CLINTON — Clinton senior Devon Mitchell has re-watched the moment over and over.
Every time, it's still as stressful as it was on the field in the closing seconds of last year's Class 4A state championship game, when the potential game-winning touchdown goes off the hands of an Anadarko receiver in the end zone of Boone Pickens Stadium.
“I've watched it about 30 times. I put my head in my hands and just hope he still drops it,” the defensive back said. “It was the most stressful thing I've ever been through.”
If the Red Tornadoes are going to win it again, Mitchell and his teammates are likely in for some more stressful situations. While Clinton looks like the obvious favorite on paper, there's a host of challengers each waiting for their shot — and they all know how to win.
Anadarko is strong again, after last year's runner-up finish and a 3A title the year before. Wagoner and Douglass have each won 4A in the last three years. Ada saw an immediate resurgence when it moved down from Class 5A last season.
And that doesn't even take into account other traditionally strong programs like Cascia Hall, Broken Bow, Weatherford and Glenpool that are not far behind, ready for a shot at the title.
“This is a really good class,” Clinton coach Mike Lee said. “It was good before, but when you brought Ada down from 5A, and Cascia Hall and Anadarko up from 3A last year, I think it made our class, from top to bottom, as tough as there was.
“There's a lot of good teams, and they're tradition powers that know how to win. And we know what we have to do.”
Clinton's goal starts with staying focused. Before last year, the Red Tornadoes hadn't won a title since 2007 — a long drought by Clinton standards.
But now that the current players have tasted victory, they have to maintain the hunger to do it again.
“I had been wanting that since I was a little kid, and it was so great to finally win it,” senior defensive end Ryan Richert said. “But we're not satisfied. We're still hungry. We want to come back and keep the tradition going.”
The Reds must replace a couple of offensive linemen and their quarterback, but the rest of the offense is intact. And with running back Marquiz Simpkins in the backfield, the ground attack remains Clinton's No. 1 focus.
“We take pride in our run game and being able to line up and run over people — not having to throw it all over the lot to move the ball,” senior lineman Grant Lee said. “We've got a couple big men, so we should be able to move some people out.
“We always have the same mindset — to go win. It's kind of expected here.”