The Edmond Sun
Emotions are running high this week for the Oklahoma Christian School Saints football team and all of their supporters.
Football parents met Sunday evening to plan a bevy of events and surprises for their sons as they prepare for the school’s first state football championship bid this weekend. The game will begin at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater. The Saints will play against Davis for the Class 2A gold ball trophy and championship rings to cap off a winning season.
The Edmond community is invited to a send-off rally at 2 p.m. Saturday at the school’s campus at Interstate 35 and Second Street. Kim Barnes, mom to senior wide receiver Blake Barnes, encouraged the community to arrive before 2 p.m. to line up and send off in style the only Edmond team vying for a state championship this year.
The team will be in red for this game as they will serve as the “home” team, said head coach Derek Turner.
“It’s a great place to play and a great field to play on,” Turner told the parents. “… I’m proud of the kids. They’re playing with some great sportsmanship.”
The parents also are asking businesses and community members to add encouraging messages to their digital signs and marquees this week as an added boost to the team members.
“And anybody that could donate or help us out with noise makers, that would be fantastic,” Barnes added.
The team members already received a long-awaited reward — it was announced Sunday that they could wear sweat pants to school every day this week except Tuesday. They also will receive a reprieve from shaving this week, another added perk.
Barnes said many of the football players will be visiting classrooms in the younger grades this week to talk about the big game coming up and to generate excitement among their younger supporters.
For Darrell James, this trip to the state championship game is emotional. Known by many as the Voice of the Saints, James not only announces the games, but is carefully watching son Cameron James play on the field with his old number. Cameron, a junior running back/linebacker, wears No. 43 on his jersey in honor of his father.
But James is rooting for more than just his son. As one of the original founders of Edmond All-Sports Inc., James has coached many of the young men on this year’s Saints team from kindergarten through middle school on various baseball, flag and tackle football and basketball teams.
“There’s an atmosphere and a feeling around (the team this year) — I can’t explain it,” Darrell James said. “… It’s special to see these dreams, goals and desires come to fruition.”
James said many of the juniors who played for a youth league football championship have dreamed of this state championship together since the fifth grade. They are within four short quarters of obtaining that goal.
One inspiring tribute to their first coach are the embroidered towels worn by many of the players around their belts on the field. The towels have the Saints’ logo, Darrell James’ name and this phrase: “Run with those who get it.”
James said his son started wearing this towel in honor of the elder James’ bout with cancer this year. It’s his third battle with the disease and he’s currently undergoing proton therapy in Oklahoma City. Before he knew it, other teammates were requesting their own towel to wear.
Another effort by parents has been the paint crew. Several of the fathers of team members have voluntarily painted the lines of the field before every home game this season. But perhaps more importantly, those same fathers used their time together to pray over the team. Even on weeks when not playing at home, the dads made time to get together for a prayer session.
The moms have not been idle, either. Valerie Ravencraft is one example of mom ingenuity and dedication. When the team traveled to Weatherford last week for the Class 2A state semifinals against Frederick, Ravencraft drove out to Weatherford early to tie groups of balloons in Saints colors every 2 miles along Interstate 40 and the route through town. She came back to Edmond and then left for Weatherford again that afternoon to follow the team and support her son Payton Ravencraft, a freshman.
Other mothers have personally cooked most of the team dinners and they are planning a final tailgate party this Saturday at one of OSU’s parking lots near the stadium for families and fans.
Barnes said the players will take the field for warmups at 6:20 p.m. Saturday. All of the Saints’ parents, families and friends will be in the stands ready to cheer them on.