A Season To Remember


Peter Baugh and Gwyneth Henke


Jeff Waldman knew that this would be the last play in his high school football career.

Overhead, the fluorescent lights of the Edward Jones Dome glared down on an audience packed with screaming fans. It was the 2004 state championship game, and Clayton was clinging to a one point overtime lead against football powerhouse Webb City High School.

Clayton had taken a seven point lead during overtime after quarterback Jairus Byrd found wide receiver Torrey Tate on fourth down for the go ahead touchdown. In response, Webb City also scored on fourth down, but to Clayton’s shock elected to go for a two point conversion rather than kick the game-tying extra point.

“They could tell that we were still playing at 100 percent and they were pretty tired, so they wanted that to be the last play,” Michael Goldsticker, a senior running back and lineman at the time, said.

Waldman, who was a senior lineman, remembers his thoughts the moment Webb City lined up for the play. “[It was] the realization that it was going to end no matter what,” Waldman said.

The Greyhounds, however, were ready. Throughout their dominant season, the Webb City Cardinals had relied on a short yardage running play called the Counter. In the defensive huddle, Clayton planned for the play. Sure enough, Webb City handed the ball off to their all-state running back Andrew Stanley who was stopped just short of the goal line by sophomore Ben Williams.

When Stanley realized he was not going to score, he tried to fumble the ball forward in hopes that a fellow Cardinal would pick it up in the endzone. The ball was loose until Goldsticker rushed forward and fell on it, ending the game.

Final score: Clayton 27, Webb City 26.

“Helmets went flying and the fun began,” Sam Horrell, offensive coordinator at the time, said.

Jeff Waldman sacks the Ladue quarterback
Jeff Waldman sacks the Ladue quarterback


For the 2004 team, the victory was even sweeter because of the previous year’s turmoil.

“[In] the prior season … we definitely had a state championship game caliber team and we had a fantastic season,” chemistry teacher Nathan Peck, whose son was on the 2003 and 2004 team, said.

The Greyhound season, however, came to an abrupt end when Clayton was forced to forfeit all nine of their varsity wins after star player Jairus Byrd, a junior at the time, was ruled ineligible due to a residency conflict.

Ladue High School questioned Byrd’s eligibility after losing to Clayton for the second time in that season. Clayton’s victory over Ladue would have given the Greyhounds a state playoff berth had they not had to give up their wins.

The forfeiture was a major disappointment for the team, especially the graduating seniors.

However, the remaining players quickly looked towards the next year for a chance at redemption.

“We had a goal our freshman year of getting Clayton the first state championship by our senior year,” Waldman said. “So when our junior year occurred when we had to forfeit nine games and were not going to go to the playoffs, we knew our senior year was going to have to be the year we got it done.”


After the 2003 season, longtime head coach Larry Frost took the head coaching job at Kirkwood High School. Assistant principal Mike Musick was named interim head coach.

“There was a lot of turmoil in the program, there was a lot of frustration. Then obviously Coach Frost left and it was quite a challenging time for our program,” Musick said. “But we had wonderful, wonderful, wonderful seniors and a great junior class as well. We went into the season with high expectations but a lot of frustration from the previous year.”

The team responded to this frustration with an overwhelming mentality of hard work, determination and dedication. A number of the seniors worked out at P.E. teacher Barry Ford’s summer strength and conditioning class.

“We pushed each other, and we went to those [classes] religiously. It was a group that did not want to see each other fail,” Waldman said.

Led by senior captains Waldman, Byrd and Goldsticker, they came into the season ready to win.

“It was a great bunch of kids to work with; they were outstanding. I’d have to say they were one of the best groups I’ve ever worked around as far as a football team,” assistant coach Mick Picataggio said.

Picataggio is the only coach from the 2004 squad still with the Greyhounds.

“He was the stabilizing factor in our program, and he was a great support for me during the whole season,” Musick said.

Byrd also remembers the strength of the entire coaching staff that year.

“I really believed that while we had a great and talented team, we had an equally talented coaching staff,” he said.

Clayton started the season with three straight wins, outscoring their opponents 110-21. Then, the Greyhounds took on the MICDS team that would go on to win the state championship in class three, the class below Clayton. Clayton lost to MICDS in a heartbreaking 24-21 game. Horrell believes, however, that this was an essential moment in the team’s development.

“I think that really hit the guys in the heart and gave them a wake up call to say, ‘You know what, we are beatable.’ I think they thought they were invincible because we were coming off the 2003 season where nobody had scored more points than us and we had won a lot of games in a row,” Horrell said. “They didn’t think that they could be beat, and them getting beat … is what helped us win that state championship. It was a growing pain, so to speak.”

Clayton did not lose for the rest of the season. Their team was led by Byrd, who is now playing in the NFL for the New Orleans Saints. For the Greyhounds, Byrd played quarterback, special teams, safety and punter. Horrell even implemented a set of plays called the Carter Package in which they brought backup quarterback Carter Sapp into the game and used Byrd either as a receiver or blocker.

“There’s usually only a handful of players that you can say are the very best players you’ve ever seen. But Jairus was even better than those players. Every time he either touched the ball or he was around the ball, something great happened,” Musick said. “And he caused all the other players on the team to be even better.”

Several other players also had impressive post-high school careers. Waldman joined the University of Missouri’s team, Goldsticker played at Amherst College and senior lineman Chidi Oteh played at both Tennessee-Martin and Lindenwood University. A number of other players also continued their careers after high school.

“We knew that we had futures in football, some of us, and we wanted to make sure that high school was the stamp,” Waldman said.

The combination of this talent and coaching with the extra motivation from the 2003 disappointment meant that, from the start, the Greyhounds knew the year would be special.

“We had a lot of depth and a lot of talent, and we knew we were going to be good–we just didn’t know how good,” Musick said.


When Goldsticker came up with the ball, he was faced with a rush of bodies swarming the field.

“At that point I had the ball and I wasn’t really sure what to do … It definitely took a good ten seconds of looking around to realize that we had just won and that it was over,” Goldsticker said.

Social studies teacher David Aiello was at the game and remembers the reaction of the Clayton players.

“I remember watching a couple of the guys … just running around trying to figure out, ‘What am I supposed to do? Who am I supposed to hug? Who am I supposed to high five?’” Aiello said.

Waldman remembers the mix of joy and exhaustion that overwhelmed the team immediately after their victory. Waldman and Goldsticker both still have scars from the astroturf of the field, and Waldman almost had to go the hospital to get an IV after the game. Several players were also dehydrated by the end of the day.

“It was an exhausting night, it was a battle,” Waldman said. “But we ended up winning, so it was worth it.”

Byrd also remembers the effort that it took to pull out the victory.

“I had left everything out there,” Byrd said. “I spent all my energy, but I was so happy to work that hard for something.”

The experience of winning the state championship has stayed with the members of the 2004 CHS football team. A close group of friends at the time, the emotional bonds formed by the grueling journey to victory have persisted, and many of the players have remained important people in each other’s lives to this day.

“It doesn’t seem like ten years have gone by,” Goldsticker said. “It’s fresh in my mind, it’s one of the highlights of my life. I’m sure it’s something I will remember forever.”

 Torrey Tate celebrates with Cameron Hicks after Tate scored the game-winning touchdown (All photos by Karen Elshout).
Torrey Tate celebrates with Cameron
Hicks after Tate scored the game-winning
touchdown (All photos by Karen Elshout).