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All-State football team: Stillwater's Jesse Vester takes pride for playing a part in the Pioneers' turnaround

JESSE VESTER — Stillwater's playmaker embraced new coaching staff's mantra of ‘refuse to lose'
BY JASON KERSEY, Staff Writer, Published: January 1, 2012

STILLWATER — It was quite the high school career for Jesse Vester.

The all-around Stillwater star is The Oklahoman's All-State kick returner after scoring 15 touchdowns and racking up 1,125 receiving yards as a senior.

This season saw its highs — his 300-plus all-purpose yards against Sand Springs and his four touchdown performance against Bixby — and its lows — ending the season with losses to Tulsa Union and Jenks.

But Vester is happy with how his senior year went, especially considering the turnaround under first-year coach Tucker Barnard. The Pioneers were 1-9 during Vester's junior year.

“Coach Barnard came in and preached that he would not let us accept defeat,” Vester said. “We made shirts, and on the back they said ‘Refuse to lose.' That was our motto when he came in March up until now. He's just carrying that on.”

Vester said Barnard's assistants, including offensive coordinator Paul Hix, also deserve credit for the turnaround.

“(Hix) came in and said ‘This is a playmaker's offense,'” Vester said. “He tried to get the ball in our playmakers' hands as many times as possible.”

Vester and fellow receiver Corey Hassel, an OSU baseball signee, combined for 2,306 receiving yards and 23 touchdowns from quarterback Jerame Littell.

The 2011 season really took on a special meaning when the Pioneers won in Week 7 at Owasso, a 6A semifinal team this year that had just come off a startling upset of eventual state champion Tulsa Union.

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