By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Though it causes slight pain to offer too many kudos to the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association, there’s this fantastic feature on its website.
Click on the “Champions” link and you can search state championships by sport, year or school.
Who knew Norman High claims 65 state titles in all and who knew boys swimming led the way with 10, the last in 1994? Or that Norman North claimed 10. Four in boys soccer, one in boys swimming, this season, and five in ... drum roll ... cheerleading.
(Sport? Not a sport? Look at it this way. If the OSSAA’s handing out state titles for it, it counts)
Or, who knew Noble had three? I’m guessing not too many people, even in Noble.
The last one arrived only 28 years ago, 1985, when the Bears won the Class 3A boys golf crown. Only 13 years prior, 1972, Noble captured a state volleyball title back when every volleyball-playing school was part of a single class. A true state title. It was the same for fast-pitch softball, when the Bears ruled the small diamond in 1965.
So, if you’re a Noble administrator and you want to honor an old state title team at halftime, now you know where to begin. And, if you’re a Noble fan, citizen, graduate or just a prep fan who likes it when the long-suffering threaten to earn immortality, you have to love Noble this spring.
It began with boys basketball in the Class 5A state tournament, a Cinderella story to be sure.
The Bears were just revving their engines.
You’ve heard of the Summer of Love? This is the Spring of the Bears.
n n n
Larry Warden’s in his 12th season as Bears girls soccer coach. This one will make eight trips to the playoffs.
His team’s at Western Heights tonight where the seventh-ranked Bears are sure to top the unranked Jets, setting up a Tuesday trip to Durant with the District 5A-2 championship on the line and it’s a game the Bears should win, seeing as how they beat the Lions 3-0 at the Rose Rock Tournament back on March 9.
Oh, and there’s something else about the Noble girls. They haven’t lost. They’re 11-0.
A solid 10-4 last season, but a first-round playoff loser, the Bears had high hopes entering the spring but this is ridiculous.
“We’re pretty good,” Warden said. “We’ve got good speed and good players and we’re deep. I could start 14 kids and not miss a beat … They’re great kids and good students. No ax murderers.”
Perhaps it begs the question whether or not that’s been a problem in the past. But Warden, you must understand, is a great quote, quite possibly with a great team.
It was that first victory over Durant that got the Bears looking at themselves differently.
“We were going really well and I was really nervous about our last game (at the Rose Rock Tournament), but we got ahead and just kept playing our game,” said Sydney David, senior sweeper and a team captain. “We have a lot to live up to now. Noble is not known for its high quality in sports, but we’re showing that Noble can rise above everybody else.”
This season, anyway.
Who’s the Bears’ leading scorer?
Warden knows it’s Jesse Goodner, Julianne Williamson, Kodi Holloway or Gracie Jonas. He just doesn’t know which one because, get this, he doesn’t keep stats.
“It’s not written down,” he said.
He can supply them if he has to, go through the tape, he said, but “the only stat we care about is on the scoreboard.”
So far, so good.
One more terrific quote from Warden?
“We just want to have a girls soccer team,” he said, “the baseball team can be proud of.”
n n n
How good is the baseball team? It’s not unbeaten, too, is it?
It lost to 13-8 to Newcastle March 30. It fell to Class 3A No. 2 Marlow 3-2 at the Kingfisher/Piedmont Tournament. That was two wins ago, making the Bears 27-2.
It began last season.
Noble went 21-11, finished a game short of the regional final and returned just about everybody.
Ranked No. 5, coach Brad Anglin believes his kids are in the process of revising their goals for the season.
“Our expectation at the beginning of the year was go win 25 games and to reach the state tournament,” he said. “As the year has progressed, I think the kids have started to believe in their potential as (state title) contenders.”
Unlike Warden, Anglin keeps stats. Good thing, because it’s hard to talk baseball without numbers.
Brady Bradshaw hits cleanup, has six home runs, but is every bit as important on the mound where he’s 6-1 with a 1.40 earned run average. He’s the No. 2 starter, because Derek Underwood — five-hole, catches when he doesn’t pitch — is 6-0 with a 0.66 ERA.
Want a hitter?
Caleb Peters, three-hole, is batting .390 with eight home runs which is more like 30 if they’d bring back the bats from 10 years ago.
Anglin believes his team includes “four or five kids that might play college baseball somewhere, but we don’t have that superstar.”
Maybe not, but eight home runs is a lot with the new bat and an ERA under 1 is strong even in a dead-ball era. Maybe it only feels like he doesn’t have a superstar.
“I’ve never been around a bunch of kids so close,” Anglin said. “We have to make them leave every day.”
Isn’t it great when good things happen to teams like that?
Just maybe, the Bears are about to add their first state title in almost 30 years. Maybe more than one. Maybe more than two, but that might have to wait until next year.
Warden starts two seniors. Anglin starts one.
Spring of the Bears, indeed.
Follow me @clayhorning
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