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July 31, 2001

The approach of September gets the juices flowing with renewed velocity as we await the arrival of that wonderful time of year known as Football Season! This is not to denigrate softball, baseball, soccer, track, swimming, basketball, volleyball, wrestling, golf, tennis, horseshoe pitching, or the sport du jour, and all the others. I also applaud them and those who take part in them. Tennis used to be my particular personal favorite before the legs gave out, and I have grandchildren who take gymnastics, others who play baseball, softball, soccer and basketball I root for all of them. They are great for participants and spectators alike, but the old chest ticker just seems to beat a little faster and the sports page becomes infinitely more interesting when media coverage devotes time to gridiron teams and individual players, from grade school through the collegiate and NFL ranks. Now’s the time to study schedules, read the pre-season selections, and anticipate the start of another season for the Perry Maroons, Oklahoma State Cowboys, defending national champion Oklahoma Sooners, and all the others we love to watch. Boy, this is going to be great fun. Let’s sing the National Anthem and holler Play Ball! It’s time to kick it off.

Inevitably, a new season also turns our minds back far enough to recall some of the great moments and the great players from days gone by. At least it does that for me. While doing a little research recently on another topic, I was privileged to have a peek at some clippings that relate to one of the greatest athletes who ever wore the maroon and white uniforms of Perry high school. John St.Clair distinguished himself and our local school with his prowess not only on the gridiron, but on the wrestling mat as well. For starters, he was the first Perry Maroon to win an officially recognized individual state championship. He earned that honor in 1942 by defeating all his opponents in the 142-pound class at the state tournament. It was the first state tournament sanctioned by the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association and the Maroons as a team placed third behind No. 1 Tulsa Central and No. 2 Blackwell. The OSSAA is the organization that oversees high school sports in this state. PHS has produced many sterling wrestlers through the years and some of them came along before John, but his title was the first to receive official recognition. He trumped that distinction by coming back one year later, as a senior at PHS, to win a second state championship at 145 pounds.

John also was a two-year starter at center on Coach Harold Daniels’ Perry high school football team. As a senior in 1943, he was named a member of the North squad on the Oklahoma high school all-state football team. The clippings reveal that some other talented Oklahoma prep stars were chosen that year. Maybe you’ve heard of these two from the South squad -- Darrell Royal of Hollis, quarterback; and Norman McNabb of Norman, tackle. After World War II, both played for Coach Bud Wilkinson at OU. Familiar names on the North squad were Leon Simmons of Enid, tackle; Warren Nichols of Watonga, quarterback; Kenneth Roof of Thomas, halfback; and Bob Fenimore of Woodward, fullback. Warren (Bud) Nichols was a 16-year-old senior and an A student that year and he later succeeded Coach Daniels at the helm here.

Missing selection to the All-State team by an eyelash were these two from Perry: fullback Sidney Berry and quarterback Dayle Lynch. Vernon Snell of the Daily Oklahoman sports staff called both of them “sterling backs.”

Perry has a lot of sports heroes and a glorious record in many sports. John St.Clair was a contributor to all that and he deserved all the laurels that were awarded him. With a new school year and a new football season looming straight ahead, you have to wonder who will be the next ones to achieve in like manner.