This Week in Sapulpa History – Sapulpa Football Faces Rival Tulsa Central

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Rachel Whitney, Curator
Sapulpa Historical Museum

This week in Sapulpa history was preserved for football. Specifically Sapulpa football against their “old rivals,” Tulsa Central. Sapulpa High School’s blue-and-white Chieftains would often face-off against Tulsa Central High School’s crimson-and-cream Braves during Thanksgiving week.

To appreciate the rival, one must know who the Tulsa Central Braves were. Tulsa Central was the oldest high school in Tulsa. It was built in 1906 in downtown Tulsa on the corner of Fourth and Boston. It was then moved to Sixth and Cincinnati in 1917. The population of the school grew so much, so fast, that it split between two more schools. It created Webster High School (1938) and Will Rogers High School (1939).

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Sapulpa High School athletics would face the other two schools, as well as others; but this week was set aside as the week to clash against Tulsa Central. Not all the Sapulpa-Central games took place during Thanksgiving week, but a large majority had families gathered around the gridiron on Thanksgiving Day.

The Sapulpa-Central rivalry story began for the football team in 1914. From then until 1959, the schools met on the field at least 35 times in the forty-five years.

Unfortunately, Sapulpa’s record against Central was not in their favor. From the 1914/1915 season through the 1948/1949 season, Tulsa defeated Sapulpa, 2 – 23. In the 1921/1922 season, Sapulpa defeated Tulsa 33 to 0 (school’s largest win over rival). The blue-and-white powered through with another win 19 to 6 in the 1938/1939 school year.

Sapulpa suffered large losses during those years against Central. The 1916/1917 season was the harshest loss against the rivals: 90 to 0. And in 1928, Sapulpa even had its first night game ever and it was against Central. That game was a struggle for the blue and white, and Sapulpa lost 13 to 0.

Then Sapulpa moved forward into the 1950s, and things changed. In the last decade against Central, Sapulpa did not let anything slow them down. From 1950 to 1959, Sapulpa defeated Central, six times that decade.

The 1949/1950 season changed everything. The clash heard ‘round the world, and Central met its match. Sapulpa and Tulsa tied 13 to 13. Sapulpa Herald explained that Sapulpa had the only penetration of the night, and was therefore declared the victors.

The 1950/1951 Sapulpa season clashed against Central to defeat its rival for a second year in a row, 33 to 7. The 1951/1952 season repeated the cycle, defeating Tulsa 21 to 19. And the decade ended with victory, too. The 1954/1955 season ended with a win 6 to 0. The 1955/1956 season ended with a 12 to 0 victory. The 1956/1957 season marked another win in the win-column, 7 to 0. And finally, the 1957/1958 victory over Central ended with a 20 to 13 win.

Sadly, the last game of the decade ended with a loss; Tulsa won the 1959/1960 rival game 40 to 14. The chapters of this rival came to a close. From 1914 to 1960, Tulsa defeated Sapulpa 9 – 26.

More on Sapulpa Wins over Central: In the early day yearbooks, in the “Athletics” section, it was easy to find not only the list of players and their images, but what occurred during their season. Paragraph-after-paragraph, story-after-story, page-after-page, the yearbooks described the seasons of the players.

The 1922 yearbook described the 1921/1922 football season as “The greatest record in the history of state interscholastic athletics”. Coach Virgil Jones led the team to an amazing year, earning a nickname for his team: “Jones’ Blue and White Machine.” Outscoring their opponents 384 to 50, Sapulpa ended their season as “All Southwestern Champions” with a record of 12 – 1.

The 1938 yearbook was proud of the Sapulpa football players’ win. “For the first time since 1922, the Chieftains scored on, and for the first time since 1921, defeated the Tulsa Central Braves…In the second half, [Adam] Wiley [QB], the spearhead of the Chieftain attack…The whole team moved as a perfectly developed machine.”

The 1950 yearbook had page-after-page in honor of the football squad. “The Sapulpa Chieftains met the Central Braves in a game that was slated to be won by Central by two or three touchdowns…Sapulpa got the ball with two minutes left to play and ran it deep into the Braves’ territory before the final gun was fired. Sapulpa had one penetration in their favor to Central’s none.”

The 1951 yearbook praised the football team for its fiery show on the gridiron. “For the first time in 12 years, Sapulpa beat the Tulsa Central Braves… [It] started [with] fireworks… [and] exploded through the whole Central team…”

The 1952 yearbook highlighted the amazing season by the football team. “1951 was a big year for all sports in general at Sapulpa High, but especially football. The Chieftains led off the season with nine straight wins before being tied by the mighty Muskogee Roughers, who were State High School Football Champions for 1951. Sapulpa should be very proud of the fine coaching job turned in by Head Coach B. Bomgardner and his assistants Chuck Boyle, Herman Nelson, Clay Carr, and Jack Slavich.” Sapulpa had an amazing year, 10 – 0 – 1.

The 1955 yearbook showcased the win over Tulsa Central by describing it as the “overcoming” challenges game. “Overcoming the handicap of injuries, the Chieftains outlasted Tulsa Central’s Braves…Each student and every citizen of Sapulpa should be very proud of the 1954 Sapulpa High School football team.”

The 1956 yearbook boasted about the football squad. “The Chieftains had a very prosperous season in the year of 1955. They were fortunate enough to share the Championship title with Will Rogers…Smashing line play vaulted the Chieftains into the Co-Championship of the Oklahoma Six Conference as they broke up the Central Braves.”

The 1957 yearbook featured how the Chieftains made their way to victory in an 8 – 1 – 1 season. “In the last game of the season, the Chiefs beat the ‘old rivals’ Central Braves at Holmes Park” under Head Coach Bom Bomgardner, Backfield Coach Chuck Boyle, and End Coach Joe Etheridge.

The 1958 yearbook headlined “Sapulpa Chieftains Oklahoma 6-A Conference Champions.” “On Thanksgiving afternoon the two teams met to compete for the 6-A championship. For the first time since joining the Six-A, Sapulpa holds the title undisputed, although they were co-champions four times. Under a new coaching staff, head coach Chuck Boyle, Line Coach Art Davis, and End Coach, David Sippy, they combined to form a hard hitting, fast-breaking team.”

You can find most of the Sapulpa High School yearbooks online (currently from 1914 to 1968 are available online): https://digitalprairie.ok.gov/digital/collection/p16807coll1/search/searchterm/sapulpa%20(okla.)!sapulpa/field/subjec!all/mode/exact!all/conn/and!all/order/date/ad/asc

(1922 Yearbook Page for “Jones’ Blue and White Machine”)

(1922 Yearbook Full Page of Headlines Dedicated to the Football Team)

(First Ever Game Under Lights for Sapulpa, Sapulpa Herald, September 28, 1928)

(Looks Familiar? Tulsa Central at Sixth and Cincinnati, History of Central Website)

(Sapulpa Plays on Thanksgiving, Sapulpa Herald, November 20, 1958)

(Sapulpa is Oklahoma Six-A Champions, Sapulpa Herald, November 29, 1957)

(Sapulpa Ties Central, Sapulpa Herald, November 20, 1949)

(Sapulpa vs Central, Democrat News, November 19, 1959)