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Class 4A football: A new but familiar face takes over storied Clinton program

MAKING OF A CHAMPIONS: TRADITION — Mike Lee led Clinton to nine titles since 1996, and Philip Koons led Tuttle to two. Now, Koons is taking over the storied program from Lee, meshing the winning traditions in search of another gold ball.
by Jacob Unruh Published: August 28, 2014
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photo - 
Clinton coach Philip Koons, left and former coach Mike Lee at the Tornado Bowl in Clinton, Wednesday August 7, 2014. 
  Steve Gooch - 
The Oklahoman
Clinton coach Philip Koons, left and former coach Mike Lee at the Tornado Bowl in Clinton, Wednesday August 7, 2014. Steve Gooch - The Oklahoman

CLINTON — When Philip Koons agreed to become Clinton’s defensive coordinator under Mike Lee during the summer, he likened his excitement to the first day he worked for his father as a teenager.

“My dad owned a tire store and I used to go up and visit him and play in the tire room when I was a boy,” Koons said. “He said, ‘You’re going to come work here.’

“I’m just excited. (Lee and I are) not that much different in age, but I think more of him as that guy of, ‘Wow, I get to work for this guy and learn?’”

Koons maintains he was in the right place at the right time when he was named head coach earlier this month after Lee resigned due to health issues.

“Really you can say the planets aligned just right,” Koons said. “Who would have thought that I would be able to go from Tuttle to Clinton? I was hoping I would be the head guy one day. I’ve talked with friends of mine when I never thought of coming to Clinton, when I thought I would be at Tuttle for 30 years. I thought, ‘Man I wouldn’t want to follow that guy.’ And now I am.

“I’m not fooling anybody by coming here and saying I’m going to make this place better.”

Tradition reigns over Class 4A with programs like Ada, Weatherford and Woodward. But there’s also Clinton and Tuttle’s supremacy the past 20 years.

Lee led Clinton to nine titles since 1996, and Koons led Tuttle to two. Now, Koons is taking over the storied program from Lee, meshing the winning traditions in search of another gold ball.

“I’ve admired the way they play (at Tuttle),” said Lee, who will remain Clinton’s athletic director. “To me, it’s like watching us in red.”

That’s a fair observation, as both coaches are from the old-school mold. Both operate run-first offenses. Both preach physicality. Both are demanding. Both have more than 200 career victories.

“That’s why I really don’t think we’ll be that bad because he’s experienced, too,” senior running back Marquiz Simpkins said. “You can’t just win 200 games. That put my mind at ease a little bit.”

The winning tradition is what the community hopes to see continue as well.

More so than Tuttle, Koons said, he will have to get used to fans talking football at the local coffee shop or restaurant. Fans like 54-year-old Wade Anders, who was more than happy to talk about the program at the Dairy Best.

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by Jacob Unruh
Reporter
Jacob Unruh is a graduate of Northeastern State University. He was born in Cherokee and raised near Vera where he attended Caney Valley High School.During his tenure at NSU, Unruh wrote for The Northeastern (NSU's student newspaper), the...
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