Students, staff and community members turned out to celebrate the Ardmore Tigers’ advancement to the state football championship with a community pep rally and bonfire. Ardmore High School band, colorguard, cheer and pom all performed at the rally as the flames climbed.
Former Ardmore High School football player Taj Johnson addressed the crowd. He recounted a win against the Carl Albert Titans, the team the Tigers will square off against on Friday, 26 years ago.
“Listen, you should be honeymoon happy and peacock proud, because this is one once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Johnson said. “You guys are undefeated, you did it, you’ve had an amazing year, but this time tomorrow night you need to seize the moment.”
Head Football Coach Josh Newby took the stage next, thanking the band, cheer and pom squad and community for their support and talked about his father’s career as a football coach before him.
“Here’s my message,” Newby said. “I hope you can hear me. We’re happy to be in the game, but let’s go win the dadgum thing!”
Superintendent Kim Holland said the bonfire idea came out of the scrapped plans for a homecoming bonfire that was canceled due to inclement weather.
“The pep rally was kind of an idea between the quarterback club and the administration,” Holland said. “We couldn’t do it the day of the game, and this was supposed to be burned four or five weeks ago, but we didn’t get to because it rained. We decided to do something big tonight so the community could come do a big send-off for our kiddos.”
Students will enjoy an early dismissal time on Friday as well.
Robert “Chef” McGehee, an Ardmore High School life sciences teacher and student council sponsor, has been on a mission to ramp up school spirit in Ardmore since last year. He said the community response this week overwhelmed him.
“It’s getting there,” McGehee said. “Seeing all of these businesses putting signs up that say ‘Take State!,’ everything we’ve done with banners and T-shirts, I think we’re building it back.”
He said he hopes to see an even bigger celebration next year.