LOCUST GROVE — Mason Fine and Jason Pirtle made it official on Wednesday — one full week after National Signing Day — when they signed national letters of intent to play college football at the University of North Texas.
One night after a big victory over Fort Gibson in basketball (Fine hit 7 of 8 shots in the first half and finished with 24 points), the Locust Grove seniors gathered in the gymnasium at the new high school with teammate Cutter Stamper (he’s walking on at Northeastern State) and got a rousing ovation from the crowd of students and family.
Maybe most appreciative of all was head coach Matt Hennesy.
Read and watch Part 1: The best passing duo in state history is trying to prove college coaches they belong • Part 2: The pride of Locust Grove is making sure no one outworks them this summer • Part 3: ”We fight for Big Kale every day. We work for Big Kale every day because he doesn’t get that opportunity.” • Part 4: Winning all those games and scoring all those points won’t matter much if something isn’t left behind • Part 5: A high school career ends in mud and tears
COMING SUNDAY: Mason & Jason: The final chapter
Both Fine and Pirtle announced last week their verbal commitment to the Mean Green, and they originally intended to sign with the rest of America’s schoolboys on National Signing Day, but Hennesy would have had to miss the event because he was in Dallas all week coaching linebackers for Team USA’s Under-17 team in the International Bowl.
Fine and Pirtle were transitioning from junior high to high school the same year Hennesy arrived in Locust Grove, and together they put together three consecutive undefeated regular seasons. So the players decided their coach needed to be present for their big moment transitioning to college.
“That’s real cool,” Hennesy said. “I meant to talk about that (during the signing ceremony), how much I appreciated ’em. And I told ’em, ‘This day is about you, it ain’t about me.’ Pookie (offensive coordinator David Blevins) could have done it last Wednesday and they could do it then, and I left it totally up to them. But they actually talked to each other about it and said, ‘No, let’s wait.’ They put some thought into it, which made it even more special. They chose to wait.”
It really wasn’t much of a decision, Fine and Pirtle said.
“He’s helped us get to where we are,” Pirtle said. “I wanted to sign on signing day just to get it over with. At the same time, I had just made my decision on that Monday, so I decided to go ahead and wait for this Wednesday. It didn’t kill me. He wanted to be there and I felt like he needed to be there for us.”
Said Fine, “Yeah, it was a respect thing. I mean, he’s the guy that made us into who we are today. So having him here, we wanted him to be here just because we started this together. I wanted him here, and I felt like he wanted to be here, too. I don’t think he wanted to miss it. He was down in Dallas and he felt bad. He wanted to be here, and I was like, ‘That’s fine by me. I want you here, too.’ ”
“That’s kind of the way this place is,” Hennesy said. “We say, ‘God, family, football’ at the end of everything we do, and they’re family. I was glad they did and I was definitely honored.”
Fine, a 5-foot-10, 170-pound quarterback, leaves as Oklahoma’s record-holder in single-season passing yards and touchdowns and career passing yards and touchdowns. Pirtle, a 6-1, 185-pound receiver, set single-season and career records for catches, yards and touchdowns.