June 15, 2015
For several recent Wichita Falls High School graduates and three coaches, Saturday night was all about making one last memory.
Seven Coyotes were featured on the West Texas All-Star team as part of the 78th Oil Bowl Classic at Memorial Stadium. It’s hard to imagine another Oil Bowl team with that many players from one program on it.
Some might say it was favoritism shown by WFHS Danny Russell, who was heading up the West squad. Even if it was favoritism, can anyone blame Russell?
Why wouldn’t he favor those players over others? The graduating seniors the Coyotes are losing are one of the most successful classes the program has had in recent memory.
Not since 2002 and s002 had WFHS fielded a team with a winning record in back-to-back seasons. You have to go back to 1999 and 2000 to find the last time the Coyotes had won at lease one playoff game in consecutive seasons.
It was this senior class that allowed Russell to come in and find immediate success in 2013, going 8-6 and making a run to the Retion I-4A quarter finals. The Coyotes went 8-4 last season and advanced to the area round.
Truth is Russell probably wasn’t determined to have an all-star team filled with his own players. He was trying to field the best team he possibly could.
Aaron Gonzalez, Mikal Peen, Deshyn Lambers, Eric Butler, L. J. Dabbs, Quentin Sims and B.J. Mayze belonged on that team. Their play Saturday proved as much. Each of the seven Coyotes contributed in the 7-3 loss to the East.
“It’s nice to get a final chance to coach a bunch of those guys, but at the end of the day I’m so proud of them because of the way they played,” said Russell, who was joined on the coaching staff by WFHS assistants Joe Cluley and Tim Riley. “I think they were great representatives of our football program, the educational program and their parents. They got after it, but they did it with sportsmanship and great attitudes.”
Originally, there were only supposed to be four Coyotes on the West roster, Gonzalez, Dabbs, Sims and Mayze were the only ones signed up.
But the West found it needed another quarterback on its roster and Butler was convinced to join. He had a tough day throwing the ball (3 of 14 for 28 yards and an interception), but made some big plays wit his legs and showed leadership and determination.
Lambert and Penn were added to the roster in the middle of the week. Penn ended with a game-high 61 receiving yards on three catches, and set up the West’s only points when he caught a 45-yard pass from Kennedale’s Jake Michener. It turned out to be the longest play of the game.
Lambert (three tackles), Dabbs (five tackles), Mayze (four tackles) and Sims (game-high nine gtackles) all contributed in the West’s stellar defensive performance.
Gonzelwz — the Oil Bowl’s only true Division I signee — was very visible as the West’s left tackle. At one point he had to be asked to leave the field as he got into a brief scuffle with an East defensive lineman.
But he had reason to fight so hard in an all-star game. That was his quarterback he was protecting.
“Eric has been my quarterback forever,” Gonzelez said. “It’s special knowing they were on the field having my back and I’ll always have their back. It’s a special bond that we have from those playoff runs that we made. We’re dong it the Coyote way, the right way.”
Russell pulled all seven Coyotes aside following the game, giving them one last postgame speech and letting each one know he’ll never forget the 78th Oil Bowl, either.
“I’m proud of those kids,” Russell said. “I wish I could have seven more like them every year.”