Since Gary Rose took over Carl Albert's football program before the 1995 season, the Titans have been nothing but consistent.
Carl Albert has been in the playoffs in every one of those 18 seasons, and the Titans have won at least nine games in all but two seasons.
Carl Albert's playoff streak continued this year in improbable fashion, as the Titans came back from a 1-5 start to win eight consecutive games and win Rose's ninth title at the school.
Carl Albert's turnaround earned him The Oklahoman's All-State Coach of the Year honors.
But Rose has another impressive streak going at Carl Albert. Starting with the sophomore class that was at Carl Albert when Rose took over, every class of players has won at least one title at some point from their sophomore to their senior seasons.
Former Carl Albert and OU standout J.D. Runnels was around before the Rose era began, watching his uncles play for the Titans.
Then Runnels won three titles with the Titans as a player from 1999-2001.
“They knew what players they had and how to use them,” Runnels said. “Coach Rose is amazing about that. You look at guys like myself, J.T. Realmuto, David Oku and all of the guys that have made the All-State team and won player of the year awards. They put them in such good positions that they excel.”
Another example, Runnels said, came this year when Steven Thompson went from an unheralded player going into the year to a quarterback who dominated the state title game against a defense that featured OU commitment Stanvon Taylor.
“You put Stevie one-on-one with Stanvon and Stanvon will come out on top, but they cover him up, get him moving before Stanvon can get there and he gives them problems,” Runnels said. “It all starts with the offensive line and controlling the line of scrimmage.”
The Titans' turnaround this season was historic. Only two other teams in state history had come back from similar starts to win a championship.
Tulsa McLain started 0-5 in 1986 to win the 4A title, and Wynnewood started 1-6 in 1988 before winning the Class 2A title.
“It just shows that he (Rose) is an incredible coach and an even more incredible man and a friend and a father figure,” Carl Albert lineman Caleb Holland said. “He teaches us life lessons that are a lot more than just football. He teaches us to become men of character.”
Former Carl Albert quarterback Realmuto led the Titans to the 2009 championship and is now a catcher in the Miami Marlins organization.
“It's unbelievable the impact that Coach Rose has had on me,” Realmuto said. “It says a lot about him how many amazing assistant coaches he has around him — guys like Tex Rollins and Mike Corley and others — that could be head coaches at a lot of schools but they stay to be a part of things at Carl Albert.”
Rose gives much of the credit — both inspirationally and on the field — to Corley, his longtime defensive coordinator, for this season's turnaround.
Corley was diagnosed with cancer early in the year and struggled through treatment during the early part of the season.
“During those six weeks we were losing, he was not very healthy,” Rose said. “And then we get to Week 11 and get the news that he's cancer-free the week of the Del City game. That was a real uplift and motivator for our kids.”
Corley's improvement also let him be more involved with the defense.
“He's an awesome coach,” Rose said. “He's one of the best defensive guys I've been around in my 39 years. Along with guys like Mike Goff, Tex Rollins, Shane Farley, Marc Morris and Dan Toney. Those guys are just phenomenal.”
This season certainly wasn't like anything Rose had ever experienced.
“This is radically different from the others,” Rose said. “I talked to our kids about how we all feel like giving up and times but how you feel and how you act are two different things and I think they learned from watching Mike Corley and also from the rest of our coaches' examples.”