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Bill Haisten: Happy birthday, Josh Blankenship – your Broken Arrow squad is a 6AI contender
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THE MORNING AFTER

Bill Haisten: Happy birthday, Josh Blankenship – your Broken Arrow squad is a 6AI contender

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Video courtesy of FOX23

After a super intense Friday night of elimination football played against a favored Owasso team coached by his father, Bill Blankenship, how did first-year Broken Arrow coach Josh Blankenship feel on Saturday?

“I feel sore,” the younger Blankenship replied after he had watched the video of his Tigers’ fourth-quarter rally and 41-40 victory in a Class 6AI quarterfinal playoff battle. “I was probably more vocal at the officials than I’ve ever been, and more vocal at my assistants on the headsets.

“When I yell, it’s pretty guttural — like my whole body is involved. I did that for three hours and 15 minutes. I’m actually sore. I’m old. Yelling for three hours — I mean, I can barely talk right now.”

Happy birthday, Josh Blankenship — your Tigers are real contenders for the 6AI championship.

As Blankenship turned 41 on Saturday, he juggled the emotions of having bounced his 64-year-old dad from the postseason while looking ahead at a phenomenal opportunity.

During the regular season, the Tigers lost only to Owasso (42-3), Union (38-28) and Jenks (31-14). If Broken Arrow captures the 6AI gold ball, the Tigers would have recorded playoff victories over Owasso, Union and, most likely in the championship finale, Jenks.

The top-ranked, defending champion Trojans appear to be the best squad on the other side of the bracket.

Next for Broken Arrow is next Friday’s semifinal collision with Union (Josh Blankenship’s high school alma mater). On Owasso’s home field in September, Broken Arrow lost to the Rams by 39 points. The Broken Arrow-Union semifinal will be played at Owasso.

Every Sunday, Blankenship delivers to his team a message specific to that week’s challenge. At the center of last Sunday’s message was the word “know.”

“(Owasso) has more talent, but I knew we were the better team,” Blankenship explained. “I wanted our guys to know that we are the better team. It’s not ‘I think’ or ‘I hope’ or ‘I believe.’ It’s ‘I know.’

“We wanted our guys to know that they were the better team. It has nothing to do with talent.”

Reflecting on the Tigers’ 2-3 record at the midway mark of the regular season, Blankenship said, “You can’t just flip a switch and change the culture. It was a constant chipping away at the hearts and minds of our guys. Big picture, I think beating a good (Edmond Santa Fe) team was really important in our process.”

With nine minutes left to play in the Owasso-Broken Arrow playoff rematch, the Rams led 40-28. Four minutes later, Broken Arrow led 41-40.

Blankenship says both Tiger quarterbacks — starter Sterling Ramsey and former starter Griffin Stieber — were at their best during the toughest moments. The Broken Arrow defense forced a critical Owasso turnover at the 6:32 mark. That takeaway led the Tigers’ go-ahead touchdown on Ramsey’s 5-yard pass to Joshua Willhite.

With 2:07 left, the Tiger defense got a fourth-down stop after Owasso had driven to the Broken Arrow 32-yard line.

Since that 2-3 start, Broken Arrow has recorded six consecutive wins while averaging 44 points per game.

Of his quarterbacks, Blankenship said, “Those two guys have embraced each other and celebrated each other, and it’s been huge for our team. I can’t wait to celebrate those two guys in front of the whole team (on Sunday).”

Stieber now is a tight end and Ramsey’s backup. When Ramsey had to leave the game because of leg cramps, Stieber didn’t blink. He responded with a clutch and perfect pass to Maurion Horn.

Blankenship says the Tigers’ week of preparation included a motivational assist from former heavyweight boxing champion James “Buster” Douglas.

After practice on Thursday, Blankenship and his players watched a video of the 1990 classic bout previously unbeaten, seemingly invincible champion Mike Tyson and Douglas. As a 42-to-1 underdog, Douglas was floored in the eighth round but rallied to knock out Tyson in the 10th.

“Douglas shocked everyone in that fight, but it’s not like Tyson went away,” Blankenship said. “He knocked Douglas down. Champions like Owasso don’t just go away.

“That’s what our sideline was like in the fourth quarter, when we (trailed by 12 points): Our guys looked at it like it was the 12th round. Were we prepared to go the distance? Our guys said, ‘Yeah, let’s go 12 rounds.’”

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Sports Columnist

I joined the Tulsa World in 1990. Prior to becoming a sports columnist in 2016, I was the only sports writer in Tulsa World history to have covered OU, OSU, the University of Tulsa and Oral Roberts sports on an everyday basis. Phone: 918-581-8397

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