Highway 97 rivalry between Sand Springs, Sapulpa a long-time grudge match
BY MIKE BROWN World Sports Writer
Friday, September 14, 2012
9/14/12 at 3:43 AM
For more high school football stories, and a video of Barry Lewis and Mike Brown breaking down Week 3 of the high school football season.
Westsiders won't need 97 reasons to watch a high school football game Friday night.
An estimated 5,000 will gather at Sapulpa's George F. Collins Stadium for the annual grudge match between the Chieftains and the Sand Springs Sandites.
The teams have met at least 84 times in what has become known as the Highway 97 rivalry for the 10 miles of four-lane state highway running between the towns.
Neither school has been atop the football food chain very often. In fact, Sand Springs' 1966 Class 2A state title is the only one held by either school.
But that won't matter because the teams have played entertaining games almost since the first recorded meeting in 1922 - and because the towns are almost literally in each other's backyards.
"There's a lot of connectedness," said Bill Berry, a 1969 Sapulpa High graduate and chairman of American Heritage Bank, with headquarters in Sapulpa and branches in Sand Springs and other Westside and Creek County locations.
"The communities have similar histories and a lot of people know each other. We're approximately the same size, so it's a natural rivalry," Berry said.
Sand Springs' 14-13 win at Sapulpa in 1928 was described by the Tulsa World as "one of the hardest-fought football games seen here in years."
Rough-and-tumble contests are the norm between communities built on industry and blue-collar virtues, Sandite head coach Dustin Kinard said.
"They have a lot of people who are used to working for everything they get, just like we do," Kinard said. "And nobody wants to lose this game."
Sapulpa was chartered in 1898 and became the Creek County seat in 1913. Sand Springs was founded in 1911 by philanthropist Charles Page, for whom the high school is named.
The towns started growing with an influx of industry in the teens and '20s and have met continuously in football since 1930. Sapulpa leads the series 43-36-5.
Claude Masters, 93 years young, played for the Chieftains in 1935-36 and has attended virtually every game since being discharged from the military in December 1945.
"I've seen a lot of good ones for our side, and a lot of bad ones," he said.
The 1947 game still rankles. Sand Springs won 7-0, using a play that current rules wouldn't allow.
"They lined up and one of their guys went in motion," Masters recalls. "He came over to our side and stepped off the field, and a guy on their side hopped on the field and they threw him a long pass and beat us. Our coach (B.B. Bomgardner) got that rule changed."
Doyle Jones' 49-yard pass to Carl Johnson set up the deciding score, a 1-yard run by Bob Lingo, according to newspaper reports.
Virtual twins in population - Sapulpa had 20,544 residents by the 2010 census and Sand Springs had 18,906 - the town's teams have other interesting similarities in 2012.
The teams are 2-0 in the same year for the first time since 1996 and only the fifth time ever. And both are led by junior, first-year starting quarterbacks who throw left-handed and wear No. 7 jerseys.
Sand Springs' Cody Hale has five TD passes over the first two games. Sapulpa's Sam Gottsch, son of head coach Mike Gottsch, has three.
"It's a big deal," Hale, a Sand Springs native, said of the rivalry. "We're so close together and the teams are evenly matched almost every year. I was in the sixth grade when I first realized it. That was my first year to play quarterback and we wound up winning that year. It felt sweet."
Mike Gottsch, a transplanted Nebraskan who coached previously at Tabor College in Hillsboro, Kan., is in his third year at the Chieftains' helm.
"The community let me know pretty quickly how important it is to beat Sand Springs," he said. "When people are rushing the field, you know it's big."
That's what happened when the Chieftains won 21-14 in overtime at Sand Springs two years ago.
Kinard, in his sixth year at the Sandites' helm, won his first three meetings against the Chieftains but has lost the past two.
"Sad to say, but if you're 1-9 and that one win is against Sapulpa, some people will say that's 'OK'," Kinard said.
SAPULPA-SAND SPRINGS RIVALRY HIGHLIGHTS
The Sandites and Chieftains have played at least 84 times since 1922. Here are some of the high points:
Sept. 28, 1951: Sapulpa 27, Sand Springs 26
At Sand Springs, Dan Bacon threw for one touchdown and ran 58 yards for another. Sapulpa went on to tie Muskogee for the Oklahoma Six Conference title and finish 10-0-1, marking the school's only unbeaten football season.
Sept. 16, 1966: Sand Springs 21, Sapulpa 7
At Sapulpa, Rex Goad ran for two scores and the defense allowed only 92 yards as the Sandites improved to 2-0. Some three months later, they annexed the school's only state title, beating El Reno 14-7 in the Class 2A final at Taft Stadium in Oklahoma City.
Nov. 3, 1988: Sapulpa 27, Sand Springs 20
At Sapulpa, with a playoff berth at stake, the Chieftains rallied behind Chris Hays' three TDs. The teams tied for District 5A-4's fourth spot, but Sapulpa advanced by virtue of the head-to-head result, claiming its first postseason berth in four years.
Oct. 3, 1997: Sand Springs 17, Sapulpa 13
At Sapulpa, the Chieftains almost sprang the upset, but the Sandites rallied on Pedro Negron's 1-yard TD with 15 seconds left. The Sandites went on to only the school's third unbeaten, untied regular season and reached the Class 6A semifinals.
Oct. 30, 2009: Sand Springs 49, Sapulpa 45
At Sand Springs, the teams combined for 962 yards and the highest-scoring game in series history wasn't decided until the Chieftains died at the Sandites' 4 as time ran out. Johnny Deaton threw 17 yards to Terrance Dixon with 1:35 left for the go-ahead score.
Sept. 16, 2011: Sapulpa 28, Sand Springs 21
At Sapulpa, the Sandites led 21-7 in the third quarter, but Devin Swift's 98-yard kickoff return sparked a comeback and the Chieftains won on Tyler Williams' 53-yard TD bomb to Trevor Hall with 18.4 seconds left.
Original Print Headline: The Rivalry on Highway 97
Mike Brown 918-581-8390
Sand Springs quarterback Cody Hale (left) and Sapulpa quarterback Sam Gottsch stand near Oklahoma Highway 97, which connects the two towns in Sapulpa. JOHN CLANTON/Tulsa World