Fortune often favors the bold.
Fortune often favors the bold.
The same could also be said for those who want to make history.
This season, the Ardmore Tigers football team was not only a bold team with plenty of good fortune, but they also made plenty of history in the process.
At the head of that success was none other than head coach and athletic director Josh Newby.
Newby is the 2019 Best of the Arbuckles Preps Boys Coach of the Year after helping lead the Ardmore Tigers football team to a 13-1 record, and the program’s first appearance in a state title game since 1992.
“One of my favorite memories from this season is when we were driving down Veterans Blvd., and you saw all the people of Ardmore out there supporting us,” Newby said. “That’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life. We had some amazing kids this season who had high character and an immense amount of football knowledge. I’m so proud of this group.”
“The team chemistry we had was incredible,” Newby added. “The coaches were fighting for the kids and the kids were fighting for their coaches. It was a total brotherhood in that locker room. I’m sad that we weren’t able to bring home the state title, but this season was one I’ll never forget.”
Coming into the 2018-19 season, expectations were at an all-time high for the Tigers.
The previous season, the Tigers had suffered a disappointing playoff exit at home at the hands of the Noble Bears in the state quarterfinals, as they finished with a 9-3 record.
Through the first three games of the season, it became clear that this Tigers team had the potential to be something special.
A season opening 33-7 victory over Ada at home was followed with two straight road blowouts against Durant (48-0) and McAlester (42-7), before the Tigers crushed Lawton MacArthur at home 40-14 in the district opener.
Ardmore had to fight for a 21-6 victory over Altus to end September, but opened October with a bang as the Tigers handed El Reno a 31-17 defeat on the road.
After breezing through Southeast in Oklahoma City (48-0) and Duncan (34-7), the time came for the ultimate showdown on Oct. 26 at Noble.
Newby’s players, though, showed the character and grit which became trademarks of their season, as they clinched the district title with a commanding 42-20 victory over the Bears on the road.
Ardmore completed the undefeated regular season with a 41-19 victory over Western Heights on Senior Night, before breezing through the first two rounds of the playoffs with victories over Piedmont (42-13) and Coweta (48-13).
Then, on Black Friday, Newby was able to see his team lay some past playoff demons to rest.
Ardmore defeated Bishop Kelley 21-13 in the state semifinals at Western Heights, exorcising a playoff memory from 2016, when the Tigers were defeated by Bishop McGuinness.
“I knew this group was going to be special during their seventh grade year,” Newby said. “There was this group of kids eating up the weight program and working so hard. Then during their sophomore year, the lineman were just working and putting in a ton of effort. I knew that if we could keep this group together, and if they kept working at their craft that we would have something special with this team.”
“To me, these kids are the ones who gave this program and this town a shot in the arm,” Newby added. “Us coaches were just on the sidelines making decisions. This town has been incredible to me over 20 years and so has this school district. The support I’ve gotten has been nothing short of incredible.”
The following week the Tigers took on the Carl Albert Titans at Wolves Stadium at Edmond Santa Fe.
Despite three rain delays along with a stadium blackout, the Tigers managed to hold the high-powered Titans to just 17 points. Unfortunately, Ardmore could only score 10 as the Titans claimed the state title.
But the accolades following the season came in droves for the Tigers and for coach Newby.
Newby was named as the District 5A-1 Coach of the Year, with quarterback Tero Roberts earning Player of the Year honors. Sitani Lemecki was named as the Defensive Lineman of the Year, while Trenzel Johnson and Brayden Bryant each shared Co-Offensive Lineman of the Year honors. Rafael Interiano was named as the Special Teams Player of the Year.
Multiple other players also received All-District honors, while Bryant and Lemecki were also honored as All-State selections on the West Team by the Oklahoma Coaches Association.
Ardmore also had a total of 10 football players sign National Letters of Intent on National Signing Day to play in college.
Newby was named as the 2019 Football Coach of the Year at the Best of the Arbuckles banquet.
“When coaches get awards like this, people have to realize there’s a lot of other pieces behind the scenes that go into something like this,” Newby said. “I have an amazing staff of coaches who know football and teach it so well to the kids. Our kids also know the game of football so well and work so hard. I love the award and I’m honored for it, but this truly is a team effort from top to bottom.”
“As a coach, when you are sitting on the porch one day after you’ve retired, you really think about how many minds you were able to impact,” Newby said. “That signing class was very special to me, and it’s one of those things I’ll always remember and be proud to reflect on one of these days when I’ve left the game of football.”