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Eagles rise above challenges in run to finals

Del City football players run onto the field Saturday during the Class 5A state championship game at UCO’s Chad Richison Stadium. It was the Eagles’ first trip to the state finals since 1976 when they won their only state title. Photo by
Jeff Harrison

By Jeff Harrison
Midwest City Beacon

Del City’s football season started with the worst of circumstances.

But it ended with the Eagles playing for the biggest prize on the biggest stage.

While they didn’t come away with a state championship, what the Del City football team accomplished is nothing short of incredible. In the face of adversity, the Eagles soared high.

“Just to be in this state championship game shows the heart and drive of these young men,” said coach Robert Jones. “This season has taught them about overcoming adversity and I hope they can use this in life as they become fathers and husbands. By learning how to overcome adversity you can direct your future.”

The Eagles had high hopes for this season and for good reason. They returned a talented cast with a few big additions.

The promising season started with a big matchup against Choctaw on a hot and muggy August night. The Eagles showed why they would be a state contender as they led the Yellowjackets all night.

None of that mattered when gun shots rang out late in the third quarter.

A Midwest City student was killed, and two others were injured in the shooting. The thousands of people at the game were traumatized, me included.

It didn’t take long for many to point the blame at Del City and Mid-Del Schools. Social media quickly filled with cruel, ugly, often racist comments lobbed at students who were traumatized by a school shooting.

I had trouble thinking about anything else for days after the incident. It was simply too sad on many levels. I couldn’t imagine what it would’ve been like for a teenager to experience. Or a parent losing a child.

Students returned to school the following Monday and teachers and faculty provided emotional support. The Del City football team chose to continue with their season and prepared for their home opener against Booker T. Washington, a school that also had a gun-related incident at their first game.

School and police provided additional security to ease concerns about safety. And fans were treated to a show as the Eagles won 48-0.

The next week, Del City routed rival Midwest City. They continued to do the same the rest of the season. They won the district title and cruised through the first three rounds of the playoffs, earning their first trip to the state championship since they won it in 1976.

“After beginning the season with the tragedy that happened, we just kept going and played for each other,” said quarterback River Warren.

The state championship featured Del City and Carl Albert in a clash of unbeaten Mid-Del schools. The Titans prevailed 35-14 for their second straight title and 18th overall.

Jones said he wasn’t surprised by his team’s response to the tragedy.

“We’re such a tight knit group and they have such strong character it did not surprise me, honestly,” he said. “What surprised me is how we brought the community together. You can talk about it but to see it is another thing.”

The community showed their support for the team all season. And at the state championship, students, family, alumni and fans filled the stands.

“People aren’t talking about the violence that happened,” Jones said. “They’re watching us play for a state championship.”

Jones deserves high praise for his leadership and commitment to his players. He’s laser focused on helping his players succeed on and off the field and in life. And he’s done just that since he was hired in 2017.

Who knows how the team would’ve responded without Jones’ leadership.

“That’s what we pride ourselves in Mid-Del athletics, that you’re going to face adversity,” said Andy Collier, director of athletics and student activities. “The whole district faced more adversity this year than most will face in their lives. For coach (Robert) Jones to be able to rally those guys and make sure they fought and got back up and made it to the state championship is an incredible story. I’m extremely proud of those kids and coaches.”

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