Blankenship ready to face program which solidified his coaching legacy

Owasso High School head football coach Bill Blankenship watches junior quarterback Will Kuehne perform passing drills during team practice Wednesday, September 27, 2017. (KTUL)

Union High School wasn't the first place Bill Blankenship worked as a head football coach. But it was the program which laid the foundation of his legacy as one of the all-time great Oklahoma High School football coaches.

"It's a place I left with good feelings and it'll feel a little weird being on the other sideline," Blankenship admitted Wednesday afternoon following his team's practice. It's Blankenship's first year at Owasso High School and his 4-0 Rams enter Friday's game against defending 6A Division-I state champ Union as the second ranked team in the state. Union is still number one.

Needless to say, the coaches have changed, but the success has remained very much for the same for the Union Redskins. Now that Blankenship is back to coaching high school football in Oklahoma, his Rams present the biggest threat to ending the Jenks-Union monopoly of the state's largest classification.

For all those reasons and more, this is a special matchup; even if today's players aren't old enough to remember Blankenship's days at Union.

"I really don't know much about him,"confessed Union senior offensive lineman Alfonso Gallegos. "I know he's a really good coach."

Gallego's teammate admitted it too. "I just know he's pretty much a high school coaching legend," said senior safety Landen Wood. "[He won] three state championships here. Then he got to coach at the college level. Then he went to Arkansas for one year; won a state championship his first year there. And he came back to Oklahoma."

At least Wood had done his homework.

Coach Blankenship understands the situation. "I get that," he said. "Fourteen years at a place; I've been gone so long that there's nobody on either sideline that has known anybody but Coach Fridrich as the head coach."

Which is also a special connection within itself for Blankenship. There's a long history with these two coaches; dating back to before Fridrich's time as a head coach.

"I coached with him [at Union] for nine years back in the 90's," Fridrich said. "And then [I] left to become the head coach at Stillwater [High School.] So we faced each other in district play four times. I think I'm 0-4 against him."

Blankenship defended his former colleague on that statistic. "Let me remind you, it was never at Union in those times," he laughed. "[Stillwater] was never the No. 1 team."

When Fridrich was asked if facing a former mentor affected his game-planning would impact his in-game strategy, "A lot of football has changed." Fridrich replied. "A lot of football [schemes] have gone under the bridge. There are a few things we've seen on film that I'm like, 'Yeah, I remember what it was like the last time I faced him.'"

"I'm excited about [Friday's game]," Blankenship said. "We're playing with a lot of confidence. We haven't taken that next step. This will be an opportunity to do that."

Kickoff is Friday at 7:00 p.m. at Tuttle Stadium on the campus of Union High School.

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