Union, Jenks face off again in revolving rivalry
BY MIKE BROWN World Sports Writer
Friday, November 23, 2012
11/23/12 at 2:47 AM
Conventional wisdom says Jenks will be fighting an uphill battle against arch-rival Union in Friday's Class 6A football semifinal.
Never mind that the Trojans are ranked No. 1 and the Redskins are No. 3.
Because Union has won the past four playoff meetings - and this year's regular-season opener, 14-7 - in a series Jenks once dominated, the Trojans will be dogged by negative feelings that could escalate if the game starts badly for them.
That's how some people think, anyway. Sports talk personality Pat Jones isn't one of them.
"It's my experience that the best athletes always think they're going to win," Jones said, drawing on his 11 seasons as an Oklahoma State head coach (1984-94) and 11 years as an NFL assistant.
"For guys like (Jenks standout receiver) Jordan Smallwood, it never enters their mind that they're going to lose a game," Jones said. "No doubt, the 175-pound guard who has to block a 210-pound tackle will probably wonder. But for the Smallwoods of the world, the history of the thing is probably irrelevant to them."
Hold on, Pat. Union had standout athletes when Jenks was winning six straight regular-season meetings in the '90s. Former Union quarterback Josh Blankenship, now head coach at Muskogee, says the Redskins had "a mental block about playing Jenks that affected the way we played."
Trojan athletes in that era "always felt we had the better team," said East Central coach Bobby Klinck, who has his No. 1 Cards in the Class 5A semifinals, facing McAlester at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Muskogee's Indian Bowl.
Klinck started on Jenks' state championship teams in 1998, 1999 and 2000.
"We believed that somehow, some way, we were gonna find a way to win the game," he said.
How the rivalry has turned. From 1992 through 2007, the Trojans won 15 of 21 meetings, along with nine state titles. But since 2008, when Union became the first team to beat Jenks twice in the same year, the Redskins have won seven of nine meetings and the last four state titles.
Jenks will try to end the string when the teams square off at 7:30 p.m. on Friday in Broken Arrow's Memorial Stadium. The game will be televised on Cox cable 3.
No. 2 Owasso faces No. 6 Norman North in the other 6A semifinal, which will be played at Union-Tuttle Stadium.
Current University of Tulsa head coach Bill Blankenship lost his first six games against Jenks as Union's head coach.
Son Josh helped engineer a 55-45 Union regular-season triumph in 1998, but it wasn't the breakthrough it seemed at the time because Jenks came back to win 41-28 behind Ben Bowling in that year's 6A final, claiming the third of six straight state titles (1996-2001).
"It took us a little longer to get over the hump in the playoffs," Bill Blankenship said.
The 1998 game turned out to be the first hit in a drip-drip-drip process that finally broke the dam. Josh Blankenship was in his fourth college season, throwing passes for Eastern Washington, when Union won its first of seven Class 6A titles in 2002.
"It's amazing to me that the series has turned around the way it has," he said.
Some people trace the turning to a single play - Union's trick-play touchdown on the opening kickoff of the Class 6A final in Chapman Stadium in 2009.
The Redskins had won the previous year's title, but Jenks came back to win the 2009 regular-season meeting and went into the championship game slightly favored.
Everything changed when current TU receiver Thomas Roberson opened the game by racing 76 yards with a crossfield lateral from Jacob Rice. The play unleashed a tidal wave of momentum that carried the Redskins to a 52-19 win.
"I just don't think they knew what hit 'em after that play," Roberson said.
The Redskins had botched the same play in the semifinals and Roberson said he never expected to see it called again. But Union coach Kirk Fridrich wanted to take advantage of Jenks' tendency to pooch-kick short and attack all-out with its coverage team.
"I'm running onto the field, (thinking) 'I can't believe we're doing this'," Roberson said. "But it worked out well for us."
Jenks won the 2010 regular-season contest, but Union rallied for a thrilling 50-47 triumph in the 6A final and hasn't lost in the series since.
The Trojans had every chance in last year's 6A semifinal in Stillwater, but Union held on 30-29, one of three straight one-point playoff wins.
TU lineman Jake Alexander was part of Jenks' title teams as a freshman and sophomore (2006-07) and lost to the Redskins in the 6A final the next two years.
"The tide was turning a little when I was there. (Union) had a really good team my junior year (2008) and won it again when I was a senior, and it seems like they've had the edge ever since. But I think it's hard to tell when you're trading wins back and forth," Alexander said.
He and Jones agree that both sides have players capable of looking past the history to make a difference Friday night.
"They're wanting to make a name for themselves by making big plays in a big game. They aren't thinking about losing. They're expecting to win," Alexander said.
A look at the Jenks-Union rivalry since 1992:
1992: Jenks 14-11
1993: Jenks 31-24
1994: Jenks 37-30
1995: Jenks 28-7
1996: Jenks 42-14
1997: Jenks 21-11
1998: Union 55-45 Jenks 41-28 (6A final)
1999: Union 27-24, OT Jenks 14-7 (6A final)
2000: Jenks 41-37 Jenks 31-12 (6A final)
2001: did not play
2002: Union 33-12
2003: Union 37-0 Jenks 14-12 (6A semis)
2004: Jenks 17-13 Union 27-17 (6A final)
2005: Jenks 48-44
2006: Jenks 9-6
2007: Union 43-42, OT Jenks 42-24 (6A final)
2008: Union 24-17, OT Union 34-20 (6A final)
2009: Jenks 27-25 Union 52-19 (6A final)
2010: Jenks 33-7 Union 50-47 (6A final)
2011: Union 41-19 Union 30-29 (6A semis)
2012: Union 14-7 Friday (6A semifinals)
Union vs. Jenks
At Broken Arrow High School
7:30 p.m. Friday
Radio: KYAL fm97.1
Original Print Headline: A Revolving rivalry
Mike Brown 918-581-8390
Union's Terrel Buchanan runs downfield as Kahlid Kornegay (left) blocks Jenks' Dylan Harding on Aug. 31 during this year's Backyard Bowl. Union won the game, 14-7, and has beaten Jenks in eight of their last 11 meetings. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World
Union celebrates after winning the 2010 state championship
over Jenks. JOEY JOHNSON/For the Tulsa World