State Rep. Richard Morrissette stood at C.B. Speegle Stadium on Oct. 13, watching Capitol Hill's 52-0 loss to Ardmore, and he decided he'd had enough.
“I've been watching this team for many years now, and I just blew a gasket,” said Morrissette (D-Oklahoma City). “I'd had it. So I just interjected myself because I represent the area.”
Morrissette arranged for the team to tour the state capitol building on Thursday, just hours before its 67-7 loss at Class 5A's No. 2-ranked Lawton MacArthur.
And at the last minute, he booked a keynote speaker to motivate the Capitol Hill players — Oklahoma legend Joe Washington.
Washington and Morrissette met at a Youth for Christ event on Tuesday, and Washington quickly agreed to speak on late notice.
“As a kid growing up, I had a lot of support,” said Washington, who works at OU as executive director of the Varsity O Association.
“Our kids today need support. They need to see people showing interest in them. They need to take an interest in each other. That's really what it's all about.”
This year, Capitol Hill's team started with about 55 players but is down to about 22.
“We started out really great the first five weeks,” coach Jason Webster said. “But the last three weeks have been pretty tough. We lost some guys, and some of the guys that we thought were our leaders.”
So it goes for an inner-city school that has struggled in many different ways for years. The football team hasn't won more than two games since 1992 and has just one playoff appearance (1990) in the last 30 years.
Morrissette, who is originally from New Hampshire and has represented his south Oklahoma City district since 2004, wants to do something about it.
“Many of these kids don't come from traditional families,” Morrissette said. “And they're struggling. But the kids that are left are the core, the courage. We're going to build from this core.”
Washington spoke to the players in the House chamber about the importance of being part of a team and never giving up.
“The team concept that he really talked about can really hit home with these guys,” Webster said. “As great as Joe Washington was in his glory days at OU and in the pros, he still talked about the people that blocked for him.
“I do believe that our guys heard that and will really benefit from that message.”
The players certainly seemed to appreciate the attention they got Thursday.
“There's people out there watching us; that's why we have to play hard every down,” said senior quarterback Luis Leyva. “Our coach tells us all the time, ‘You never know who's watching you,' and look what happened. A state representative came out and brought us to the state capitol. We really appreciate that.”
Morrissette said he plans to do more for Capitol Hill High School. He is helping organize a golf tournament to benefit the basketball team on Nov. 14.
“We believe that if we bring the school spirit back to Capitol Hill, it will resonate back into the homes and back into the neighborhoods,” Morrissette said. “Capitol Hill has a tremendous history, and we're going to start rebuilding it one play at a time.”