OKPreps football: Why Owasso-Jenks title game not being in Tulsa is exciting not horrible
Bill Blankenship is fired up about the high school football state title games this weekend.
That's not super surprising — he's the head coach at Owasso, after all, and his team will be playing for the Class 6A-I crown on Saturday night.
But Blankenship is excited, too, to be part of Championship Central.
For the first time since the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association's contract with Oklahoma State ended five years ago, all of the 11-man state title games will be played at the same place. Five games this weekend. Two more next weekend. All at the University of Central Oklahoma.
They're calling it Championship Central. Not as catchy as The Big House, but Wantland Stadium will be to football what State Fair Arena has long been to basketball. One place will have the biggest games and the best teams in our state. It'll be a football festival.
It's going to be great.
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Or so most folks think.
Our newspaper brethren at the Tulsa World has written not one but two editorials about the scourge, the indecency, the abject horror of playing any final with only Tulsa-area teams anywhere other than Tulsa. What used to be Class 6A but is now 6A-I has become dominated by football teams from the east side of the state. Jenks. Tulsa Union. Owasso. Broken Arrow. One of those programs has won the title every year since 1996, and lots of times, the final has been all east like it is this year.
But unlike many of those title games, this title game won't be played in Green Country. It won't be played within half an hour's drive of the participating schools. It won't be moved like some past years either.
“The players rightly are the ones who carry off the trophy at the end of the game, but the victory also belongs to the coaches, parents, administrators, teachers, students, alumni and fans,” the Tulsa World wrote in its most recent editorial. “It’s a shame that the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association hasn’t taken all those groups into consideration in scheduling the Jenks-Owasso game.”
The editorial contended moving the game to the Tulsa area would increase the excitement and decrease the danger. Teams and fans wouldn't have to drive across the state in the winter to get to the games.
It's not horrible logic — and by it, Tulsa should be ready to give Oklahoma City the Class 5A and 6A state basketball tournaments.
Teams from the Oklahoma City area have come to dominate big-class basketball in recent years. Those tournaments are played in the Tulsa area, culminating at the Mabee Center on Oral Roberts' campus, and last year was indicative of what we've seen of late.
Half of the Class 5A boys field was from the Oklahoma City area, and three of the four semifinalists were. Only two of the eight teams in Class 5A girls were from the metro, but I'm fairly sure Lawton Eisenhower and Ardmore would've been OK with games in Oklahoma City instead of Tulsa.
In Class 6A, Oklahoma City dominated even more. Six of the eight teams in both the boys and girls tournaments were from the metro. What's more, that percentage of participating teams got higher as the tournaments progressed. Three of the four boys semifinalists were from the OKC area while all of the girls semifinalists were city-area teams. The final ended up being an all-Cleveland County affair with Norman beating Norman North.
I was at the Mabee Center for that game, and I didn't hear anyone complain about it being played 122 miles from schools that are only 2 miles from each other.
That's because teams and fans have been crisscrossing the state for decades for games. Regular-season games. Playoff games. Championship games. Getting on a bus or piling in a car is part of the deal.
Part of the charm, too. Getting to go somewhere new for a game is a treat. It's not the same old, same old. There are different places to eat, different things to see, different stadiums to experience.
For the teams, different means special — and that includes Owasso and Jenks. If those teams were to play for a title at Chapman Stadium on Tulsa's campus or at one of the other big high schools in the Tulsa area, it'd be like many other games.
Saturday night at Wantland will be different for them.
Blankenship, one of the state's most respected coaches, is pumped about that.
"Wherever they tell me to play, we're going to take our team and get a chance to go compete for championships," he said, "so I'm like, 'Just tell us where.' From that standpoint, I think we feel a little different. I think our fan base — and I'm not talking about Owasso or Jenks; I'm talking in general, the Tulsa fan base — has been spoiled by the opportunity to go down the street and watch these games."
This won't be that, but that doesn't make it bad.
All the games, all the teams, all the fun will be in one spot. That's something to get excited about.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 405-475-4125 or email@example.com. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK or follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok.
Everything you need to know before you go to this weekend's high school state championship football games at the University of Central Oklahoma:
1 p.m.: Class 4A – Weatherford vs. Poteau
7 p.m.: Class 6A-II – Stillwater vs. Bixby
11 a.m.: Class 3A – Tulsa Lincoln Christian vs. Plainview
3:30 p.m.: Class 5A – McGuinness vs. Carl Albert
8 p.m.: Class 6A-I – Jenks vs. Owasso
Note: Designated home team listed first
Restrictions: None. Lots across UCO's campus will be open for fans, and signs will point the way.
Locations: East and west of Wantland Stadium, off Chowning Avenue to the southeast, and farther south near 2nd Street and along Baumann Avenue.
Availability: Ticket booths located on the east and west sides of the stadium will open 90 minutes before the scheduled kickoff of each game. No “package ticket” or “day ticket” will be sold, but fans can buy tickets to any game at any time. Each game will be designated a ticket of a different color.
Cost: $7 for adults and children of school-age and above. Online tickets are $8.35 and can be purchased on GoFan.co/app/school/OSSAA.
Capacity: 10,000 fixed seats with additional seating available on the berms at the south end of the stadium.
Reserved: Home team’s band, Section 101; home student section, 102; visiting team’s band, 114; visiting student section, 113. Sections 103, 105 and 204 are also reserved.
All games will be available through the NFHS Network. The 30-day subscription costs $10.99, is good for 30 days and can be purchased at OSSAA.com or NFHSNetwork.com.