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Oklahoma All-State Football 2018: David Tenison led Beggs through tragedy and triumph

David Tenison wanted his players to know it was OK.

It was normal to grieve, perfectly acceptable to cry, natural to grab a teammate for a hug.

And it was OK to still have some fun.

In the wake of the shooting death of starting running back Kayson Toliver, first-year Beggs football coach David Tenison had to manage the unthinkable while also still trying to navigate the day-to-day of coaching the Class 2A contenders.

“I just old our guys, there is no right way or wrong way to do this,” Tenison said of the grieving process. “But we can't let this pull us apart.

“We were still on a mission.”

The weight of the tragedy surrounding Toliver's death was thick. Kayson, 18, and his sister Kloee, 16, had both been shot on Nov. 1. Police arrested and charged their mother for the shooting.

Kayson died that day, Kloee five days later.

The youngest sister Nikole was also shot but survived.

The community of Beggs rallied together to try and help pick up the pieces after.

Tenison didn't know if Beggs should cancel its upcoming game with Sperry, or play on in memory of Kayson.

So he let his team decide.

“My first thought was this wasn't something these kids should go through,” Tenison said. “But our team thought Kayson would want us to play. So that's what we did.”

In that first game after his death against Sperry, Beggs trailed by two touchdowns before steadying itself and getting a lead on a 27-yard pass from Dalton Spring to Jaidan Grayson.

Kayson had worn No. 27.

Beggs would go on to win 35-21 to claim the district title.

Just like the Sperry game, Beggs' run through the playoffs was sprinkled with little reminders of Kayson.

Against Oklahoma Christian School, the Saints brought hand-written letters of condolences to the Beggs players and coaches.

In the semifinals against Metro Christian, Beggs trailed 28-27, its hopes fading fast as Metro Christian looked to run out the clock.

But an errant snap went over the quarterback's head and was recovered by Beggs. Kayson's backup TJ Austin scored on the very next play, his 27th carry of the night, to give Beggs the win 33-27.

“They didn't shake at all,” said Tenison, who is The Oklahoman's All-State Coach of the Year. “They just believed they could win and believed in each other to get it done.”

Beggs would come up short in a rematch with Sperry in the Class 2A title game. But the job Tenison and his staff did to get his team to that point was unlike any seen in Oklahoma high school football this season.

Tenison asked his team to embrace its grief, manage its anguish and continue to push on.

“I told our guys that grief is a lot like a Rubik's cube,” Tenison said. “You'll get so consumed trying to solve it that it'll wear you out. But there will be a day that you'll put it on the shelf.

“You'll have some good days and some bad days. And that's OK.”

Related Photos
<p>Beggs coach David Tenison is The Oklahoman's All-State coach of the year. [Photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman]</p>

Beggs coach David Tenison is The Oklahoman's All-State coach of the year. [Photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-fd6b35e1c9c5f08e23e89035a8ef9024.jpg" alt="Photo - Beggs coach David Tenison is The Oklahoman's All-State coach of the year. [Photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman] " title=" Beggs coach David Tenison is The Oklahoman's All-State coach of the year. [Photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Beggs coach David Tenison is The Oklahoman's All-State coach of the year. [Photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-7dfc9da0562c7bef4d2c6669d4614fb3.jpg" alt="Photo - Beggs coach David Tenison talks to quarterback Dalton Spring (15), left, and running back Jared Sutter (28) in the days following the death of senior running back Kayson Toliver. [Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman] " title=" Beggs coach David Tenison talks to quarterback Dalton Spring (15), left, and running back Jared Sutter (28) in the days following the death of senior running back Kayson Toliver. [Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Beggs coach David Tenison talks to quarterback Dalton Spring (15), left, and running back Jared Sutter (28) in the days following the death of senior running back Kayson Toliver. [Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure>
Adam Kemp

Adam Kemp is a news and health reporter for The Oklahoman. He grew up in Oklahoma City before attending Oklahoma State University. Read more ›

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