STILLWATER — The blood dripping from the half-inch gash on the bridge of Zach Hill's nose was a perfect example of the kind of brawl the Class 3A state championship football game was for Blanchard and Kingfisher on Friday night.
Of course, Hill's injury was sustained during Blanchard's wild championship celebration after a 28-21 win at Boone Pickens Stadium.
“When I was holding up the trophy, somebody hit me with their helmet,” Hill said with a championship smile that couldn't be washed away by a little blood. “Hit me pretty good, too.”
Hill and his teammates took Blanchard (13-1) back to the top of the football mountain for the first time since 1979, the team's only other appearance in the state finals.
“I can't even describe how amazing this feels,” Hill said. “We kept fighting. We fought all year like this. To get tied up, and come right back and get it, it just proves that we'll keep fighting.
“Even after our loss to Tuttle, we came back fighting. We kept fighting all year.”
Blanchard's fight showed in its defense, which was on the field for 74 of the game's 112 snaps, including multiple long, grinding drives by Kingfisher.
The Lions' fight showed in their responses time and again when Kingfisher would strike.
After Kingfisher scored late in the second quarter to tie the game, Blanchard's Braden Bush sparked a scoring drive with a 50-yard kickoff return, and five plays later, Brock Lamle capped it with a 13-yard pass to Parker Randels on fourth-and-8.
In the fourth quarter, Kingfisher's Grant Newton scored his second touchdown, tying the game at 21, and Braden Stringer went 57 yards for a touchdown on the Lions' first snap.
“We never quit,” Stringer said. “We never quit in the offseason, going through the hard, hot workouts. We put in the extra work throughout the season, and this shows that we never quit as a football team. We're one out here, we keep each other up. It's the greatest feeling ever.”
Stringer finished with 101 yards and two touchdowns on just nine carries. Blanchard only ran 38 offensive plays and finished with 241 yards.
The defense had two interceptions and recovered two of Kingfisher's five fumbles, including one on the first series of the game that started a touchdown drive.
Ranked No. 20 in the preseason after going 5-5 last year, coach Jeff Craig knew no one would be talking about his team this season. But he and his players believed since the summer that they could make their gold ball dreams a reality.
“I told our guys, it doesn't matter if they're talking about us in Week 1. It matters if they're talking about us in Week 15,” Craig said. “It's a great feeling to get one as a head coach. But you look over at that pile of kids celebrating, and that's what it's really all about.”