By MIKE MOGUIN
GTR Sports Writer
When I interviewed Josh Proctor in the summer of 2017, the defensive back said Owasso football would have a breakout year and he spoke it with confidence and assurance.
How right he was.
Proctor, now at Ohio State, was already a standout football player for the Rams at his position.
Other D-I players included in that lineup were Wayne Jones, now at Kansas State, and junior quarterback Will Kuehne, now at North Texas.
With Bill Blankenship having taken over the program, a new chemistry was building.
The Rams had been average in the years prior to his arrival as head coach. They were often competitive, making the playoffs in some years and struggled in others. And like other Class 6A programs across the state, they could not get past Jenks or Union when it came to postseason.
In 2016, the year before Blankenship was hired, the Rams finished 3-7. The standout coach was what the program needed.
As everyone knows, Blankenship built Union into the powerhouse it is. During his tenure with the Redskins (1992-2005), they won three state championships (2002, 2004, 2005).
He spent eight years – four as an assistant (2007-10) and four as head coach (2011-14) at his alma mater, the University of Tulsa. As an assistant, TU had high-octane offenses and won three bowl games. As the head coach, he led the program to a Conference USA Championship and Liberty Bowl victory in 2012.
Blankenship went back into high school coaching in 2016, leading Fayetteville (Ark.). to the Arkansas Class 7A state title that year.
One month later, he was lured back into Oklahoma to coach the Rams. The rest is history.
The Rams were expected to improve in 2017, but exceeded expectations by grabbing the bull by the horns from the start.
Owasso began the season with a stunning 48-10 rout of Jenks in its season opener. People were expecting Jenks to win that game, while the Rams were projected to improve in Blankenship’s first season as coach.
One month later, Owasso played Union, who won state the year before. After the Rams took an early 20-6 advantage, Union came back to win, 47-44, in overtime, giving the Rams their only loss of the season.
But Owasso would avenge that defeat in the game that mattered most – the Class 6AI state championship – winning 21-14 for its first state title in 33 years. It also broke a 21-year Jenks-Union championship stranglehold on the state’s highest classification.
With the loss of key players to graduation, Owasso had a struggling 1-3 start the following season, but bounced back nicely en route to a 7-4 finish, capped by a close loss to eventual 2018 champion Broken Arrow in the semifinals.
Fast-forward to 2019 when a new crop of D-I players in the likes of Deuce Mayberry (Kansas), Isaiah Jacobs (Maryland), Haydon Grant (Tulsa), Payton Lusk (Missouri State) and others loading the Ram roster.
When interviewing one of those players at the campus football facility last summer, I overheard Blankenship talking to the other players in the next room about what they needed to do if they wanted to have the year 2019 stenciled into the press box, indicating a year of another state title.
The Rams delivered by going through the season unscathed, winning state back in December.
They opened up the season with a 47-34 win over Bentonville (Ark.) in an offensive battle late in August. Owasso set the tone with dominating wins over Fayetteville (Ark.) (51-19), Broken Arrow (42-19) and Union (34-10) in three of their first four games.
In the game against BA, the Tigers scored first and was on its way to a two-TD lead before fumbling the ball away to the Rams in the red zone. A second BA fumble at its three-yard line, set up a tying TD by Jacob on the next play.
Owasso scored again to take the lead before being in a 14-14 deadlock at halftime. After allowing a Tiger field goal to start the second half, the Rams outscored BA 28-2 in the second half. They would dominate in all but one of their remaining regular season games.
In the playoffs, Owasso routed Norman (52-14), then played a closer battle with BA before winning 42-27.
It then overcame a struggling start to beat Jenks 14-6 in the 6AI championship game. Owasso had to overcome stalled drives in the red zone as well as a third quarter deficit to win. Grant made some key sacks in the game.
With two state championships in a three-year period and the production of several D-I players, it is clear Blankenship has turned the Rams into a powerhouse with a bright future ahead.