Tension is dying down in the fallout of the Class 4A state semifinal football game between Douglass and Poteau last Saturday.
Poteau’s 27-20 win in McAlester initially brought out complaints about officiating and racially charged comments from Douglass supporters, including legendary Douglass coach Stanford White.
But the mood has calmed in the aftermath of the game, as Poteau prepares for the Class 4A championship game against Anadarko Dec. 14 at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater.
Douglass coach Willis Alexander, who commented after the game on his displeasure with the officiating, and OSSAA executive director Ed Sheakley got together for what both considered a productive meeting earlier this week.
“We had a long talk and talked about a lot of things,” Sheakley said. “I think it was a learning experience for both of us. We see things we can get better on, and he saw things they could get better on.”
Alexander also spoke with Poteau coach Greg Werner to express his concern that the fallout from the game not take away from Poteau’s accomplishments.
Oklahoma City Public Schools athletic director Keith Sinor released a statement, saying that he planned to meet with the OSSAA as well. Sheakley said that meeting could occur in the next few days.
“The Poteau and Douglass High School football programs should be commended for their performance during the recent Class 4A semifinals,” Sinor said in his statement. “It is disappointing that the work is being overshadowed by issues that do not involve the hard work of our student-athletes. The Oklahoma City Public School District has a strong relationship with the OSSAA governing board; our plan is to meet with the group to address these issues and develop a plan that guarantees a better situation in the future.”
The officiating crew at the game was from Tulsa, Sheakley said, and based on grades provided by coaches and the officials’ association throughout the year, it was a highly rated crew. The OSSAA used the best officials available for the 22 games played last weekend.
White was a Douglass player and assistant coach throughout much of the Civil Rights era of the 1960s and early 1970s before holding the head coaching position from 1976-2003. He posted his initial comments on NewsOK.com via Facebook, attached to the game story of the Douglass loss.
“We must remember Douglass fans the game was played in a redneck part of a ‘Red’ state and the zebras were just doing what comes naturally to some of them,” he wrote. He referenced incidents that occurred both on and off the field, later adding that it “Reminds me of the ‘good old days’ when we African Americans ‘knew our place.’”
White could not be reached by The Oklahoman on Wednesday. But in an interview with KWTV, White said: “I said racism. I still think that played a part. If you go into a game as an official and you really think these kids on this one side are undisciplined and not well coached and will commit penalties, you go into the game looking for those things ... and if you look, you’ll see them.”
Alexander said of White: “Everybody is entitled to their opinion. This should be Poteau’s and Anadarko’s time. Those are two darn good teams that are gonna play for a state title, and this should be their moment.”