9-2 is a season most kids would trade anything to experience. For Chase Beeler and the Jenks (Okla.) High School Trojans, who had the aspirations and ability to play for a state championship, the two losses suffered in 2005 will remain forever haunting. From their second game of the season forward, after they upset powerhouse Tulsa Union in a 48-44 thriller, the Trojans were the top dog in Oklahoma Class 6A football... until they bowed out in a stunning playoff first-round upset loss to Sapulpa. That loss, and the 44-0 woodshed defeat suffered across state lines at Springdale (Ark.), are tough to swallow.
"It started off fairly promising with the big win over Union," Beeler recounts. "It dropped off a bit with the loss to Springdale, but things were pretty good for a while after that. Then in our last couple or three games, we starting having some problems and injuries. Obviously, it was really disappointing to go out in our first playoff game."
"You appreciate it for what it was, and you enjoy all the memories," he adds. "But I will always look back and wonder what it would have been like if we hadn't lost that last game."
To put the early upset loss in perspective, Jenks had powered their way to seven of the last nine 6A state championships coming into this season. The ignominy of dropping out of the title chase as early as November 11 is not the senior legacy Beeler had hoped to create.
"Individually, yeah, I had a pretty successful season," he assesses. "You would like to remove the team performance from the equation, but the two are inseparable."
The Jenks standout has had to separate himself from that early-exit disappointment and focus on the task in front of him. A host of suitors have chased Beeler since the spring, and he has a goal of reaching a decision on his college future soon.
"I'd like to get it done before Christmas," he declares. "But I'd love for it to be a sound decision - carefully thought out, with no regrets."
One simplifying factor is that Beeler has narrowed his scope primarily to two schools, which he officially visited these past two weekends. The first trip was the more distant, bringing the offensive line recruit and his parents to Stanford. This was the second time that Beeler has set foot on The Farm, with the other opportunity coming in May for the Nike Combine on campus.
"I didn't really get to see and experience the whole thing because I left so early," he says of his spring sojourn. "This visit really was the whole experience. I got to know some of the players - Alex Fletcher, Erik Lorig and James McGillicuddy. It was a great visit."
The campus tours and the social opportunities were fun, but one of the important criteria in examining a school for a serious student like Beeler is the education.
"I met a couple professors and saw a lot more of the academic environment," he describes. "Obviously, Stanford's academics speak for themselves. What I wanted to learn was more the nature of classes and the professors. How do they treat athletes, and how do they handle the time spent on the road. All that."
"From the data I amassed, one thing that stuck out was the sheer number of athletes at Stanford," Beeler continues. "A large percentage of the undergraduates at Stanford are student-athletes. The professors are, and must be, understanding to student-athletes."
The last prominent recruit Stanford pursued from the Sooner State was 2003 defensive tackle Carl Pendleton, from the same school (Sapulpa) that terminated Beeler's high school career. Pendleton's story ended favorably - though briefly - for The Farm until his mother exercised veto power on the final evening of his decision. Mothers have a way of making or breaking a recruitment when distance is a factor, and Stanford has learned that lesson repeatedly through the years. The Chase Beeler story is no different.
"I wanted to get my mom out there, so she could see the experience and take in the aura of Stanford," the son explains. "It was important to get her an opinion on gauging what it would be like if I go farther away from home than Norman."
The contrasting option is less than a two-hour drive from the Beeler household. Just as we surmised six months ago, the in-state 500-pound gorilla remains the true opposition for Stanford in this battle. This weekend, the Jenks gem made his fourth and final official visit to the Oklahoma Sooners in Norman.
"I just wanted to get to know the players a little bit, just like Stanford," Beeler describes. "I wanted to see the unknown parts of campus and life."
As with his trip the previous week, the educational component was key during his stay in Norman.
"A big thing was seeing how [Oklahoma] stacked up academically with Stanford," Beeler shares. "I didn't have the chance to talk with any professors, actually, but I did spend an hour with President [David] Boren, so that provided me with some context."
"Being a state university, it is difficult with faculty and resources to match up with Stanford," the recruit continues. "A bunch of things I already knew, though I did learn some new things. There is an OU honors program in which class sizes are smaller. That gives you a student/faculty ratio smaller like a private university."
Unsurprisingly, there are pros and cons to both the Cardinal and Sooners. Chase Beeler is one of the more articulate and thoughtful young men I have come across in this business, so it comes as no surprise that he will meticulously weigh all of his accumulated information before making a decision. Oklahoma and Stanford have both made in-home visits with the recruit, though the Sooners were the first to spend their one opportunity to put their head coach in the Beeler home. Stanford still has a chance to bring Walt Harris in to close.
Fans of both schools will undoubtedly dissect Beeler's quotes in this report looking for clues of which way he is leaning, but the offensive line recruit says that he is "50/50" on the competing pair.
"I hope that I know everything I need at this point," he says. "I just need to sit down and talk things over."
With a stated goal of delivering his college commitment before Christmas, we likely have a wait of less than two weeks for this saga. A couple more weeks is certainly bearable for this story that started in the spring. For one lucky school, it will have been well worth the wait when this 6'4" 278-pound present appears under the tree.
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