As the game clock slowly ticked down to zero, Sand Springs quarterback Ty Pennington tried to savor the final seconds of his high school football career.
The Sandites had just come up short against Deer Creek, 20-17, in the 6A-II state semifinals. The realization that he’d played his last high school game hit him pretty hard.
“I think it hit me right away,” said Pennington. “The last play, I got sacked. Right when I got sacked, I was just like, ‘Wow, it’s really over.’ You can never really prepare yourself for that. It just kind of hits you. It was pretty hard.”
Despite the loss, Pennington and the Sandites can take comfort in knowing they won eight games this season and finished with the school’s best record since 2014. They advanced to the playoffs for the second straight season and knocked off district champion Del City in the first round of the postseason.
“It was a great season,” stated Pennington. “We knew what kind of team we had, but not a lot of other people knew what we could do. It was great to show them what we were made of.”
Pennington leaves Sand Springs with several school records, including most career passing yards (6,437) and career touchdown passes (54). This season, he was 191 for 301 passing for 2,813 yards and 27 TD passes. He also added 12 rushing scores, including two in the semifinal loss to Deer Creek.
The three-year starter began his high school career as a backup to his brother, Caden. So how often does he remind his big brother that he is now the school’s career passing record holder?
“All the time,” said Pennington with a laugh.
Much has been written of the Pennington name in Sand Springs, thanks to many years of athletic success from siblings and family members. Ty is proud to add his name to the Pennington Sandite legacy.
“It’s pretty cool to leave my mark here,” added Pennington, who’s also a standout baseball player. “I just tried to leave this place better than it was when I got here. There’s a lot of great names in the record books, so to have my name at the top is awesome.”
“He possessed everything that you could want out of a quarterback,” said second-year head coach Bobby Klinck. “I mean, shoot, the guy’s 6-3. He’s got the biggest hands I’ve ever seen. He’s got great film and a great arm.”
“He just does an unbelievable job of getting the ball to his receivers and commanding the offense,” added Klinck. “The guy is tough. He was our second-leading rusher. Anything you would ever want in a quarterback, he’s got it. Someone is going to be lucky to get this guy at the next level.”
Who that’s going to be is still a mystery. Despite his size and stats, recruiters are just now starting to reach out to Pennington. He recently received a scholarship offer from Division II-power Pittsburg State.
The guy is a Division-I quarterback,” said Klinck matter-of-factly. “It’s one thing to have the ability to throw the ball and have all the measurables and all those things, but what makes a quarterback elite is what’s between his shoulders. He’s got an unbelievable football IQ. He lives and breathes football.”
“He doesn’t want to bring attention upon himself,” added Klinck. “I had to tell him that he needed to tweet out that he had gotten an offer from Pitt State. What else do you want out of a leader on the football field? Nothing, in my opinion.”
The pain of coming up one game short of playing for a state championship is still raw for Klinck, Pennington and the rest of the Sandites. However, they know the future is bright for Sand Springs football.
“He’s going to be hard to replace,” admitted Klinck of his senior quarterback. “We certainly want to build on this momentum, but when you lose a guy like Ty, it’s going to be a little bit more difficult.”
“Even though my time here is done, I tried to do the best I could to prepare the next generation of players,” said Pennington in reflection. “My freshman and sophomore year, we didn’t win much. Sand Springs wasn’t known as a big football school anymore. It was good to put our name back on the map where it belongs.”
“I had a lot of fun here,” added Pennington. “It went by really fast. It feels like yesterday that I was a freshman here and I was my brother’s backup. I’ll hold on to these times forever.”