Memorial football relevant again after ending playoff drought at 23 years
BY MIKE BROWN World Sports Writer
Friday, November 09, 2012
11/09/12 at 3:22 PM
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The last time Memorial won a football playoff game, current head coach Tony Daniels was an Owasso fourth-grader.
Senior nose guard Novis Cullom can hardly wrap his brain around that little factoid.
"I was like, 'Whoa, Coach, that must have been a long time ago," Cullom said.
It was also a long time ago for Cullom and his teammates. They weren't even born when the Chargers lost a 1989 first-round game to Booker T. Washington, 10-7.
"I probably wasn't even a thought in my mom and dad's mind," receiver Grant Murphy said.
Receiver/running back Jermane Rathod isn't sure his mother was out of elementary school.
It's worth noting because the Chargers are back in the playoffs for the first time in 23 years. They visit fifth-ranked Claremore in a Class 5A first-round game Friday night.
Although unranked after losing their final two regular-season games, the Chargers rocketed to wins in their first eight games while setting a school record for points scored in a season. They average 37.7 points per game.
In his fifth year at the helm, Daniels has the Chargers relevant again.
"He's done a fantastic job and I'm really proud of him," said Mike Adams, the Chargers' head coach in 2004-08 and Daniels' former high school coach at Sperry in the '90s.
Adams, now a Farmer's Insurance agent, has reason to be proud. He brought Daniels into the Chargers' program, first as a ninth-grade coach for two years and then as a varsity assistant for one.
Daniels took the helm when Adams left after the 2008 season to become Tahlequah's athletic director.
"Tony's the type of person I love being around. He was full of energy and a great role model, a fantastic family man," he said.
Adams played on the Chargers' state championship team coached by Richard Eddy in 1980 and on the team that earned the school its last playoff victory in 1982.
"I keep in touch with a lot of the guys, and everybody's excited (about the current team)," he said. "We were maintstays back (in the '80s), competing for playoffs every year."
But not now - at least not yet. This year's winning record is the first since Mike Loyd guided the 1989 team to a 7-4 mark, led by quarterback Volta Mitchell and receiver Gary Brown.
How long ago was it? George H.W. Bush was in his first year as U.S. President and world maps still showed something called the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
The U.S.S.R. didn't splinter until 1991, but the Berlin Wall fell on Nov. 9, 1989 - 23 years ago today.
Memorial was Loyd's first head coaching job. He went on to win a national juco title at Northeastern A&M in 1991 and now heads up the powerful Ponte Vedra high school program in Jacksonville, Fla.
"Your first job's always special. I always think about getting back there," said Loyd, a Joplin, Mo., native. "I think it's a great positive that Memorial is in the playoffs again."
The 1989 Chargers defeated Jenks, Broken Arrow and East Central and lost by five points to Union and nine to Muskogee, finishing third in District 5A-4. It seems like forever since Memorial has been able to play on the same field with any of those teams.
Murphy said winning is sweet after the many losses older brother Sean endured as a former Charger.
"I saw the struggles he went through, and he loves it now that we're winning. My whole family does," Murphy said.
Daniels said the campus is alive with school spirit.
"The best word I can think of is 'atmosphere'," he said. "We've changed it where you can wear spirit stuff on Fridays and you see a lot of Memorial stuff being worn around. You see more kids talking about it in the hallways - whether they're going to that week's game, home or away. It's been special for the school. It's really fun to see how things have unfolded."
Original Print Headline: Charging back
Mike Brown 918-581-8390
Memorial's Novis Cullom (left), Grant Murphy, Jermane Rathod and Jalen Smith have helped lead the Chargers back to the playoffs for the first time in 23 years. MATT BARNARD / Tulsa World