The Duncan Banner


November 20, 2013

Empire alumni excited for Bulldog success

Smith, Kelly spoke to Empire players before last week’s game

DUNCAN — Although Justin Smith and Kevin Kelly are now part of the Duncan High School staff, they remember their days at Empire well.

They were both members of the 1989 Bulldog team that played for the Class A state championship. The two came to Empire last Friday to meet with this year’s Bulldog team before the first-round playoff game against Crescent.

“We talked about the opportunity they had and to take advantage of it, to do something special and enjoy the ball game,” Kelly said.

The 1989 team was the last Empire team to host a playoff game before last Friday’s contest. Smith was a junior and Kelly a sophomore at the time. Kelly was a senior on the 1991 Bulldog team, the last Empire team to win a playoff game before Friday’s 46-13  win over Crescent.

Smith remembered the 1989 run well. The Bulldogs hosted Sayre in the first round and won decisively, 49-7. Empire then headed to Texhoma for the second round.

As Smith recalled, “We made the trip to Amarillo (Texas) and stayed there overnight. It was a big deal for us.”

A bigger deal was Empire coming home with a 14-7 victory in blizzard conditions.

The Bulldogs faced Crescent — the same school Empire faced last Friday — in the third round and won 49-7. Smith noted that the Tigers were the No. 1-ranked team in the state that season.

While that victory was huge, Smith said the biggest game may have been the semifinal matchup against Maud. The Bulldogs trailed 28-7 in the third quarter, but rallied to take a 31-28 victory. Smith particularly remembered the crowd, which he estimated to be as many as 4,000 people.

“You had moms putting blankets on the bleachers the Monday before the game to save their seats,” he said. “A few local farmers drove their tractors to the field, and in the bucket of their tractors, they had a couch. They then sat in the couch while it was in the bucket.”

Empire met Ringling for the state title. As Smith remembered, “It snowed the night before, and they scraped it off the field. We played on a Saturday night and the field was frozen.”

He added Ringling had size up front and their players were able to push them on the ice, leading to a win for Ringling. Still, Smith said that Bulldog team was a special one.

“We had a great bunch of seniors — 17 of them,” Smith said. “It was probably close to a record amount of seniors for an Empire team.”

Kelly said the Bulldog players, from freshmen to seniors, had played together since their youth football days. As a result, they were all close. He and Smith had been friends since Kelly was in kindergarten and Smith was in first grade.

“We got to play with a bunch of our best buddies and be successful,” Kelly said. “For a Class A team, we were a really special team.”

He and Smith agreed that this year’s group of Bulldog players is similar to the 1989 group.

“It’s a group of kids who have stayed together,” Smith said. “They play with a lot of heart and figured out how to win.”

The two now work for Duncan schools — Smith is the Duncan High School principal and Kelly is a DHS teacher and the wrestling coach. But they enjoy keeping tabs on the Empire Bulldogs and were more than happy to talk to the players when Empire coach Tony Roberts asked them.

“I played at Empire and coached there for four years,” Smith said. “We went 0-10 a couple of those years. To see the tradition back at Empire is a really big deal. I told the kids that, after Duncan, they are the next score I check out.”

Kelly said Empire may be a small community, but many people are taking an interest into how far the Bulldogs can go.

“I told the kids that a lot more people are following them than they think,” he said. “I told them to just enjoy the opportunity. I’d give up anything to suit up for (Empire) again.”

Text Only
  • 4-24 duncan baseball photo.jpg Demon baseball to face best in Class 5A

    The Duncan baseball team will see the best Class 5A has to offer at the McAlester Shootout Thursday through Saturday.
    Demon coach Tim Hightower described the event as a “pre-state tournament” because many of the teams attending are state tournament contenders.

    April 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • 4-24 duncan girls soccer photo.jpg Soccer teams finish season at home

    The Duncan soccer teams won’t go to the postseason, but they have plenty to play for Friday night against Western Heights.
    It’s the last home games for the Demons and it’s Senior Night. The girls will look to finish near .500 for the season, while the boys want a good showing against a tough opponent.

    April 24, 2014 2 Photos

  • Chamber Golf Classic proves to be popular event

    When word got out that entries would be accepted for the Duncan Chamber Golf Classic, set for Friday at the Duncan Golf and Tennis Club, it didn’t take long for people to respond.
    As club general manager Mike Hansen put it: “They sent out an e-mail and filled it up in a day.”

    April 24, 2014

  • Thunder look to bounce back

    During the hey day of L.A. Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, a new term was added to the lexicon. Anyone who seemingly was able to slow down the prolific scorer was automatically dubbed the Kobe Stopper.
    Players such as Ruben Patterson, Raja Bell, Shane Battier, Ron Artest and Bruce Bowen all had the tag attached to their name, despite Bryant putting up big numbers against them.

    April 24, 2014

  • 4-23 duncan baseball photo.jpg Demons hoping for top-four finish

    The Duncan baseball team will need to take care of business next week in its final District 2-5A games.
    The Demons are 7-5 in district (16-9 overall) after dropping both games of a doubleheader at Carl Albert Monday, 8-1 and 4-1. The Titans (13-1, 26-4) won the district title.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Girls soccer gets it done at Altus

    The Duncan girls soccer team battled in a tough environment at Altus to win 1-0 Tuesday.
    Lady Demon coach Delydia Gay said it was frustrating at times for the girls because of some questionable calls the officials made. But she was happy the girls pulled together to win.

    April 23, 2014

  • Meshell shines as Outlaws beat Warriors

    The Marlow baseball team got help from Beau Meshell on the mound and at the plate in a 7-4 home victory against Anadarko Tuesday.
    Meshell held Anadarko to one earned run off three hits and did not walk a batter. He reached base three times, had one run batted in and scored one run.

    April 23, 2014

  • Girls golfers take fourth at Deer Creek

    The Duncan girls golfers took fourth at a tournament hosted by Deer Creek High School at Coffee Creek Golf Course in Edmond Tuesday.
    Lady Demon coach Steve Etheridge said that the girls played as well as they have all year. Although the golfers struggled putting on some fast greens, Etheridge was happy with their overall performance.

    April 23, 2014

  • Empire softball tries to spark offense

    The Lady Bulldogs are trying to find a way to spice up their offense in preparation for the Class 3A slowpitch softball playoffs.
    Empire has played a tough schedule, with four of the first seven games coming against ranked opponents. However, coach Tony Roberts thinks the team just needs to have some more timely hitting to get on the winning track.

    April 23, 2014

  • 4-22 marlow baseball photo.jpg Outlaws shut out Indians

    Marlow baseball snapped a three-game losing streak with a 10-0 win at home against Comanche Monday.
    “We needed to get this win and we got it,” said Marlow coach Jeff Brewer.

    April 22, 2014 2 Photos

Featured Ads
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
AP Video

Who do you favor for the U.S. Senate seat that Tom Coburn is giving up?

State Rep. T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton
U.S. Rep. James Lankford, R-Edmond
State Sen. Connie Johnson, D-Oklahoma City
Former State Sen. Randy Brogdon, R-Owasso
     View Results