Class 6A-I football: Why Deuce Hishaw and friends have Moore one step from title game
MOORE — Deuce Hishaw tinkered with wires and buttons where a couple of portable speakers were set up just beyond the end zone.
He kept working even as coaches whistled the start of practice and players began doing high knees and lunges earlier this week. Finally, music thumped out of the speakers and echoed around the empty stadium at Moore High School.
Hishaw picks the tunes.
But more than that, he sets the tone for the Lions.
As the high school football playoffs head into their second week, there is no more feel-good story than Hishaw and the Lions. Moore was once a football powerhouse, but after dominating the mid 1990s and early 2000s, the program began to slide, pushed by the opening of two new high schools in the district and accelerated by a revolving door of coaches after the legendary Tommy Noles retired. Moore bottomed out a decade ago with a winless season.
Friday night, it plays for a spot in the Class 6A-I championship game.
How did Moore get back?
The reasons are many, but Daniel Hishaw Jr., the kid everyone calls Deuce, is No. 1 on the list – and it’s not just because he’s one of the top players in the state, a dynamic and physical runner at quarterback who has committed to play at Kansas as a running back.
“If practice isn’t going real well, he’s gonna call them together,” Moore football coach Brad Hill said of 5-foot-11, 210-pound senior. “In the heat of the moment, he’s the guy that’s going to step up.”
It isn’t just because Hishaw wants to win — he wants to do it with this bunch of teammates.
“It started off back when we were in junior high,” he said. “We always knew we were the type of group that we could actually change it around.”
Football brought them together.
Friendship kept them together.
Deuce Hishaw scored his first football victory before he ever strapped on a helmet.
He is the youngest of his siblings and his cousins. He was always going to their practices and games, and he wanted to know why they got to play and he had to watch. He pestered his parents about it.
“Everybody else gets to play,” he would say. “Why can’t I?”
“Dude,” his dad would say, “chill out.”
Deuce wasn’t even in kindergarten.
Once they found out 4-year-olds in Moore could play youth football if their parents signed a waiver, Deuce got his wish. It was the start of not only football but also several friendships that continue to this day.
Within his first couple years in shoulder pads, Deuce played with Frank Morales, Deadrian Jacobs, Aaron Cheek and Evan Biedermann. All of them became buddies — Morales is one of Deuce’s best friends — and they are still teammates.
As the kids got older, football brought more friends to their circle, including Jayce Gardner and Alex Baxter.
A bunch of them played football together for the first time as seventh graders at Central Junior High. Go back and look at team pictures from that season, and you’ll see many of the same faces now starting for Moore.
“This group kind of decided when they were young that they weren’t gonna split off and go to different schools,” Hill, the coach, said, “that they were going to stay together and they were going to try to be … the group that tried to start bringing the tradition back.”
It doesn’t always happen that way.
In districts with multiple high schools, sometimes the success of another school or the lure of a different coach can pull players away. Transferring within a district is usually easy, and when you live in a metro area with dozens of high schools within a 30-minute drive, the temptation to move is there, too.
The core at Moore stayed put.
“We talked about it all the time — ‘No, we’re not moving,’” Deuce said.
His parents were never in favor of him transferring, even as it became clear several years ago Deuce had special talent on the football field and Moore High had a program on the fritz.
“People asked me about that,” said Todd Noel, who has been the man Deuce called “Dad” since Noel married Deuce’s mom 16 years ago. “It’s like, ‘So, where are you going to let Deuce go?’”
“The school where I don’t gotta wake up every morning and take him.”
Noel has overseen youth football leagues in Moore and at Woodson Park in south Oklahoma City for nearly two decades. He knows playing for a great high school program doesn’t make a kid a great player. Doesn’t lure college recruiters to him either.
Noel told Deuce it didn’t matter where he played high school football.
Deuce Hishaw wanted to play at Moore.
Sure, the chance to bring back the winning tradition and leave a mark that will long be remembered was enticing. But the thing that swayed Hishaw was his circle. These are the friends he hangs out with in the summer, on the weekends, during the evenings. Even during the season, Hishaw wants to be around them all the time.
Earlier this week, only a few days after Hishaw scored four touchdowns and Gardner rushed for 284 yards in the quarterfinals against Edmond Santa Fe, Hishaw stayed the night at Gardner’s house. Noel chides Hishaw about such things — “You’ve been with them all day” — but Noel knows it’s just how Deuce is.
“Deuce,” he said, “doesn’t want to do anything by himself.”
Deuce Hishaw knows he won’t get to play football with these friends forever.
At best, they have a couple more weeks; the state finals are Dec. 7.
At worst, it ends Friday night against Jenks.
But they have already done so much. Two years ago, several were starters as sophomores when Moore returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2005. Now this year, they are making their third consecutive playoff appearance. That victory last week was Moore’s first postseason win since 2002.
Hill knows the talent in the group is important to Moore’s success, but the power of this senior class, more than 30 players strong, is greater than its individual parts.
“They like each other. They get along with each other. They pull for each other. They push each other,” he said. “They have a belief.”
None believes more than Hishaw.
It’s why he’ll jump on guys if they aren’t going hard enough. If the scout team isn’t giving the offense a good enough look at practice, he calls the players together to demand more. If the defense isn’t tackling, he’ll want to play on that side of the ball, too, even though Hill and the other coaches try to limit his snaps.
Deuce Hishaw just wants the best for the guys around him.
He knows none of them are perfect. They occasionally argue and get sideways with each other. But they have never fractured.
“We’re not all the same on this team,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of different types of people on this team. We don’t all act the same, but we all get along. We all love each other. We all will do anything for each other.
“We just kind of all fit together.”
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 405-475-4125 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK or follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok.