Falcons continue to soar

By Categories: OKC Area
Last Updated: October 22, 20235.5 min read

By Doyle Greteman

Falcon:  “A bird of prey with thin, tapered wings, which enable them to fly at high speed and change direction rapidly.  As is the case with many birds of prey, falcons have exceptional powers of vision.  Some falcons have been recorded diving at speeds of 200 miles per hour, making them the fastest moving creatures on earth.”

What better mascot could Millwood choose to represent the athletes, past and present, who have so successfully donned the colors of this remarkable high school?

Elite athletic programs seem to have much in common. Millwood Schools embody everything the best of the best require.

Millwood High School was established in 1971. For a school district that only occupies nine square miles in far northeast Oklahoma City, the Falcons have racked up an awe-inspiring number of athletic accomplishments over the past five decades.

Anyone who spends a little time with Operations Director Shannon Hayes will soon figure out the recipe for success.  This eloquent, kind leader provides the leadership necessary to continue the Falcon’s winning tradition.

Hayes, an affable, charismatic leader has been at the school since 2001.  He has served in many capacities, including coaching basketball, football, and track, and transportation director, as well as serving as athletic director for the past 11 years.

When quizzed about why the Falcons have experienced so much success in so many sports, his answer was quick and to the point:  “It’s our feeder programs.  Our kids are taught the fundamentals in the elementary school p.e. programs.”

An excellent example of a coach who preached fundamentals is Arnelia Spears, former head coach at Millwood for 40 years.  Spears captured three state titles as well as six runner-up finishes in her storied career.  Legendary Lindsay coach Charles K. Heatly was a big admirer of Spears. A big part of Heatly’s success was his “Little Dribbler” program, headed up by H.O. Estes.  Spears, like Heatly, was a firm believer in teaching fundamentals in the elementary schools, and put it into practice on a personal level consistently.

Gil Roberts, an Olympian gold medalist at the 2016 Summer Olympics in the 4 x 400 meter relay, and holder of Oklahoma state records in both the 200 meter dash and 400 meter run, is a Millwood alumnus.  Joe Carter, Oklahoma Hall of Famer, and famous for his walk-off home run that won the World Series for the Toronto Blue Jays in 1993, is a Millwood graduate, as well as the Woods brothers, Rashaun, Dajuan, and Donovan, star players not only at Millwood, but also at OSU.  They also played in the National Football League.  

Those are just a few examples of the type of athletes Millwood has produced.  They are too numerous to mention them all.  It’s easy to see why when Millwood walks into a gymnasium, a football field, or a track facility, the athletes have a confident demeanor.

Why that demeanor?  “Our motto is “It’s cool to be a Falcon,” Hayes offers. There’s more to it than that, however. “We have second and third generation kids who are playing here,” Hayes offered, adding that 50% of the student population includes transfers from out of district.

Speaking of second and third generations, Darwyn Franklin serves as the head football coach.  You may remember the legendary boys basketball coach, Varryl Franklin, who also happens to be his father.

Football has had its share of success, capturing state titles in 1990, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2006, 2016, and 2017, while bagging the runner-up trophy in 1974, 1975, 2013, and 2022.

Track shares the spotlight with the other sports, as the girls have won six state titles, in 2004, 2010, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016, while adding runner-up trophies in 1994, 1995 and 1996.

Not to be outdone, the boys track athletes have added titles in 1999, (tie), 2007, 2008, 2010, 2014, and 2016, and added runner-up trophies in 2002, 2005, and 2006. 

Girls basketball, under the tutelage of Spears,  has captured three state titles, in 1990, 2008, and 2012, and added the silver ball on six occasions, including 1991, 1992, 1993, 2009, 2010, and 2011.

40-year veteran boys basketball coach Varryl Franklin recently retired, but not before amassing a career that might never be challenged.  He  left many opponents gasping for breath and looking somewhere, anywhere, for help, as the Falcons stormed their way to gold ball after gold ball.

After claiming the state championship this spring in boys basketball, the Falcons have entrenched themselves as the all-time leader in that sport, in any class, with 18 titles.  The first came in 1976, followed by gold balls in 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1990, 1991, 1999, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2013, 2021, 2022, and 2023.  Silver balls were brought back to the Falcon trophy case in 1977, 1982, 1989, 1992, 1993, 1997, and 2017.

Whew!  As if that’s not impressive enough, the Cheer Squad, led by Kala Ester, has won National Championships in 2017, 2018, and 2019.

Hayes proudly adds that the Millwood marching band, led by Davaro Wilson, is admired and appreciated whenever they take the field. They have recently received an invitation to march in the Bahamas.

“We have established coaches who come here and stay 15 to 30 years,” Hayes contributed, as he explained part of the reason for the Falcons’ consistent performance.  

When it was pointed out to Hayes that the Millwood teams always seem to practice self-discipline on and off the court or field, he added that “Our players always say the Lord’s prayer before and after every contest.”

With all the athletic success, you might be wondering if Millwood is simply a factory that turns out aspiring athletes, with little concern for academics, except doing  just enough to stay eligible.

Nothing could be further from the truth. “We have re-vamped our standards. Our kids must maintain a passing grade in ALL subjects, and a 2.3 overall grade average, with no D’s in math or English,” Hayes stated.  “My goal is for these kids to be academically strong,” he added, noting that students take advantage of tutoring sessions.

But, seriously, why Millwood has experienced so much success? After visiting with Shannon Hayes, the answer became crystal clear. They’re like one big family.  In Hayes’ words, they holistically help kids to be successful in every aspect of their lives.  “We teach them to be good citizens, to speak well, to practice good personal hygiene.”

Indeed, it appears that elite athletic programs, and elite schools, for that matter, have commanality.  Among other desirable traits, they preach fundamentals.  Not only in athletics, but in the total school experience,  they strive to make the kids not only successful, but better human beings.

The success, it appears, is gravy.  It’s cool to be a Falcon.

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