The game may have lost some of its luster, but it still involves the Jenks and Union football programs, meaning it will be important to a lot of people.

“I don’t think it matters if we’re both 0-0 or undefeated,” Jenks coach Keith Riggs said. “It’s a great rivalry and both programs look forward to this game, no matter what.”

Coaches and players from both schools gathered Monday at the UMAC to discuss the 16th MidFirst Bank Backyard Bowl, set for 7:05 p.m. Friday in Union-Tuttle Stadium.

“This is what these seniors have been waiting on for a long time,” Union coach Kirk Fridrich said. “Across the country, I think people still talk about Union-Jenks, no matter what the record is at the time. It’s still pretty clear that this is a great football game.”

Oklahoma’s dominant programs when they combined to win every large-school state title over 21 seasons (1996-2016), both are struggling in 2019 with inexperience and rebuilt defenses.

Jenks (1-1) followed a 38-0 win at Mansfield (Texas) Legacy in Zero Week with a 57-7 shelling by Bixby last Friday.

Union opened with a 47-44 loss at Mansfield Lake Ridge before falling at home 14-0 to Broken Arrow, 6A Division I’s defending state champion.

This is the first time since 1980 that both teams are coming off a loss heading into their annual grudge match.

How do they bounce back, their coaches were asked.

“I think it was a learning experience for our kids,” Riggs said of the loss to Bixby. “You have to have the same focus and intensity every week and an inexperienced team has to learn how to handle adversity. We faced a lot of that last week and we’re gonna learn going forward.”

Fridrich is confident the Redskins can turn things around.

“I think what I’ve seen in the eyes of our kids is that they love this game, they love playing the game, and they love their teammates,” he said.

The teams have played every year since 1976 and this will be the 65th meeting overall, including 15 in the playoffs and 10 times in the state finals. Jenks leads that category 6-4 and leads the overall series 40-22-2.

MidFirst Bank has sponsored every regular-season meeting since 2004. The bank has contributed more than $350,000 and will donate another $14,000 to each school this year for educational priorities and scholarships.

This is also the first time since 2010 that the Backyard Bowl will not be played in the University’s of Tulsa’s H.A. Chapman Stadium.

Union’s administrators wanted the game at Union-Tuttle because this is the last year with its current westside grandstand before a major renovation takes place. Also, TU’s facility was not available Friday because the Hurricane hosts Oklahoma State on Saturday afternoon.

Mike Brown