TOP 20 2021-22 COUNTDOWN, No. 6: New BHS football coach brings Wright stuff to the job

·3 min read
Bartlesville High Athletic Director Thad Dilbeck, left, and new head football coach Harry Wright watch basketball action last January in the Bruin Fieldhouse shortly after Wright was hired.
Bartlesville High Athletic Director Thad Dilbeck, left, and new head football coach Harry Wright watch basketball action last January in the Bruin Fieldhouse shortly after Wright was hired.

When it’s been good, Bartlesville High School’s football program has been very, very good.

When it’s been bad, Bartlesville High School’s football program has been very, very bad.

But, mostly the Bruin grid quiddity during the  traditionally has been slightly below average to average.

In its 40 years of existence, the Bruins have recorded from three to five wins in 20 seasons.

The year-by-year results also include 12 seasons with six-or-more wins and eight seasons with two-or-fewer wins (including 23 straight losses during 1993, 1994 and partway into 1995).

To sum it up, Bartlesville’s grid destiny has pursued a roller-coaster pattern — intervals of great seasons — such as 8-3 in 1084, as 9-4 in 1988, 9-3 in 2009 and 10-2 in 2015 — separated by downturns and slow build-ups back to the peak.

It’s not surprising the Bruin grid story is heavily defined by coaching chances.

The first Bruin head coach Mickey Ripley started the football program off on a promising voyage — during his 12 seasons (1982-1993) in charge, Bartlesville recorded a 59-70 record and five playoff appearances. In his first 11 years, Ripley’s Bruins were just a game less than .500 (59-60).

But, in the 28 seasons since Ripley resigned in 1993, Bruin football has undergone a superfluity of landscape changes.

From 1994-to-2021, nine different coaches led the program to a combined 113-172 mark and four playoff appearances.

Hope is always as close as fresh leadership and the chance of stability it might provide — such as during the tenures of Ron Smith (2006-2010, 26-27, 2 playoff appearances) and John McKee (2011-16, 32-31, state semifinal appearance).

In January 2022, Bartlesville High Athletic/Activities Director Thad Dilbeck named Harry Wright as the  school’s choice to become the 10th Bruin head football coach.

Wright and his staff will guide a young Bruin team rife with experienced freshman and sophomore players from the 2021 squad.

Wright’s credentials are impressive.

Junior receiver Eli Lino holds on to a catch for the Bartlesville High Bruins during one of their impressive offensive drives against Muskogee last season.
Junior receiver Eli Lino holds on to a catch for the Bartlesville High Bruins during one of their impressive offensive drives against Muskogee last season.

For the previous three seasons, he coached Lokoke (Ark.) High’s football team to 21 wins, the 2019 4A-2 Conference Championships and 2020 4A-2 Conference Runner-Up spot.

Wright also has coached on the Class 7A level in Arkansas.

A two-time NAIA All-American from Bacone College, Wright is starting his 15th season as a coach. His career record is 96-39.

During his first four months on the job in Bruinland, Wright stamped his impact on the program. He brought in several new assistants while retaining some of the current ones, including offensive coordinator Jason Munoz.

Wright also told the E-E he plans on putting his top 11 players on the field regardless of whether they go two ways or not, a marked change from last season.

Wright has tried to instill a sense of self-accountability for the players and also an emphasis on open competition for starting spots.

Ironically, Wright first applied for the Bruin head coaching job three years ago, but the school chose returning defensive coordinator Jason Sport for the opening.

Wright now has his chance — and likely will make the most of it as he the quest goes on to put Bartlesville football on a steady upward path of progress that will create a new culture of program momentum.

COUNTDOWN UPDATE

No. 20: Hornet hoopsters hush doubters

No. 19: Huskies grind to semis

No. 18: Trojans find a way

No. 17: Musical chairs at top

No. 16: Brown’s All-State style

No. 15: Cheers for Bruin hoops

No. 14: Eagle soccer teams soar

No. 13: Mallets heard ‘round the nation

No. 12: Height, speed and muscle

No. 11: Runner-up warrior

No. 10: Happy trails for Lady Mustangs

No. 9: Streak to bronze

No. 8: Howze: Golden strokes

No. 7: Elite Eight. Great!

No. 6: Bruin football: The Wright Fit?

This article originally appeared on Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise: Focus on Top 20 local stories from 2021-22 school year