Posted:  June 14, 2009

An historic thunderstorm descended on the Wichita Falls area Saturday evening–historic in that the lightning accompanying it doomed the 72nd Oil Bowl to go down as the first in the series history to go down as a cancellation.

The storm system that blew into town on Wednesday turned out to be a precursor as the skies darkened close to the scheduled 7:30 p.m. kickoff and lightning began to crackle in the skies.

Oil Bowl officials made the history-making announcement at 8:20 p.m. when it became evident that the weather would actually worsen by the time of the proposed kickoff.

Saturday night also marked the first time since 2003 that weather caused the cancellation of a game at Memorial Stadium.  That night, in Rider coach Scott Ponder’s debut, the Raiders won, 9-7, over Dallas Sunset in a contest suspended after halftime–also due to lightning.

The players, who stood outside their locker rooms through much of the delay, began to stream back in after the official announcement, displaying a series of emotions ranging from shock, to anger and then to disappointment once the news sank in.

Texas players said their goodbyes as they autographed a football commemorating  a game they didn’t get to play.

“It.s very upsetting because we’ve been working hard all week and giving it all we got,” Hirschi’s Demetrion Cooper said as he walked out of the locker room.  “You don’t even get a chance to show how hard you worked–it’s very upsetting.”

And the feeling was no less unsettling for the coaches who scripted the game plans and ran the practices this past week.

“This is actually worse than losing,” Texas coach Mike Chaney said.  “This has been a great group and they’ve worked hard.  It’s nobody’s fault, but this isn’t what we wanted to do.”

“These kids were more than just great athletes–they were good kids and it’s a shame we didn’t get to see them on the field.”

A similar scene played itself out in the Oklahoma locker room as well.

“We’re were getting ready to do some good things out there,” one assistant coach said.  A counterpart responded, “We’ll never have a group like this one again.”

Oklahoma coach Greg Gothard shook hands and shared a hug with all his players, wishing them a safe trip home.

And just as he stopped to speak with the media afterwards, the lightning lit the skies once again.

“The biggest thing is that I feel sorry for the kids,” Gothard said.  “This was 38 kids who took time out of their schedule to be here, practice and work their tails off.  And it’s sad that they don’t get to play a half or at least a quarter.”

“We really came together and, just like the Texas coaches, we just wanted them to get a chance to compete against one another.”

Oklahoma Player of the Year Jeremy Smith of Tulsa Union echoed his coaches’ sentiment.

“I’m kind of disappointed that the game got canceled, but I had a great time,” Smith (Oklahoma St.) said. “I met a lot of class people and worked with a lot of players that are just as good as the ones in Class 6A.”

“It was a great experience and now I’m ready to get up to Stillwater and do the same thing.”