In the fall of 2015, a new wave came upon the Coalgate Wildcats.
The team was entering its third season under alumnus Dusty Newberry and a ballyhooed bunch of freshman was being introduced to varsity football. Among the large group of rookies were running back Blade Horton, wide receiver Auston Crank and quarterback Austin Lambert.
This was a group of youngsters had already amassed a following. They had been playing together since peewee football when they had gone undefeated and only suffered one setback in junior high (that lone loss happened when Coalgate played a quasi-junior varsity game with the freshman class of Davis).
Many stories had been told of this bunch and how they were going to change the future in Coalgate, but their story was just beginning. If you asked these guys, they did not care what was being said. All they wanted to do was play under the Friday Night Lights. They were anxious to take the field as see what high school football was all about.
The freshmen year
They opened their varsity careers with a disappointing 41-0 loss to eventual Class A state champion Stratford. It was anything but what they envisioned, but that was the last time they would be shut out during their varsity careers. They scored in 44 straight games. Crank led the team in receiving yards averaging 28.9 yards per catch, which included a 209-yard night in his playoff debut. Lambert was banged up in the first game and suffered the effects for the remainder of the season. He was limited to only five games. Horton finished his freshman campaign as the team’s second-leading rusher. The season was anything but disappointing. The Wildcats finished third in district play. They traveled to Lindsay for a first-round matchup and dropped a 40-32 decision in a fun shootout.
The sophomore year
There was no sophomore slump for this bunch as they opened the season 2-0 with a pair of lopsided wins.
Game 3 was a turning point in their careers after several miscues led to a 34-26 loss to Holdenville. The team rebounded nicely winning five straight contests. That streak led to a Week 10 showdown with the old nemesis Davis.
The Wolves were victorious, and the Wildcats finished second in district and hosted Hobart in the playoff opener.
During the season, Horton broke the 100-yard mark in eight games, including a 224-yard, four-touchdown night in a win over archrival Atoka. Lambert took over as the full-time signal caller, producing over 2,300 yards of total offense. Crank again lead receivers, which included going over the century mark in three games.
The junior year
Their junior season was opened with seven straight victories, but two key district losses pushed the Wildcats into a third-place district finish. That caused a first-round matchup with eventual state runner-up Washington.
This campaign was a truly balanced attack producing 1,800-plus yards passing and 1,800-plus yards rushing.
Lambert was hit the century mark in every game during the season. Horton rushed for 100+ yards in six games and running for exactly 200 yards versus Holdenville. Crank was slowed by a nagging injury but managed to average 24.3 yards per reception.
The senior year
Entering their final season, expectations were high and the players were ready to meet the challenge.
In the second game of the season, they blanked the Wampus Cats, winning that rivalry contest all four seasons and extending the school winning streak to seven games in the series.
The next week they followed it up with a thrilling win over Antlers that went into six overtimes.
On Homecoming night, Lambert and Crank were unstoppable with 309 and 241 yards, respectively (career records for both).
In a key district matchup with Lindsay, Horton rushed for a school-record 364 yards and seven touchdowns to lead the Wildcats to victory. That momentum carried them to a second-place finish in District 2A-8, where they hosted Lexington in the opening round of the playoffs.
To find their first playoff victory, the seniors piled up almost 600 yards of total offense. Horton rushed for 291 yards, Lambert passed for 234 and Crank grabbed six passes for 133 yards. Unfortunately, the party would not continue into the third week of playoff competition as big plays by Eufaula derailed brought their illustrious careers to an end.
During their senior campaign, this threesome became the 16th trio in Oklahoma history to have 2,000 yards passing, 1,500 yards rushing, and 1,000 yards receiving in a single season.
Additionally, this trio became the first group in the history of Oklahoma high school football to have a 6,000-yard passer, 5,000-yard rusher and 3000-yard receiver in a career.
Austin Lambert finished his high school career completing 371-of-604 passes for 6,445 yards. His is No. 21 in the Top 40 career passers in Oklahoma.
Blade Horton finished his career with 826 rushes for 5,120 yards and 77 touchdowns. He set school records for carries in a single game, yards in a single game and tied the mark for touchdowns. Horton also set new school records for career carries, yards and touchdowns.
He also ranks in the Top 40 in career rushing in Oklahoma.
Auston Crank ended his career 138 with 3,185 yards and 37 scores. He set school records for career receptions, yards and touchdowns.
If you asked any of these three about the accomplishments or records, they would say something like:
• “I couldn’t have done it without my receiver.”
• “I give all the credit to my offensive line for opening up the holes.”
• “My quarterback threw great passes, and other receivers blocked well down the field.” It is statements like that which make this a remarkable group of players. They were not in it for records or solo accolades.
Horton, Lambert and Crank wanted to go out and enjoy each Friday night with the same group of guys they played with during peewee football. Those players included friends and teammates Stetson Delozier, Easton Thomas, Brandon Vandewalker, Isaac Adcock, Justin McBride, John McBride, Jet Ward, Brandon Tisdale and Tyler Lambert.
What a fun ride this group gave Coalgate Wildcat football fans.