays ... so angry we declined to stop for an after game meal on the way back ... too sick to eat.”
“It was The Perfect Storm really, we had not lost since the 7th or 8th grade, we had beaten two top-ranked 5A schools. We lost to Durant, but it set the tone for the rest of the season
“When we (teammates, coaches) are together, we never talk about that game, it was like it never happened. We focused our anger on the gold ball at the end of the rainbow, I guess, we were never really challenged the rest of the season, until the championship game (21-14 over McAlester),” Babb said.
Steve Dean, former Cougar who later coached his alma mater (assistant 1998-2003, head coach 2004-2007) said, “The loss so fired them up they pretty much steam-rolled everyone the rest of the year.”
“We were probably a bit complacent. We just let one get away,” Dean said.
Indeed it was The Perfect Storm of sorts. Overconfidence. The officials showed up last and delayed the game. It rained through pre-game. That, combined with career game nights by QB Stone Scoggin and wideout C.J. Bacu, ended the winning streak at 42.
That night it was pretty quiet going out of town on the charter, the yellow dawg, the equipment van, the coaches van.
Dean was on the coaches van along with Teel, Johnson. Coach Craig and a sports information fellow, namely this writer.
Silence. More silence.
The van pulled up to a stop light. Pulling next to them was a large, blustering pickup with a long cattle trailer behind, the open trailer style with large rails. The only occupant was a small beagle-type dog.
“That must be a mean little son-of-a-gun,” Teel observed, breaking the ice just a bit.
It is still the state record, that 42 straight.
Each of the four state title teams named their seasons.
1993: Sweet 16.
1994: One More in 94.
1995: Keep It Alive In 95.