STILLWATER — Garrison Mendoza couldn't hold the tears back.
He has been waiting and watching and working too long for his chance to bring a gold ball to Clinton.
As his teammates hoisted the trophy on one side of him, and fans celebrated on the other side, Mendoza was overcome with emotion as he talked about days as a 6-year-old running around on the sidelines of Red Tornado practices, hoping he'd one day have the opportunity to be a part of history.
Saturday was that day. Mendoza quarterbacked Clinton to a 21-14 win over Anadarko in the Class 4A state championship game at Boone Pickens Stadium, the school's 16th state title.
“I've been dream ...” Mendoza paused, choking up as he tried to speak. “I've been dreaming about this for my whole life. My dad's a coach, and I've been out there with him since I was 6. I wanted a gold ball since then, man, I got it. I finally got it.”
His father, Lou Mendoza is a longtime assistant of head coach Mike Lee, who won his ninth state title — second-most in state history behind Jenks' Allan Trimble, who won his 10th Friday night.
“There's a lot of kids on this team who have been around this their whole life,” Lee said. “You always want to win, but I wanted them to win, wanted them to get that feeling, and it can't be any better than this.”
The win avenged a 28-21 regular-season loss to Anadarko, which Lee pointed to as a turning point in the season.
“That's where I learned about this team,” Lee said. “Every time we have faced adversity, we've risen to the occasion. Whether we had won or lost today, it was still the same. They will not go away.”
Mendoza scored the game-tying touchdown early in the fourth quarter, and standout sophomore running back Marquiz Simpkins broke loose for a 27-yard score to put Clinton on top with 2:04 to play. He finished with 119 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries.
Anadarko drove inside the Clinton 20 in the final seconds, throwing multiple passes into the end zone, but couldn't convert.
After taking a 14-7 lead in the second quarter, Anadarko struggled to move the ball after halftime, accounting for the majority of its 73 second-half yards on the final drive.
It was Clinton's first title since 2007, when Garrison Mendoza and the other seniors were in the eighth grade.
“I've been to so many practices, it's crazy,” he said. “I've known Coach Lee so long, he's like my dad. I'm glad I could do this for him, my family.
“All these fans up there, we did it for them. It's a big deal to me. My brother got one of them. I'm just glad we could get one for all of them.”