Matt Holliday still remembers the last football game he ever played.
Now a baseball star with the St. Louis Cardinals, Holliday just prefers to think more about his next-to-last game as Stillwater High's quarterback. In that first-round playoff game, he brought the Pioneers back from a 42-21 deficit to defeat Tulsa Union 43-42 with three touchdowns in the final six minutes.
A week later, the Pioneers were pounded 63-0 in the state semifinals by the eventual champions, a Jenks team with four All-Staters, Rocky Calmus, Jason Lohr, Shawn Mahan and Brad Hawkins.
In observance of the 100th edition of The Oklahoman's All-State football team, to be announced in late December, the newspaper will recognize players from the previous 99 teams, and the 1997 Jenks squad was loaded with talent — a fact Holliday learned up close.
“That Jenks team was probably the best high school football team, especially on defense, that I've ever seen,” said Holliday, who was The Oklahoman's All-State Offensive Player of the Year after the 1997 season. “It's not like it's still a heartbreaking loss, but when I think back about it, I like to remember the Union game the week before that.”
Against Union, Holliday finished with 375 passing yards and four touchdowns — numbers that might not sound gaudy today, but 1997 was a different world of offensive football. And it was his third late-season comeback of the year, something he made common at Stillwater.