Senior linebacker Landry Chappell found his suspended coach in a crowd of Guthrie blue and gave him a tight bear hug.
“Landry’s not normally a big hugger, so I knew that wasn’t necessarily for affection,” Watkins said with a laugh.
Chappell’s intentions were indeed mischievous — other Bluejays came rushing toward Watkins with the Gatorade bucket.
Watkins pulled Chappell in and made his defensive leader take the brunt of the Gatorade bath in the chilly weather.
Not that either of them minded. Not after all this team has been through in the last month.
“It’s been a tough four weeks, but it’s been a blessed four weeks,” Watkins said.
The Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association, ruling that senior receiver/safety Clint Simek was ineligible, forced Guthrie to forfeit eight of its wins just before its regular-season finale.
Guthrie appealed the OSSAA’s decision to the board of directors, who allowed the Bluejays back in the playoffs.
The appeal was approved with several conditions attached, two of which were Simek’s continued ineligibility and Watkins’ eight-game suspension.
Watkins nervously watched from the stands for the fourth straight game, which started as badly as it could have for his team.
Junior quarterback Bryan Dutton fumbled on the first play from scrimmage, giving the Highlanders the ball deep in Bluejays territory.
But the Guthrie defense held MacArthur scoreless on its first drive, and the Bluejays responded with a drive capped by a 25-yard touchdown pass from Dutton to sophomore Donavan Jordan.
“We just had to keep our composure,” Dutton said. “The defense bailed us out time and time again.”
Sophomore Kai Callins became the star of the day in the second half.
First, his 42-yard burst on Guthrie’s second-half opening drive set up a 26-yard Esau Paez field goal that increased the Bluejays’ lead to 10.
On Lawton MacArthur’s next drive, he took a calculated risk from his cornerback position and cashed in.
MacArthur quarterback Taylor Chasteen had targeted receiver Quinton Paras on several plays, and when Paras ran a short out route, Callins noticed Chasteen looking his way.
Callins let his man go deep and went for the ball, which he intercepted and returned 56 yards for a touchdown and a 17-point lead. “If he had gone deep, he would’ve gotten me,” Callins said.
Callins came up big again in the fourth quarter with a 49-yard touchdown run that sealed the Bluejays’ win and state championship. “It’s the state championship game and we’re playing at OSU’s stadium,” Callins said. “You’ve gotta make something happen.”
Simek moved to Guthrie from Prague in March, and the proper steps to make his family’s move “bona fide” by the OSSAA’s standards were never taken.
The Bluejays have faced intense criticism from around the state since being allowed back into the playoffs, making this win particularly vindicating.
“Someone should make a movie out of it,” Dutton said. “We’re proving not only to Lawton Mac, but to Prague and the rest of the state that we deserve to be here and we are the best.”