STILLWATER — Carl Albert coach Gary Rose has had 10 teams play for state championships. Won nine of them. The Titans have 184 victories under Rose, with just 48 losses.
But standing at midfield at Boone Pickens Stadium on Saturday night, his back soaked from the celebratory water jug shower, he didn't hold back as he described just how incredible his team's 2012 football season had been.
The Titans started 1-5, then turned it around to win the final eight games, culminating with Saturday's 24-8 win over No. 1-ranked Tulsa East Central in the Class 5A state championship game. And they did it while watching their defensive coordinator, Mike Corley, grow weak as he fought cancer, then grow stronger as he defeated it.
“This is the most special win and the most special season in all my years of coaching, and that's nine state championships and a runner-up,” Rose said. “We've had some great groups of kids, some great coaches on my staff. But this is the most unbelievable thing, to see this happen in the last four weeks to our kids and our coaches.
“I'm stunned, I'm amazed. I'm thankful to God, for what he has done for our kids and our coaches, and especially for Mike, because he's healthy. He's healthy, and we've got a gold ball. That's the most unbelievable thing I can imagine.”
Only two other teams in the state's history have achieved anything similar to what Carl Albert accomplished in coming back from a 1-5 start to win a title.
In 1986, Tulsa Central started 0-5, then won nine straight games to take the 4A crown. And in 1988, Wynnewood was 1-6 before winning the last eight to claim the 2A championship.
Simply put, Carl Albert's midseason rebirth was nothing short of phenomenal.
“This is an unbelievable feeling. We started 1-5,” senior lineman Kyler Walker said. “The coaches did a great job of never letting us give up. We came together in Week 6 after that loss to Guthrie, and we told ourselves, ‘we're gonna keep working until we can't work no more.' And luckily, it came in Week 14. I love it.”
With quarterback Steven Thompson guiding the offense, and the defensive line controlling the game up front, Carl Albert took down 5A's No. 1 team.
“Our kids, they're a bunch of studs, I'm tellin' you,” Rose said. “We could've given up a long time ago, and they didn't, and I'm so proud of them.”
Carl Albert came into the season with 10 state championships, a product of building a strong, successful football program. The Titans have 11 now, because of the incredible effort of a group of kids, their coaches and their Midwest City community.
“If you asked me back at the beginning of the season, I never would have said we'd be here,” Walker said. “To do this for our school, for our community, for our family and especially for Coach Corley is an indescribable feeling. It's crazy.”