NOBLE — So much about what happened here Friday night was unfamiliar. This entire season, really, has been largely unfamiliar territory for a Noble High School football program that lacks much success historically.
And yet, fingerprints from the past can be found all over this Noble squad, from administrators to coaches to parents.
The Bears breezed past Southeast 53-23 Friday. The Bears led 33-0 after the first quarter and most starters turned spectators from that point forward.
What made this district title — Noble’s third ever — different is that the Bears didn’t have to sweat Week 10. The 1975 Bears won the District 2A-2 title by eking out a one-point win over Purcell in the regular-season finale. In 2003, Noble routed Northeast in Week 10 but needed Guthrie to beat Carl Albert the same night, setting up a threeway tie that broke the Bears’ way because of district points.
These Bears clinched the District 5A-1 championship last week and, for the first time in school history, finished unbeaten in district play. Noble (9-1, 7-0) will host Woodward (5-5, 4-3 in District 5A-2) next week in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs.
“We’ve struggled with football success forever,” said superintendent Frank Solomon. “This is phenomenal for the community and the program we’re building.”
In the 2017 playoffs, Noble pulled off a pair of road upsets to reach its first-ever state semifinals, then missed the playoffs last year. The 2019 Bears began with a new quarterback, three new offensive linemen and an almost entirely new defense.
There was no reason to believe this was possible.
“Even the semifinal year, we were always looked down on,” said senior lineman Hunter Largent, a four-year starter. “But we take a back seat to no one.”
Senior quarterback Austin Fisher rushed for a 62-yard touchdown on the Bears’ first offensive play Friday. A receiver the last two seasons who patiently waited his turn to run the Noble offense, Fisher has thrown for 24 touchdowns and rushed for another 15 this season.
And Fisher is where you start to make connections to the past.
His father, Shayne Fisher, was an all-state quarterback who led Noble to its first-ever playoff victory in 1993.
“He’s done way more than I ever did,” Shayne Fisher said. “It’s really cool.”
Austin Fisher quipped, “I know he was really good, but I’m pushing to be better than him.”
Kyle Davidson, Fisher’s offensive coordinator and quarterback coach, was Noble’s quarterback for the 2003 district championship team. Tyler Solomon, Noble’s offensive line coach, was the Bears’ starting center in 2003. The coach that year, Steve Barrett, is now the Noble High School principal.
“This town gets behind us,” said sixth-year Noble coach Greg George. “They love Friday night football. If there’s anything we ever need, they get it for us. We’ve got everything the big schools have.”
And that’s another big key to this recent success — facilities. Noble passed a school bond in 2010 that included funds to tear down the old, grimy field house on the north end of the stadium and replace it with the state-of-the-art facility the team enjoys today, as well as install artificial turf. Two years ago, Noble voters approved a $30 million bond that, among other things, funded the construction of a new district fine arts center and gymnasium, and an all-weather track.
The fine arts center and gymnasium is scheduled for a grand opening later this month.
“Anytime you improve facilities, it improves the attitude,” Solomon said. “It improves the morale. The fact is, facilities matter. It doesn’t matter if you’re at the high school level, the college level, wherever, people like facilities. It’s a source of pride for the school, the team, the community. This is all pulling together something that our community and our schools have never experienced before.”
As a No. 1 seed, Noble would get its first two playoff games at home. The Class 5A bracket lines up for the Bears to then face perennial power Bishop McGuinness in the semifinals. It was the Irish who ended the Bears’ 2017 playoff run in the semis, and Noble has never beaten Bishop McGuinness before.
Not that such facts have stopped the 2019 Bears. During this run, Noble has beaten four different teams — Ada, Duncan, Altus and Lawton MacArthur — for the first time in school history.
“If we keep playing, keep fighting, I know we can definitely get to the state championship,” Austin Fisher said.