JENKS TRIBUNE STATE CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW: Kittleman ready to cement legacy in Trojan football history
Senior Stephen Kittleman is preparing to play in his final game for the Trojans at 1 p.m. Saturday in the 6A-1 state championship against Edmond Santa Fe.
Being the starting quarterback at Jenks High School comes with an enormous amount of pressure and responsibility. The expectation for Trojan football every fall is to bring home a state title. While most teams would be happy to be playing in the last game of the season, the goals every year at Jenks are a little loftier.
It will be the third-consecutive year Jenks has played in the final game and the second for Kittleman as the starting QB.
A year ago, Kittleman led the Trojans to the title game, but came up just short against Owasso.
“I’ve learned a ton. The last few years, we have had a lot of adversity thrown at us going back to our sophomore year,” Kittleman said. “I learned in those moments to not take any play for granted. It’s the state championship, have fun with it, you have to give your best effort on every play. You have to come into every game with the same mindset and just be confident in yourself and trust in your teammates no matter who your opponent is.”
The 2020 season has been anything but normal. The world is currently experiencing a pandemic and every team has had to deal with cancelations and uncertainty throughout the year.
“I have to try and be the calm in the storm, just always encouraging my teammates through the lowest of the lows and the highest of the highs,” Kittleman said. “If you look back at the last two years, we have lost two state championships and that doesn’t happen very often at Jenks. As long as I can be there to help them keep a good mindset and just encourage them, it helps us deal with everything that is going on.”
Kittleman has been a Jenks Trojan since he was in Pre-K, so he has watched many Trojan greats win state championships throughout the years. He said winning a gold ball would mean the world.
“It would be the perfect ending. Growing up, you watch all the older guys win state championships and that’s all you want to do. Then you get to high school and you find out it is a little harder to do that. It’s on you now, you have to work hard every single day. They aren’t just going to give it to you because you are a Jenks Trojan. That was a tough lesson we all had to learn. Over the years, we took those learning points and really buckled down and now we are here. Ending our careers with a gold ball would mean a lot to our whole team and this community.”
Jenks comes into the state championship game unbeaten in 6A-1 and with an overall record of 10-1. The Trojans’ only loss was to 6A-2 No. 1 Bixby.
“I think we are definitely playing with a chip on our shoulder,” Kittleman said. “I don’t think that is just this year, I think that is in years’ past as well. I don’t know if we have earned the respect to be talked about like Owasso or other teams have the past few years, so having that chip on our shoulder has been good for us. We have been the underdog for a few years now, which is a weird feeling because we are Jenks and it usually doesn’t happen. We want our respect, and we are going to earn it.”
Jenks snapped Owasso’s 24-game winning streak last week in the 6A-1 semifinals. Kittleman said it was a big win for him and his teammates, but there is still more work left to do.
“That is a hard task for all of us. Beating the defending champs with a 24-game winning streak was huge. That is one of the biggest games we have played in our lives. We all know we can celebrate for a little bit. Coach (Keith) Riggs always says we can celebrate until about noon on Saturday and then we are going to move on. I take those words to heart and I take it upon myself to help remind the guys around me and especially the younger guys that we still have one more game to go. We aren’t just going to roll over Edmond Santa Fe. They are going to come to UCO (University of Central Oklahoma) and play the same type of football we are going to play. We need to be focused every day at practice because the gold ball is not just going to be handed to us.”
Last season, Edmond Santa Fe came into Allan Trimble Stadium and shocked the Trojans with a 33-30 win. Kittleman said that will be on their minds, as Jenks prepares for the state championship.
“That was a low-point for us because they are a westside team and we are pretty good historically against west-side teams. That was a low point for us last year and we want to get our revenge. I think there is a little added motivation on top of it being a state championship game.”
Kittleman is 18-6 as the starting quarterback for Jenks in his career. This season, he has completed 142 passes out of 211 attempts for 2,237 yards with 26 touchdowns and six interceptions. However, the senior quarterback said he wants to be remembered for more than his stats and what he did on the field.
“Most importantly, I want people to remember how I treated people, not my stats or how many games I won, or if I won any state championships, but just how I treated every single person I came into contact with. I want to be remembered as someone who had the best attitude each and every day, smiled through all the good times and smiled through all the bad times, a good person on and off the field and that I glorified God with everything I did.”