Dale, OK 74851
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| Ben Johnson
It's that time of year again. Summertime has arrived, and high school sports fans are left waiting for more games in August. But fear not! The Publics and Privates OKpreps Podcast will help get you through the slow months.
This week the guys recap some state tournament baseball, including Edmond Santa Fe and Pryor winning titles for the first time for both programs. The guys also look back on the memorable moments from the 2018-2019 athletic season, including some cross country, football, basketball and much more.
The podcast closes out with Swisher breaking down this week's Skordle Shootout in Cushing. A solid field of small school hoopsters will be at Cushing Middle School, and Swisher gives you all the details you need to stop by and watch some basketball.
| Ben Johnson
Bixby has been stingy when it comes to hoarding football championships. The Spartans have won four of the past five Class 6AII championships, and don’t expect them to slow down anytime soon.
What Bixby hasn’t claimed often since the turn of the century has been wrestling titles. Nic Roller’s individual championship at 220 pounds in 2016 has been the Spartans’ only crown since 1998.
But freshman Zach Blankenship is out to change all of that.
At 120 pounds, Bixby’s wrestling phenom is 24-0, and that includes four tournament championships to his credit so far.
“I didn’t really think I’d be having the season I am now,” Blankenship said. “I’m just thankful that I’ve been having this much success.”
Bixby came up short in its pursuit of the District 6A-7 crown on Tuesday night with a loss to Jenks, but Blankenship posted two victories and collected another one by forfeit. Those came only days after winning the Jerry Billings Invitational at Sapulpa, where he won by fall at 1:43 in the 120 finals against Collinsville’s Rocky Stephens, a 5A state champion at 113 last season.
“Zach has risen to the occasion and made a name for himself in the high school realm,” Bixby coach Brock Moore said. “He goes hard every second of every match and makes good things happen. He wants to wrestle the best guys he can. He’s fun to watch and coach.”
To reach the finals in Sapulpa, Blankenship won by fall against Sand Springs’ Riley Weir, who won last year’s 113 championship in 6A.
“His most impressive win so far might’ve been at Sapulpa, where he beat two-time state champion Riley Weir,” Moore said. “And that’s saying a lot for someone who has 21 wins by fall this season.”
Blankenship started the 2019 calendar year by winning the Larry Wilkey Invitational at Jenks. He knocked off Stillwater’s Cade Nicholas 4-2 in the finals.
“As a freshman, he has won four tournaments and has also been named the most outstanding wrestler at each of those tournaments, too,” Moore said. “I haven’t ever seen or known of another freshman to do that.”
Announcing his presence at the varsity level, Blankenship won the 120-pound division at the Perry Tournament of Champions in December. He cruised through the entire field with all of his victories by fall, including pinning Edmond Memorial’s Garrett Johnson at 3:32 for the 120 crown.
Not bad for someone who was wrestling among the junior high ranks not too long ago.
“The biggest difference between varsity and junior high has been the kids I’ve had to wrestle,” Blankenship said. “In junior high, the kids I had to wrestle were usually my age and size. In varsity, I’ve had to wrestle a lot older and bigger kids, which has made it a lot tougher.
“I’m just fortunate to have great coaches and parents who help me get better every tournament.”
‘Wrestleback’ Wildcats win Carl Albert tourney
It was Skiatook, Duncan, Piedmont and Altus vying for the Malcolm Wade Invitational crown at Carl Albert on Saturday, and with a quick glance it doesn’t appear as though Piedmont fared well. But on the contrary, Piedmont managed to claim the team title with only one individual champion.
The Wildcats, led by Josh Heindselman’s triumph at 285, finished with 242.5 points and won the tournament title. Skiatook (226) and Duncan (219) rounded out the top three.
“We were excited to win it,” Piedmont coach Erik Ford said. “We knew we had a chance going into the tournament. On Saturday, it was really exciting to see our guys score a lot of bonus points and really wrestle well on the backside of the bracket to give us the push that we needed.”
In the final match of the tournament, Heindselman recorded a pin at 2:37 against Lawton MacArthur’s Montana Phillips, who won last year’s 5A championship at heavyweight.
“Josh has been really impressive,” Ford said of the University of Oklahoma signee. “He weighs about 225 right now, so he is really wrestling up a weight. He has found another level as far as his movement and attacks go. His pressure and constant attacking has been the most impressive part about his wrestling this year. It has really allowed him to negate some of the size that he is giving up against heavyweights.”
Piedmont finished the tournament with 10 wrestlers recording top-six finishes. Tabor McLure (138) and Landis Scoon (152) both came in second place, and Mitchell Lance (132), Braden Culp (170) and Austin Cooley all posted third-place finishes atop the consolation bracket.
“Our guys learned that they can wrestle with some of the top 5A teams in the state,” Ford said. “…Our guys understand that winning the Carl Albert tournament is huge for our program, but they also know that our end-of-season goals as individuals and as a team are what we have been working for all year. And we’ll continue to work on those going forward.”
Other wrestling notes
- Edmond North picked up 194.5 points and won the Central Oklahoma Athletic Conference (COAC) Tournament title on Saturday. Mustang was second at 191.
- Tuttle cruised to the Greg Henning Invitational crown on Saturday with 362 points.
Prep hoops notes
- There’s a new No. 1 in Class 6A boys after Edmond Memorial beat Edmond Santa Fe 56-42 in the championship game of the Bishop McGuinness Classic. Edmond Memorial was ranked fifth Saturday and moved up to 6A’s top spot, while Edmond Santa Fe dropped from No. 1 to third. Booker T. Washington is second in between the two.
- Crushing the field in the Putnam City West Invitational wasn’t enough to move Heritage Hall (14-0) to the top of the 4A coaches’ poll. The Chargers are still second behind top-ranked Kingfisher (11-1). Heritage Hall’s Trey Alexander scored 31 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in the Chargers’ win over PC West in the finals.
- It's a big week for the state's two smallest classes as playoff assignments will be released Friday by the OSSAA (as if 95 percent of the coaches don't already know, through the grapevine, where they're headed). We're told David Glover, who makes the assignments for 4A and below, was about 99 percent finished with the assignments early this week. A committee meeting was held Wednesday, which generally leads to a few tweaks. Most of those are host sites, although sometimes teams are moved to different regionals or areas as a result of those meetings. No doubt a lot of people will be up in arms once the assignments are released, but that happens every year. What it does signify is that the playoffs are near and we all love that part of the season.
- One of those small school teams got a big boost during the holiday break. The Duke boys, already undefeated and ranked second in Class B, added Jameson Richardson to the roster at the beginning of this semester. Richardson, a 6-foot-8 junior forward with a load of versatility, transferred from his hometown of Mangum. He averaged right around 20 points and was a solid rebounder and rim protector for Mangum in his eight games prior to the move. Duke was already manhandling most opponents before his arrival, but hasn't been played closer than 18 points (61-43 over Granite last week) since his arrival.
- Next week is the biggest tournament week of the basketball season and it will be loaded with top matchups. However, a couple of No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdowns already took place during girls championship games during last week's slate. In Class 2A, top-ranked Dale held off No. 2 Howe 65-55 at the Kingston New Year's Classic. Howe's Jalei Oglesby was "held" to 31 points. "She missed a few shots and eventually fouled out or she would have had more," said first-year Dale coach Eric Smith, who led Alva to a pair of titles and got Frontier to last year's Class A title game. "She is unbelievable." Dale, led by Lacey Savage's 18 points, improved to 14-1 with the victory, which very well could have been a state championship preview. Down in Class B, No. 1 Hammon defended its Warrior Classic championship by earning a 50-44 come-from-behind win over No. 2 Lomega. Last year, Hammon was No. 2 when it beat No. 1 Lomega in the finals and it carried that momentum to a state championship. This time around, Hammon had to outscore its guests by seven in the second half to win. Five different Lady Warriors scored at least six points, led by 13 from Halee Morris. Kenedie Walker scored seven of her 10 in the fourth quarter. Lomega got 14 points each from Mady Meier and Courtney Fox.
| Michael Swisher
Less than 24 hours after helping lead his team to another tournament championship, Bijan Cortes announced a big decision about his future.
The Kingfisher High School junior made it public early Sunday evening that he had committed to play basketball for the University of Oklahoma.
[Photo by Russell Stitt/www.stitt.smugmug.com]
“I want to thank my friends and family for always pushing me to be the best person I can be. I would like to say a big ‘thank you’ to Kingfisher and all the great people in it for always coming out and supporting me,” Cortes wrote in a statement on social media.
He continued: “Thank you to Coach (Lon) Kruger and the University of Oklahoma staff for believing in my talents. I’m proud to say that I am officially a Sooner! 110% COMMITTED.”
Cortes scored 26 points the previous night in Kingfisher’s 85-42 win over Guthrie in the finals of the Buckle of the Wheatbelt Invitational.
The Jackets have won 38 straight games and are 72-2 since Cortes began starting as a freshman. During that stretch, they’ve been a 4A state runner-up (2018) and state champion (2019).
KHS is 16-0 this season, during which Cortes has averaged 21.0 points, 4.1 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 2.4 steals. He’s shooting 62.1 percent overall, which includes 56.9 percent from 3-point range.
Rivals, a national recruiting service, has him listed as the 150th-ranked player in the country for the Class of 2021 and the 31st-ranked point guard.
Anther service, 247, has him listed at No. 230 and 37, respectively.
Cortes, who is 6-foot-2, received an offer from OU last April. He also hauled in offers from Oklahoma State, Tulsa, Oral Roberts, North Texas and Texas-San Antonio.
“OU just felt like home and the coaches there made me a main priority and they always text me telling me that I can be ‘that guy,’” Cortes told Michael Swisher of Skordle and the Kingfisher Times & Free Press.
Cortes was primarily recruited by OU assistant coach Carlin Hartman, as well as head coach Lon Kruger. Both were in Kingfisher to watch Cortes practice earlier this month.
He said Norman’s proximity did play a role in his decision.
“Why not do it in the home state close to family?” he said. “That made me want to be a Sooner.”
Cortes knows he could have waited to see if other offers came in, but felt the timing was right to commit.
“I wasn’t like ‘I’m ready to get it over with,’” he said. “But I also knew for sure this was my favorite school and staff, so why wait?”
| Ben Johnson
Booker T. Washington’s head-coaching vacancy didn’t last long. The Tulsa World reported that Brad Calip would be vacating his post as Hornets head coach for an assistant coaching job at Owasso on Sunday.
On Monday, Tulsa Public Schools is expected to formally announce Jonathan Brown as the Hornets new head coach at Booker T. Washington, according to multiple sources. Brown will be elevated from his current defensive coordinator role.
Calip leaves after going 32-15 during a four-year run as head coach. During that time, Booker T. Washington won the 2017 Class 6AIi state championship.
Brown is a former Booker T. Washington standout who graduated in 1994. He played college football at Tennessee and spent time during his professional career in both the NFL and Canadian Football League.
| Ben Johnson
Owasso recently knocked off Jenks, 14-6, for the Class 6AI championship in Edmond on Dec. 6. It had been determined several weeks before the playoffs started that all 11-man football title games would be played at the University of Central Oklahoma’s Wantland Stadium.
But now that the season is over, one state senator is sounding off on the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association’s decision to force Jenks and Owasso play in a championship game at the other end of the Turner Turnpike.
Sen. J.J. Dossett (D-Sperry) has proposed a bill that he hopes will generate conversation in next year’s legislative session that would allow school districts to determine their playing destination.
Skordle contacted Dossett this weekend and wanted to ask Dossett a few questions.
What made you want to put together the legislation to present it when the legislative session starts in 2020?
Basically, it was the outcry from my community. There are some people that don’t like the idea, or the ideas that I have brought up. I purposely wanted until after the game had happened. I filed it on Monday after the game, because I didn’t want it be become a distraction. There’s enough of an outcry and a complaint that have a good point on why we played the game where we did and why we didn’t play it where we had the last five, six or seven years. It worked out great for everyone involved when it was played at the University of Tulsa. I had to bring it up; I had to bring up the discontent that my community, Jenks and a lot of the Tulsa area have with the decision that was made by a state-wide group -- that forced this decision on us and did not seek our input.
It was basically left to the football coaches association to make this decision, and most of the people involved weren’t going to face the ramifications of their school’s decision. It was made against the two schools that were playing and were against the decision that was made.
There should be a way for more flexibility with your local school districts that are competing in this situation to be able to not have to go play at a place that was deemed ‘this is the state championship site,’ especially when there were all the problems of playing late on a Saturday night. There were going to be how many teenage drivers on the turnpike late on a Saturday night in December? And, the stadium was nowhere near able to hold our crowd.
All of this put together, in my mind, says we need to do this better and there needs to be a way to do this better. There needs to be a way that we can go play this game somewhere else. I mean, we could have played at Broken Arrow and it would have been able to hold our fans. We could have played in a bunch of different stadiums here in the Tulsa area.
I heard there were 8,000 fans at the game at UCO, and at TU there would have been 20,000, so we stopped people from coming to the game by putting that distance barrier there. Nobody wants that; we want the community to come to the game, if possible.
What would you say to the people that say Senate bill 1111 is a waste of everyone’s time and could be spent discussing something else?
There are thousands of bills filled every year -- some of them get picked up and some don’t. It doesn’t waste any more time in committee or on the floor. It’s the legislator’s job to conduct the people’s business, so if a community has an idea or wants to change something, it’s the job of the legislator to consider it and go forward from that. And I agree, this is not the most pressing issue in the state of Oklahoma -- I 100 percent agree -- but if there’s a problem, it’s the job of the legislator to address an issue that their community is considered about. Senate district 34 up here in north Tulsa County, where we live, we definitely had a concern on this issue. Therefore, it’s my job to bring forth such ideas, if the people of my district are concerned about it.
As a former coach, I would like to mention this: I absolutely do not care where we’re playing. We don’t care where we play because we were going to win, and that’s the mindset they have. I speak only, and exclusively, from a community standpoint. The community has an opinion on this, and I happen to 100 percent agree with them. If I were still coaching for the Rams, I wouldn’t care one bit.
So you’re advocating to play the games at the University of Tulsa, if that’s a viable option?
You have to ask, ‘is this the best we can get?’ and I don’t think the current option is the best we can get. We’ve seen what good looks like, and it was last year, the year before and the year before, when two Tulsa teams make the championship game and we fill up Chapman Stadium. In my opinion, the OSSAA wins unless something crooked is going on over there. Because if we’re doubling the amount of people going to the game, they make more money -- or that’s how I understand it. I don’t understand at all why you wouldn’t let local school districts make the best decision for them. If Idabel and McAlester were playing for a championship, then they need to go play that at Eastern (Southeastern Oklahoma State) in Durant. No sense in making those schools drive to Edmond. There needs to be a way out for those schools to be play, and play where it makes sense for the fanbase and a public safety standpoint.
What are your thoughts on playing the Class 6A championship games in Tulsa during the week that they currently use as a bye week?
Sure, that would be an option. They’ve done the bye week because of the amount of teams in the playoff. Honestly, the whole 6AII thing has been a disaster. It’s handed Bixby a bunch of trophies, and it’s been really messed up for my community and I was still coaching when all of it went down. I was still coaching at Owasso at the time. It’s ridiculous for us to travel to Moore -- to play Southmoore or Moore -- and a team that can’t even fill up the home stands and play on a Thursday night. Like, why are we doing this? Why aren’t we playing Sand Springs or Bixby or Muskogee during the regular season, and then do something different for the playoffs, if necessary?
The initiative to have all the championship games played at one site was pushed by the Oklahoma Football Coaches Association, but it’s sounding like not all coaches were onboard with that proposal. How do you think that could have been handled differently?
On how the coaches association makes decisions, I do not know. I hear a lot about Texas, and they like it and that’s fine. From my point of view, if two Houston teams make the championship in any given class, for them to go all the way to Dallas is wrong. I don’t buy into the notion of ‘well, Texas does it this way, so we should do it this way.’ It’s the same way with basketball and the big schools playing in Tulsa. If Edmond and Putnam City are playing in the finals, then that’s the wrong decision. I’m not trying to whine; I’m trying to do what’s best for our kids.
What kind of reception do you think this will get when you present it to committee?
Who knows. On these things, you never know. We have these kinds of battles: Tulsa vs. Oklahoma City or urban vs. rural. I will approach other legislators from a straight forward standpoint and say our local school districts are better off when local school districts are making decisions. We don’t need state-wide entities or state agencies making blanket decisions for everyone. I have 100 percent faith that the Owasso administration, athletic director, superintendent and all of the above -- and same at Jenks -- would make the right decision for their kids. But when we had that responsibility over to a group of people that aren’t in our community, then you don’t get as good of an outcome. That’s the way I see this situation playing out here.
There are some that say the Oklahoma legislature should stay out of high school sports. How do you feel about that?
I absolutely agree, if everything is running properly. The legislature cannot determine how the OSSAA operates within, because it’s an agency with it’s own control. There are three things in the statute that says schools will not be part of an association that does this, this or this. What I’ve done is adding a fourth. All my bill does is add language that school districts would have flexibility to pick their own locations for championship games.
| Ben Johnson
Shawnee is searching for a new head football coach for the first time in almost two decades.
Billy Brown is out after 16 season as the Wolves’ head coach, a source with direct knowledge has told Skordle.
Shawnee was 92-84 in Brown’s tenure and reached the playoffs 10 times.
That included a trip to the 5A semifinals in 2004, Brown’s second year. The Wolves reached the quarterfinals five other seasons.
The production dipped the last two seasons as Shawnee went 2-8 both years and missed the playoffs.
After reaching the playoffs three straight seasons from 2012-14, Shawnee has missed the postseason three of the last five years.
| Michael Swisher
I respect the hell out of the Tulsa World.
Any publication that dedicates the resources it does to high school coverage and employs the likes of Barry Lewis and Mike Brown for those purposes gets more than a tip of the cap from me.
Heck, even its managing editor - Mike Strain - is a one-time preps writer for The Oklahoman who once donned football pads and practiced with the Bray-Doyle Donkeys for a story.
It’s good people.
With that said, I’m going to disagree - quite respectfully - with an editorial the newspaper ran Dec. 2 regarding the state high school football championships.
In case you weren’t aware, the OSSAA announced last month the University of Central Oklahoma’s Wantland Stadium in Edmond would be the host site for all 11-man football title games this year.
Five of those games will be played this weekend, two on Friday and three Saturday, in what will be a long-awaited buffet of football for Oklahoma fans.