July 20, 1996
The return of Mickey Ripley to the Perry high school football program brings back many memories of another great era in the 1960s when he was one of the finest prep quarterbacks ever produced by this proud state. The Maroons of 1964, coached by Rex Edgar and led by Mickey in his junior year, also had Abe Sears, Kenny Russell, J. D. Newton, Clark Coldiron, Spencer Unruh, Frank Feken, Gary Jackson, John Chaffin and countless other authentic stars. After a sterling 10-0 record during the regular season, they played host on November 27, 1964, to the Lindsay Leopards in a class A quarter-final playoff game at Daniels Field. It was a classic contest, one of the most memorable games ever played by a Maroon team.
The Leopards were favored but the never-say-die Maroons played them tough from kickoff to the final whistle. The stands were packed with frenzied fans from both towns. In the end Perry lost, 13-12, but that close score doesn't begin to tell the real story of that game.
Down by 13-0 with less than two minutes to play, the Maroons scored two touchdowns within 57 seconds but failed to add the extra point in both cases. That brought to an end Perry's finest season since 1936.
Halfback Clark Coldiron muscled his way across the goal line from one yard out for Perry's first score with only 69 seconds remaining in the game. For the conversion, Coldiron knelt to hold for placekicker Kenny Russell, then stood up and heaved a pass in a try for two extra points. Gary Goodwin, Lindsay's strapping quarterback and a defensive demon, intercepted in the end zone to spoil the effort. Lindsay led, 13-6.
Perry wasn't ready to toss in the towel. J. D. Newton executed a perfect onside kick on the ensuing kickoff and Paul Haxton fielded the ball for Perry with the aid of Steve Parker, giving the Maroons possession on Lindsay's 41-yard line. Ripley hit Gary Jackson on the Leopard 15. That play gave Perry a 3-2 edge in penetrations, the tie-breaking statistic. On the next play, Ripley hooked up with Jackson in the end zone to bring the score to 13-12 and an extra point attempt coming up. Ten seconds remained to be played.
Kenny Russell, the state's leading scorer in class A that season and normally a sure shot when it came to kicking conversion points, booted the ball as 2,000 screaming spectators strained to watch. Had the kick been good, the score would have been tied, 13-13, but Perry would have won the game on penetrations. The ball sailed wide to the left of the south end zone goalposts.
Nobody felt worse at that moment than Kenny Russell. I can still see him sinking to his knees when the kick missed its mark and he realized the onus would be on him. No true Maroon fan blamed him for the loss even for a moment: They were well aware of his exemplary play throughout the regular season which had helped bring the team to the playoffs.
Kenny, a fine young man, was a skillful and exciting running back as well as a placement kicker. Sadly, he was killed a few months later shortly after arriving in Vietnam with the U. S. Marines. That was just one of the thousands of tragedies spawned by that dreadful period.
The 1964 Maroons were champions of the I-35 Conference and winners of the District 4-A crown. Five members of the team were named to the all-conference team: Halfback Kenny Russell, fullback John Chaffin, tackle Frank Feken, end Gary Jackson and guard Spencer Unruh. Honorable mention went to Darrell Brower, Clark Coldiron, J. D. Newton, Paul Haxton, David Taber, Jerry Johnson and Jim Voigt. Only seniors were eligible for the all-conference team.
Lindsay advanced to the next round of the 1964 playoffs. The Leopards were a traditional football power at that time. Their quarterback, Gary Goodwin, later became a defensive standout for Oklahoma State University. Ironically, after earning his degree he moved to Perry as a district sales representative for the Charles Machine Works, Inc., and became a Maroon fan. Still later he was a Ditch Witch dealer in Colorado.
Mickey, a marvelous passer, was an All-Stater as a senior and was recruited as a passing quarterback by the new OU head coach, Jim MacKenzie, who died after only one year on the job. His successor as head coach, Chuck Fairbanks, had a different idea about OU's offense and it did not include a passing game. So, Mick became a vastly under-utilized quarterback for most of his years as a Sooner. Many other schools with exciting pro-style offenses would have quickly signed him to a full scholarship but Mickey chose to stay with OU.
He did get one unexpected shot at stardom on a New Year's Eve in a Bluebonnet Bowl game with Bear Bryant's Alabama Tide in the Astrodome at Houston. The Sooners fell behind badly in the first half and Mickey was inserted into the lineup to start the second half. He ignited the crowd and the team with his go-for-broke passing but OU lost the game despite his heroics.
In the 1970s Mickey returned to his high school alma mater here and was head coach of the Maroons for several seasons before moving on to Bartlesville. It's good to have him back in town, and I know Joe and Betty Ripley are tickled he's home again. Maybe Mickey can help the PHS Maroons reclaim the winning touch.