By Nick Gholson

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Sorry, friends, but the Oil Bowl just isn’t the same without Oklahoma.

West Texas vs. East Texas is a really tough sale. I told you that months ago.

The attendance Saturday night at Memorial Stadium — estimated at an all-time low of 3,500 — confirmed that.

That’s a lot fewer butts in the seats than the record 20,000 who reportedly came to the 1971 game.

To me it’s a bit confusing when you put two Rider players on the West roster and two on the East. Who does the Raider Nation cheer for?

And fourteen of these all-stars listed “undecided” as their college choice. Undecided means unwanted.

It’s hard enough finding 37 legitimate all-stars for a roster with all the restrictions that NCAA Division I school puts on their recruits. Finding 74 makes it twice as hard.

Rider has had several D-1 signees the last few years. None played in the Oil Bowl.

Although I think there easily could have been a compromise settlement of the feud between Oklahoma and the Maskat Shrine Temple, I am not blaming any one person for screwing this thing up.

They’re all to blame for killing a 67-year tradition.

Go sit in the corner, you Shriners and you Okies.

But despite my total lack of interest in the East’s 22-17 win over the West, this really wasn’t a bad football game we witnessed Saturday night.

It came down to one play.

The West faced fourth-and-seven at the East 12. Justin Lawler of Pottsboro came with a strong rush on quarterback Hagen Hutchinson and forced his pass to Dee Paul to go 9 yards backward.

I really expected Hutchinson and Paul — two dominating state championship quarterbacks in Class A last season — to be the stars in this game.

Neither came close.

Hutchinson only completed 5 of 12 passes for 55 yards and only gained 7 yards on 14 carries. But don’t give up on this kid.

The MSU signee still showed poise and control. He’s a coach’s son who will get better when he gets to college.

Paul carried 18 times for only 20 yards and caught just two passes for six yards. A guy who looked so strong against Class A competition really struggled against the bigger-school guys.

Hopefully, he can put on a little more muscle at Texas Tech.

There were really three stars in this game.

Jabari Anderson of Wylie East set an Oil Bowl rushing record with 187 yards on 24 carries.

That broke a record (166) held by Freddie Hurd of Ardmore for 37 years. James Dixon of Vernon set the Texas record with 153 yards on 22 carries in 1985.

Anderson was the game’s offensive MVP.

But J.T. Luper of Sherman deserves a few votes.

He set an Oil Bowl kickoff return record that no one will ever break.

Luper’s 100-yard return in the second quarter was electrifying. Five or six guys should have brought him down, but he escaped them all and had clear sailing for the final 30 yards.

And if you like defense, you would love what Alex Cole of Van Alstyne did to be the defensive MVP.

He had eight tackles, more than half of them for losses that totaled 25 yards.

All that, to me, was worth the price of a ticket.

Too bad, there weren’t many willing to pay the price.