By JOHN INMAN
Funny how tonight’s Heavener-Talihina matchup occurred on almost the same day 44 years ago.
On Oct. 13, 1967, the Wolves played a Talihina team which had just come off a state championship the year before – still LeFlore County’s first and only in football — and was in the midst of a 22-game winning streak when it rolled into Heavener.
It was Ralph Perdue’s second season as head coach and the Wolves had only come out on top once in the previous 15 games, with one ending in a 12-12 tie.
So, there they were 1-13-1 under Perdue and Talihina had won 22 in succession. Not good odds on this Homecoming night.
The Wolves and Tigers renew their rivalry Friday evening in a 2A-6 contest, The Tigers have only one loss in six outings, having lost to Pocola last week, 34-33. Heavener is 1-5, its only win coming in week two against Central. The Wolves haven’t recovered from a bad start and lost to Wilburton last week, 20-7.
Hark back to ’67, however. The all-important quarterback position had been taken over by junior Randy Pickle a couple of weeks earlier when regular starter Roy Faulkenberry, a senior, who had suffered a strained back, was switched to end.
The team already had been decimated by injuries.
“Prior to the season we lost two starting tackles, David Long and Dennis Kelly, fullback Harold Patterson and Roger Sanford were both out with season-ending knee injuries,” said halfback Denton Mead.
“I was the only offensive back who was still playing who initially started the season in the offensive backfield,” he explained.
Pickle and Mead fumbled a handoff early in the game and the Tigers returned the ball 39 yards for a touchdown. Ironically, that particular year was the first season a fumble could be advanced. The Tigers kicked off but on second down Pickle was intercepted.
Not an auspicious start for the young signal-caller.
The Wolves and Mead, who had a 100-yard-plus game rushing the ball, began to get it together and he scored the first TD of the night, on a fourth-and-three play behind an outside trap block by pulling guard Lester Rowland.
Behind Rowland and blocking fullback Larry Ingram, who had also been moved to the position that game because Patterson had been injured, Heavener started picking up key yardage on the ground.
Curiously enough, it was a Pickle-to-Faulkenberry pass play that put the Wolves ahead, 12-7 in the second quarter.
Early in the final period, Mead broke loose for his longest run of the game, “maybe 20 or 30 yards,” as Mead recalled, nearing the 20-yard line. From there the Pickle-to-Faulkenberry combo worked again in the left corner of the end zone for another TD, putting the Wolves in front 18-15 with approximately five minutes left in the game. A two-point conversion pass from Pickle to Mead was good for the 20-15 final score.
Heavener kicked off and the Tigers promptly moved the ball back down the field, and appeared to be headed for the victory when the drive stalled, and on a fourth-and-10 play from the 10-yard line, Talihina couldn’t score a late TD.
The Wolves took over on downs and ran out the clock, sealing one of the biggest upsets in Heavener history and it came on Homecoming night.
Faulkenberry was named by the Tulsa World newspaper as the “Lineman of the Week” for his efforts.
Perdue’s team went on to barely lose the next game to Wilburton, 9-6, then defeated Hartshorne and Stigler, before losing to Poteau to end the season, 2-2 in conference play and 3-6-1 for the year.
“I don’t recall ever seeing a crowd reaction like that the entire time I played football. Although it was attributed to me in the press, Randy intercepted a desperation pass in the final seconds to end the game and the fans seemed to just flood out of the stands and cover the field,” said Faulkenberry.
Incidentally, Patterson, a standout fullback/linebacker returned a fumble for a TD in the season-opener to preserve the tie with Coweta. So, in the very first game of ’67, Heavener wound up with a tie because of the rule change in the off-season.
This will be the second straight season for Heavener and Talihina to match up, but they didn’t play each other regularly, according to past scores, much after 1967 as the two schools were typically in different classes.
The Wolves dominated the series in the early going, winning 26 of the first 45 times they played, including a 98-0 Wolves’ triumph in the very first game in 1926, which to this day, is the most points Heavener has ever scored in a single game.