Editor’s note: After finding a photo of the 1944 Henryetta Hens football team, Thehenryettan.com historian Earl Goldsmith was able to provide his recollections about that season and the time the Hens went to the playoffs.

1944 football team

1944 was the first year Oklahoma had a playoff and we were one of the smallest schools in class A - they just had A, B. and C - with no catholic or black schools. Our final game was a huge 39-13 loss to the first state champion - the OC Classen Comets at OC's Taft Stadium - on a frigidly cold night. Classen took a 13-0 lead in the first quarter and put in their second team to start the second quarter, and Clifford Van Meter made long touchdown run on the first play, but Classen kept their reserves in. Classen had a 26-7 lead at the end of the third quarter and put in their second team again to start the fourth, and Clifford did it again, to make it 26-13, but this time, Classen put the starters back in.
The picture is missing one person. Our starting quarterback was Grover Bynum for most of the season, and I always thought he was the best quarterback of my HHS years - but in the Ada game, he suffered a broken shoulder in the second quarter, but didn't say anything until halftime. He was replaced by Billy Thomas, a sophomore, who was our quarterback the next two years.
A few things about the year. We were named the Tulsa World's best in the state in 1942, and then, in 1943, the runner up to Tulsa Webster, to whom we had lost in Tulsa 19-12 when we had three touchdowns called back. Then we won the first three games in 1944, so at that point, we were 22-1 for the last 23 games and had outscored those opponents 629-58, shut out the last 7, and at had won 11 straight, which at that point tied an earlier 11 straight streak that had been broken by Tulsa Webster was the longest winning streak for Oklahoma high schools . Then, we played the Oklahoma University Junior Varsity.
During WWII, there were many service men at colleges around the country and they were eligible to play for the colleges teams, regardless of their what their prior play - many had professional experience. OU had a lot of Navy Trainees. With those players on the college teams, many younger players were put on the Junior Varsity team, which was sort of like today's freshman teams. OU's Junior Varsity team was pretty good in 1943, but had lost a game or two, but I don't recall just who they lost to. So we were glad to get them to play us at Henryetta's old Cameron Field. Then, just before the season started, the old Big Six Conference that OU was in, declared that those service men who had used up their college eligibility could no longer play in their games. That meant that OU's younger players would have a chance to play and the service men, quite a few of whom had played some professional football, would be the team that came to play Henryetta.
As I recall, OUJV scored on their first or second play and led 27-0 at the end of the first quarter - and then let as many as their players as the could in the game, to keep the score at 27-0 as the final score.
Now, I will mention the 1944 game in Henryetta with Holdenville very late in in the season. They had a good team that we had just beaten 6-0 in 1943, so we knew they would be strong. Well, they were good, and they led 13-0 at end of the third quarter. but we scored on one of the first few plays of the fourth quarter and got it to 13-6 (we missed the point). Then when we kicked off, Holdenville returned it mid-field, and we were flagged for unnecessary roughness for a 15 yard penalty to our 35. I was a freshman in the band and I sat a the south end of the first row of the band down in front of the stadium, and all of a sudden, a man came running past me and out on the field, where he took down the official who had thrown the flag and was beating on him. I didn't know him, and don't think I ever did, but quickly learned his name from somebody - but I won't include it here. He was an uncle of one of our starting linemen, and also (with different mothers) of one of my best HHS friends. Our lineman and our coach, Marion Anglin, immediately ran out on the field, and drug the man off the field and took him to some policemen, who I think took him to jail.
Anyway, the officials threw another flag for illegal participation or something like that, and penalized us down to our twenty. Holdenville scored quickly, but missed the point, so it was 19-6 and we were down 13 again. with bout 10 minutes to go. The Hens then scored to make it 19-13 with less than five minutes to go. Then we stopped Holdenville and got the ball back, and on a fourth down, one Van Meter threw a completion to another Van Meter (It could have been John to Clifford, or the other way around). The point was good, and we pulled it out to win 20-19. I had an evening paper route at the time and the next morning, I was going around collecting from my customers and stopped at the long ago McRight filling station was diagonally southeast from the long ago Washington grade school to have a coke and visit with classmate Donald McRight. While there, I saw a Hens schedule in the window with scores written in, and it showed that the Hens had lost 19-13. So Don must have given up and left early. I wasn't making much headway in convincing Don that we had won, but when I man I knew stopped to buy some gas, I asked him to tell Don who had won and he told him the Hens had won 20-19. So Don changed the score on the schedule in the window.
One last thing. In the picture, the fourth person from the right on the front row is (was) Jack Miller, who played on the line. He was in my class (a freshman that year), but in our Junior and Senior years, he was the captain of the team and even though he was a lineman, he called all the plays. He died a few year ago, but his 12 year younger brother (I didn't know back then that Jack had a 12 year younger brother,) lives about 35 miles from me and we get together for coffee from time to time. We often talk about old Henryetta things. He actually gets to Henryetta fairly often for one reason or another, but I haven't been there since my 1948 class's 65th reunion in 2013.