Durant High School’s 1923 football team will long be remembered for football excellence despite the fact the Lions weren’t allowed to play for the Oklahoma state championship.
That group however did claim the first athletic state title in school history to set the gridiron standard for teams of the future.
The Lions’ 1923 squad will be recognized for induction into the prestigious Durant Schools Athletic (DSA) Hall of Fame on Friday, September 28 when Durant hosts Tulsa Bishop Kelley at Paul Laird Field.
Durant’s football team that season may have very well been the best in the entire state but nobody will ever know for sure since Oklahoma didn’t crown a full state champion until 1944. The Lions still however claimed the Southeast Oklahoma High School Championship with a 28-0 win over Hugo on Thanksgiving Day. That proved to be the first team championship the school ever earned in athletic history.
Quarterbacked by Bennett Story, who has already been inducted into the Hall of Fame, the 1923 Lions put together one of the top offensive AND defensive seasons in Durant history en route to an 8-1-1 record, finishing unbeaten against Oklahoma competition. Their only loss that season was a 17-6 decision to Sherman, Texas.
Durant opened that season with a 47-0 whitewashing of Caddo before suffering the loss to Sherman. After that they caught fire, spurred by a suffocating defensive unit which allowed only 17 points the rest of the season.
They defeated Madill, 31-0, before 58-0 and 60-0 romps against Healdton and Coalgate. That set the stage for a 0-0 deadlock with Ardmore.
The Lions followed with a 27-8 win against Marietta and 40-9 triumph over Atoka ahead of a 52-0 blanking of Wilson.
That set up for the annual Thanksgiving Day showdown with Hugo, which the Lions won 28-0 to lay claim to the crown, which they celebrated the entire train ride home.
Head coach Brian Nolen felt so confident in his DHS squad that he contacted each of the other region winners from the southwest, northwest and northeast attempting to set up a prospective battle any time and any place to determine the best overall team in Oklahoma.
There were no takers to Nolen’s offer however, which some newspaper reports felt was due to the fact the Lions had been so dominant in scoring 349 points while allowing 34 (17 of which were in one contest) for the season.
Bennett Story and end Frank Crider were selected for All-State honors. It was the second time that Crider achieved such status, also claiming All-State recognition in 1921, becoming the lone multi-time All-State player in DHS football history.
The school is looking for anyone that might have had relatives on the outstanding 1923 squad to be recognized at the Hall of Fame ceremony when the group will be inducted along with Jim Ely and Greg Williams in the Fifth Annual Induction Class.
Please contact Duane Merideth at 580-924-1276 if you know of a relative of one of the 1923 team members.