Riggs reflects on 2020 season, state championship run
Jenks head football coach Keith Riggs captured his first 6A-1 state title as the head man for the Trojans Dec. 5 when his team beat Edmond Santa Fe 41-14 in the 6A-1 state championship game.
However, Riggs was not able to be with his players and assistant coaches to celebrate the 17th gold ball in school history.
Early in the game, Riggs had to leave because of a migraine and was taken to a nearby hospital to get checked out. The migraine would force the Jenks football coach to stay down for the next couple of days before returning to work and getting the chance to finally celebrate with his team.
The following Wednesday, following a photo shoot with the newly acquired 6A-1 gold ball, several Jenks football seniors surprised Riggs with the Gatorade bath he had earned in 2020.
Riggs then gathered his team and gave an emotional speech giving his players the credit for their accomplishment.
A little more than a week following the 6A-1 state championship, Riggs shared his thoughts on the state title game and the entire 2020 season.
“Certainly, my preference would have been to be a part of the celebration after the game. Ultimately, that is not what it was about. Our goal was to win the last game and that is the most important thing. The feeling of knowing we helped them accomplish that and achieve that goal with all the things they did and all the things they put into accomplishing that is better than any celebration we could have had.”
Riggs said his team’s preparation in the postseason and the entire 2020 season was at an elite level.
“Sometimes kids can fool you. You come out of a week thinking things went well or the opposite, you walk away thinking we didn’t have a good week and the kids come out and play great. This year, especially through the playoffs, we had great weeks of preparation, almost to the point you start to wonder, Am I missing something. Did I overlook something? Every week, they prepared so well through the playoff run and that is a testament to them and their maturity and the leadership we had on the team. The championship week was no different, even after a really big win against Owasso, they came out and did a great job preparing for Edmond Santa Fe.”
The Trojan coach said his players and his coaches handled the adversity 2020 threw their way as well as they could have.
“Looking back on it, the things we were able to overcome, you always have some adversity in every season, you have some injuries, you have some games that don’t go like you planned, but all the added adversity that came along with playing in a pandemic and having kids quarantined and your roster kind of being a revolving door from week-to-week. You never really knew who you were going to have or when you might get the call that a player has to go to quarantine for 14 days. Through all those things, our kids never blinked an eye, they did just what we asked. They focused on the things we could control, which is our preparation and our performance, and I think that is the best part of it all, how the kids and our coaches handled it. Through all that, we were able to come out and to finish the way we did is awesome.”
In 2018, Jenks came up just short against Broken Arrow in the state championship game and again in 2019 against Owasso. Riggs said that could have been added motivation for his team in 2020.
“I think there is something to be said for our seniors and even our juniors who went through last season and the adversity we faced at the beginning of the year and then coming so close and falling short. They were determined to not let that happen again. Perhaps, that had some play in their preparation and their performance during those games, but they were playing at such a high level. Even when our opponents would have a little success, like when Owasso got within two touchdowns in the second half, the momentum could have easily started to swing their way and our kids answered. In the championship game with the opening kickoff, our kids immediately stepped out there and answered. I think the determination they had through the whole season was impressive.”
Riggs won his first state championship as the head coach of the Trojans, but he is most excited for the players.
“I don’t think of it in personal terms. You hate it for the kids when you fall short. A lot of teams would be ecstatic to make it to the championship game, but our expectations are just higher here, and I love that about this program and this school. It doesn’t matter who has graduated or how old or young we are as a team, or how talented we are, our expectation is for excellence to be the best. You hate it when a group gets that close and just falls short. It’s a lot of work to be a part of our football program and our kids every year buy in to what we do and what we ask them to do. It’s satisfying to see that come to fruition for this group. We wish it could have happened for all three groups. I am just excited for our kids, especially for our seniors to be able to go out on top.”
Riggs said Jenks isn’t always the most talented team every time they take the field, but there are other, more important ingredients to winning football games than having the best talent.
“It’s hard to quantify. There have been a lot of talented teams come through here. Sometimes Jenks was the most talented team on the field and sometimes they weren’t. It takes talent no matter what. You need to have talented football players, but if you rely solely on talent to win football games, you are going to lose some football games. All the things that go into being a great football program, regardless of talent level, are things like the support you get from your booster club, the parents, the school, the community and the commitment of your kids and your coaches. The expectations are a big part of that. The culture you develop needs to be made up of ultimate team football players. They can’t care who gets the credit or who got the glory or who got the newspaper clippings, you have to do whatever it takes. There is a book I have from a high school coach in Texas called, “Culture Defeats Strategy”, and that goes toward talent as well. You have to have those things in place so collectively as a team, you play at a higher level than what your individual talent can take you too.”