From the start, even if no one else saw it, Hollis coach Reade Box believed his team had the talent to win a state championship.
It had never been done before in Hollis, a tiny town on Highway 62 in the far southwest corner of the state.
But Box thought this could be the Tigers' year.
“We had been telling our kids all year that they were that good — they could go win it all,” said Box, The Oklahoman's All-State Coach of the Year. “Early on, we had an idea of how good we were gonna be, and our starting quarterback goes down in Week 5.
“The turning point of our season was how our players came together and finished the season out. Our seniors stepped up and it turned out to be a good run.”
Ranked No. 6 in The Oklahoman's preseason poll, Hollis pitched three shutouts to open the season, then added a couple more wins before an off week to prepare for Thomas, which was ranked No. 2 at the time.
That's when the Tigers really emerged as a legitimate threat in Class A. The 40-15 win over Thomas sparked a strong finish that included four more victories over ranked teams — Apache twice, Kiefer and Ringling.
Only Ringling in the state finals played the Tigers closer than 20 points. The 29-12 victory for the gold ball is a moment Box won't soon forget.
“To see our kids after the game, to see the smiles on their faces — a lot of them were crying. And even our fans. It was just an amazing feeling,” Box said.
Looking forward, Box knows his team returns a lot of talent, but will have some rebuilding to do in the trenches.
“We lose a lot of our linemen,” he said. “We have a lot of our skill kids back. We lose a couple of our receivers, but we'll have a good core of kids coming back.
“We're gonna lose a really good group of seniors, but we have some young ones coming back.”