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Some Okra now in elite company

By Staff
Dec. 11, 2000
Thoughts whizzing about as I remember Mark Hudspeth getting doused with a second "cooler" while the clock ticked down to zero…
FLORENCE, Ala. There wasn't much 'D' in D II this past Saturday.
But fortunately for the Delta State Statesmen, that's exactly what was needed in the 63-34 drubbing of Bloomsburg University that secured the school's first-ever national championship in its Diamond Anniversary year.
It was kind of neat seeing the wild spectacle play out at midfield at Braly Municipal Stadium after the final horn sounded.
It was just like you see it on TV with fans going bananas, displaying every positive emotion imaginable.
On the trophy presentation podium, one of the players held up a sign that read: JOSH HEUPEL FOR HEISMAN, only the Heupel was crossed out in favor of Bright.
While I've covered my share of big events since I've been in the biz, I haven't had the pleasure of covering a national title winner.
In Mississippi and Louisiana it's not as if they grow on trees.
In the fall of 1999 I covered Delta State on a regular basis when I was working for the Delta Democrat Times in Greenville.
It was Steve Campbell's first season on the job as the Okra leader and the Statesmen started out of the gate with a 5-1 record with the lone blemish coming on the road in the season-opener against 1-AA Sam Houston State.
But a free-fall followed and eventually led to a 6-4 campaign, and I for one never would have envisioned a rebound season of such epic proportions.
I guess it just goes to show you never know what can happen when everything falls into place.
For one Meridian native it was especially sweet.
Jason Franklin thrived under Mac Barnes at Meridian High and Tom Goode at East Mississippi Community College and now he, along with sophomore free safety John Colenburg, also an MHS alum, joins the elite club of Meridianites to bring home a national title to the Queen City.
His father Larry, who was on hand every step of the way this season, never doubted the final outcome, even if he did the final score.
"You know, Jason's favorite remark is nobody is tough until they play us," the elder Franklin said during the post-game pandemonium. "I had confidence in the players and knew we were going to do it. 63-34? No, I wouldn't have thought that, but it's beautiful, man. It's been beautiful all year."
Franklin's father said it hadn't hit his son yet, and nearly an hour later, the former Wildcat who finished his two-year career at DSU with 1,420 all-purpose yards on 88 touches still was somewhat at a loss for words.
"I never thought I'd be here playing in a national championship, coming out of a junior college where I was hardly recruited," an elated Franklin said before boarding the bus to head back to Cleveland. "It hasn't really hit me yet, but I know when it does, it'll be something."
And what about the final outcome?
"We came out and played our game, but I never thought it would have been this bad. We embarrassed them."
You can say that again.
Franklin said he didn't think anyone from Meridian had ever won a national title in anything, but he would be glad to bring the hardware back to his hometown and show his friends and family.
"I'll take it back home to Meridian and flaunt it for them!" he joked.
To the victors go the spoils. You can do that when you're a national champion.
Richard Dark is a sports writer for the Meridian Star. You can email him at rdark@themeridianstar.com.

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