Stilwell, OK 74960
Record: 0-0 | Unranked
|vs Western Heights||9/6|
|vs East Central||9/13|
|@ Fort Gibson||9/27|
|vs Broken Bow||10/11|
|vs Central (Tulsa)||10/25|
| Ben Johnson
Fort Coffee is headed for the big stage.
Wait, Fort Coffee? Where is that? Is it in Oklahoma?
It’s a town that might go unrecognized, outside of severe weather coverage in Oklahoma, but Fort Coffee sits in the Arkansas River bend near Skullyville and northeast of Spiro. Just find LeFlore County in far eastern Oklahoma, and it sits at the very northern tip of the county.
It’s where McKinley Whitfield has called home all his life.
Now Whitfield will fly the Fort Coffee flag proudly when he attends New York Giants mini camp.
“It means everything in the world to me to represent Spiro and Fort Coffee,” said Whitfield, a former standout at Spiro High School before playing college football at the University of Tulsa.
“I grew up there my whole life, and I just try my best to be a inspiration to all the younger kids there.”
Whitfield, measuring at 6 feet, 3 inches and 217 pounds, knows professional athletic endeavors don’t come along often for those growing up in Fort Coffee.
“Not many people from the area get changes like these,” he said, “so it’s a blessing.”
Whitfield, a safety by trade, recently watched the NFL Draft intently, hoping for his name to appear in the later rounds. But all seven rounds breezed by, despite a few draft boards mentioning Whitfield as a possible late-round candidate.
“It was very frustrating,” said Whitfield, who logged 264 tackles and 19 pass breakups during his collegiate career. “Everybody was thinking that I was going to get drafted, so I didn’t want to let anybody down. I just tried to keep myself busy during the whole process and be around my family.”
It didn’t take long for Whitefield to draw an invitation to New York’s minicamp, which begins this weekend.
“It feels good getting a chance to go play at the next level,” said Whitfield, who nabbed four interceptions while at Tulsa. “Of course I would rather have gotten drafted or a free agent deal, but it’s just more motivation for me.
Whitfield joins four other TU players as mini camp invitees. Justin Hobbs and Willie Wright will work out for the Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns, respectively, and two other in-state talents, Tyler Bowling (Yukon) and Chandler Miller (Bixby), will try to earn a spot with the Atlanta Falcons.
Leading up to the draft, Whitfield never had much interaction with the Giants, chatting with the organization once while at a senior event in Texas. But now he gets a chance to prove Fort Coffee belongs in the NFL.
“I’ve always been a hard worker since I was a kid,” Whitfield said. “That definitely isn’t going to stop now.”
*Photo credit: University of Tulsa
| Ben Johnson
EMAIL ME - firstname.lastname@example.org | RELATED - State tournament wrestling predictions
Drake Barbee will take the mat at Jim Norick Arena on Friday. Impressive for someone who was near death 14 months ago.
“It was as severe as it could have gotten,” Barbee said, “other than death, of course.”
Barbee, attending Stilwell during his junior year at the time, was en route to his dad’s fiance’s house in Broken Arrow.
Then things went horribly wrong.
“I have no recollection of anything other then trying to avoid something that night,” Barbee said. “The people at the hospital told me there was a guy that crossed over the center line that was high on meth, and I should have died.”
Needless to say, Dec. 19, 2017, was a horrifying day for Chris Barbee, Drake’s dad.
“Hardest phone call I ever had to take,” the elder Barbee said. “A lot of stuff goes through your mind, and I didn’t know the extent of his injuries until I got to the hospital.”
Chris Barbee was about to be horrified all over again. The list of Drake’s ailments was painfully extensive.
- Broken hip
- Broken jaw
- Traumatic brain injury
- Brain bleeds
The injuries caused Drake Barbee to spend nine days in a coma. Then came “multiple months in multiple hospitals,” Drake recalled. “Then a rehab center for an additional month.”
Drake’s near-death experience came immediately after competing at the Tournament of Champions in Reno, Nevada. And it would be the last time he’d take the wrestling mat for a while -- and understandably so.
“It was hard; I looking anywhere I could to get on the mat,” Drake said. “I was decently moving after the rehab center, and my mentality was ‘just keep going.’ I was just trying to grind it out.”
But he pushed himself too hard. He ended up blowing out a knee while recovering.
His junior season was a lost cause. That prompted several months of rest for Drake, and it wasn’t long before he relocated to Blackwell.
But Drake also faced a harsh reality.
“It hit me,” he said, “I realized I might not be able to wrestle for a while.”
A crushing realization for someone who lives for the wrestling room.
“It’s my lifestyle,” Drake said. “I literally love wrestling. Call me crazy, but it’s what I do.”
For Chris Barbee, it was agonizing watching his son endure hardships that no high school athlete should have to entertain.
“It was very tough to see him go through that kind of ordeal,” Chris Barbee said. “I just knew it was gonna be a long road back.”
But Drake navigated the path back to full strength -- or as close to full strength as he can get.
Now he sports a 34-4 record and a regional championship as he enters the 195-pound field in the Class 3A state tournament in Oklahoma City.
“It’s been awesome,” Drake Barbee said of being at Blackwell for his senior season. “The wrestling tradition is what I like. It doesn’t get much better.”
Regardless of how Drake, an Arkansas-Little Rock signee, does at State Fair Arena, it’ll be impressive for a wrestler who was told he may never display the correct walking tendencies.
“The doctor said he’d never had someone recover and walk correctly,” Drake Barbee said. “So to recover and do what I’m doing now, I’m truly blessed.”
And Chris Barbee couldn’t be happier to coach his son for his senior season.
“It’s been very satisfying to see him get back to his old self and what he’s capable of,” Chris Barbee said. “He’s very driven and is a tireless worker. He’s wrestling really good right now, and he is gonna be tough to beat.”
| Ben Johnson
Look back at 2017
2017 district champs
4A-1: Heritage Hall - Everyone
should have seen it coming from the start. Heritage Hall took down John
Marshall -- who went on to win the Class 3A title -- in the first week
of the season, and the Chargers just stampeded their way through 4A-1,
as well. Clinton came the closest to knocking off Heritage Hall, 28-24,
in week four but Heritage Hall ended up polishing off a 14-0 campaign
with a title game victory over Ada.
4A-2: Ada - The
Cougars endured some brutal losses to Ardmore and Carl Albert in
non-district play, but it prepared Ada for what was up ahead in 4A-2
play. The Cougars' only blemish in district competition was to Tuttle,
but Ada ended up knocking off Blanchard for the tiebreaker at the end of
the year when both finished atop the standings. Then Ada went on to
knock off Oologah in the quarterfinals, and the Cougars marched all the
way to the title game, where Heritage Hall ended up prevailing.
4A-3: Wagoner - Few figured there'd be many teams to stand between Wagoner and Heritage Hall ultimately meeting in the 4A title game. The Bulldogs owned the state's longest winning streak (48) after another unbeaten run through 4A-3 and a first round playoff victory over Poteau. But trouble arrived in the form of Blanchard, who ended the Bulldogs' unbeaten run at Odom Stadium.