A packed house and a record number of captains highlighted an enthusiastic Bartlesville Athletic Commission kick-off luncheon on Wednesday at Hillcrest Country Club.
The event filled most – if not all – of the banquet hall seats. The number has certainly topped last season, with the residual hangover from the 2020 virus-related stoppage/slowdown still having an impact.
Bartlesville High’s new football coach, Harry Wright, was featured in Wednesday’s meeting. Wright became the fifth Bruins head coach to address the kickoff luncheon since he started in the late 2000s.
It featured five players as captains – who were selected through a unique process.
The brave and determined quintet included seniors Kaden Brown, JD Atterberry, Ashton Lydon and Shaun Lickliter, and second Nate Neal.
Wright and his team decided to make the captaincy contest a hands-on experience and a life lesson.
Any player who wanted to be a captain had to fill out an application and go through a detailed process, like applying for a dream job.
Candidates had to obtain two letters of recommendation and dress for a personal interview with several coaches who asked him questions.
Personal responsibility and adherence to the described protocol proved essential in the process.
Each of the five players answered questions later in the program.
To start the lunch, BSC Board Chair Chris Batchelder and Board Member Pam Bilger both hosted introductions and thanks, as well as a preview of the upcoming celebration. induction into the BSC Bartlesville Hall of Fame in October.
Batchelder introduced Bartlesville Public Schools Director of Athletics and Activities Thad Dilbeck, who praised the impact these after-school programs have had on hundreds of students.
There are 529 students involved in sports or activities this fall, Dilbeck noted. The split includes 101 in cross country, 79 in volleyball, 46 in softball, 13 in pom poms, 102 in marching band and the rest split between football and cheerleading.
Wright expressed his gratitude for the overwhelming community support he has felt since landing the head coaching job.
He noted that more than 300 students — from elementary school through college — participated in the Summer Pride fitness program daily.
Ninety percent of high school football players showed up for Summer Pride, a number Wright says is more important than any other in his coaching career.
“We want to bring a product to the field that you can be proud of and that we can be proud of,” he said.
The team’s slogan is EAT – Effort, Attitude and Toughness – Wright said, and does not necessarily equate to some of his players’ huge performances in consuming 150 Corn Dogs during the 50 Cent Corn Dog Sale. from a local restaurant.
Lickliter said Wright’s efforts to personally connect with each player after he became a coach has been key to the team’s efforts this offseason.
“The difference is they’re on our trail about everything,” Brown said.
Aterberry hailed the emphasis on summer weightlifting as another positive in preparing for the fall wars.
Ashton Lydon appreciated that when the atmosphere of last week’s battle against Ponca City got a little hectic, the coaches seemed to be defending the team.
“We’ve got the conditioning in place,” Lydon added. “We bonded in the difficulties.”
Neal said he loved his linemen and noted how well they protected him against Ponca City.
Bartlesville has this Friday off. They go into action on September 2 in Claremore. The home season opener is scheduled for September 16.