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Douglass-Tulsa Washington football rivalry lives again

FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS — A nearly 100-year-old rivalry will be reignited Friday night, when Douglass faces Tulsa Washington.
by Scott Wright Modified: August 30, 2012 at 7:24 pm •  Published: August 30, 2012

— The stories start flowing like a history book come to life when Douglass High School legends like Stanford White and C.T. Wells begin talking about the old days of the Douglass-Tulsa Washington football rivalry.

Stories about hundreds of fans riding in from Tulsa on a line of busses so long, there wasn't enough room at Douglass to park them all.

Stories of how the other all-black schools in town would play their games on Thursday, so they didn't lose fans to the big game.

Stories of Douglass' grade-school children getting dismissed early on gameday, almost as if it was a holiday. And in some ways it was. For a long time, Douglass held a parade before the game, stretching from the school nearly into downtown Oklahoma City.

Wells can tell stories about games from the 1940s. White owns an old school newspaper with an article discussing the game being played as far back as 1914.

After a decade of silence, the rivalry breathes life once again on Friday night, thanks to the work of people like Douglass coach Willis Alexander, former Tulsa Washington coach Darrell Hall, and other key figures at both schools.

More than a football rivalry, Douglass-Tulsa Washington became a piece of Oklahoma's cultural history that reignites nearly 100 years after it first began.

For the first 30 years of the rivalry, it was a necessity. The black schools couldn't play against the white schools, and they looked everywhere for opponents.

Before integration in the mid-1950s, Douglass' schedule consisted of teams from all-black schools in Amarillo or Wichita Falls, Houston or Kansas City, along with now-defunct Oklahoma teams like Ardmore-Douglass and Manual Training of Muskogee.

To Douglass people, it wasn't the game against Tulsa's Booker T. Washington High School. It was the game against Tulsa.

“We couldn't play a lot of the other schools, so it was kind of like they didn't exist in our minds,” said White, the longtime Douglass coach who is now retired.

It was the truest version of a rivalry game between the state's two biggest cities.

“Short of winning a state championship, you wanted to beat Tulsa more than anything,” Wells said. “The fans aren't as feverish as they used to be. As far as the teams and coaches are concerned, they would have rather kicked Tulsa than anybody.”

As a player at Douglass, White's first experience with Washington came as a sophomore in 1960. Not long after college, he began coaching at Douglass, eventually becoming the head coach from 1976-2003.

“My old coach, Moses F. Miller, who our stadium is named after, would tell us stories about that game and how intense it was back in its early days,” White said. “It stayed that way for a long time. The stands would always be packed, standing room only. It was a very important game to both communities.”

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by Scott Wright
A lifelong resident of the Oklahoma City metro area, Scott Wright has been on The Oklahoman staff since 2005, covering a little bit of everything on the state's sports scene. He has been a beat writer for football and basketball at Oklahoma and...
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Class 4A No. 3 Douglass at Class 6A No. 13 Tulsa Washington

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

Where: S.E. Williams Stadium, Booker T. Washington High School, Tulsa

Noteworthy: This game is special at Tulsa Washington beyond the renewing of the rivalry. The Hornets are celebrating their 100th year as a school, and doing so in a newly refurbished stadium. Douglass will host the rivalry game next season, but in 2014 and beyond, the game will be played at Langston University.


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