Same name, different site (and app). Swisher's Suite was first featured on CoachesAid.com and even on the pages of the Kingfisher Times and Free Press. But like a bad reputation, the name of my column follows me everywhere. I hope you enjoy. But even if you don't, I hope you continue to read...
Eleven years ago at about this time, yours truly made the trek from Kingfisher to Tulsa to serve as an "expert guest" on a football preview show for a cable company's local channel. I was representing the "Oklahoma Kickoff" magazine, which the show was centered around and for which I played a big role in helping produce. The show also featured the likes of JV Haney and Rod Thompson (well-known figures in the Tulsa market) and a coach who had just stepped down after winning back-to-back Class 6A championships at Union, Mr. Bill Blankenship. We weaved our way through Class 6A and 5A previews and were in between takes before starting the smaller schools.
Blankenship casually asked me what I knew about any 4A teams and I spouted off that Bishop McGuinness was a darkhorse with numerous starters coming back on both sides of the ball for a team dropping down from 5A. Lo and behold once our 4A preview began if my buddy Bill didn't pass that knowledge right along to the viewer. Man did he look smart when Bishop McGuinness went on to win the 4A crown that year AND the next.
And I learned a valuable lesson: Don't share your info because Bill Blankenship is a thief.
I'm kidding on that last part of course. That was the first day I met Blankenship and when I ran into him several months later, he remembered my name and where I was from. Ran into him even further down the road and he still knew who I was.
That lessened the sting of the great information heist of 2006.
Fast forward to the start of the 2017 season and Bill Blankenship was - for the first time since winning the 2005 title at Union - on an Oklahoma high school sideline as a head coach. And what a debut he made when his Owasso Rams dominated Jenks like the Trojans hadn't been dominated in 12 years - 48-10 on the Trojans' home field.
The Rams' win was all the more impressive considering they won just three games last year. They're obviously not void of talent - Texas move-in QB Will Kuehne is a nice addition and Ohio State doesn't offer Oklahoma kids (Josh Proctor) all that often - but there's also no doubt this win had some of that Blankenship mystique written all over it.
Is it a sign of things to come? Who knows. Even Blankenship called the margin of victory "perfect storm kind of stuff" in the Tulsa World. Still, it will be fun to watch the process of Blankenship trying to get his new school to the level of Jenks and his old one.
Speaking of Jenks...is this the beginning of the end for the Trojans? Sounds like an absurd question and maybe it is. After all, we're just one season removed from Jenks winning four straight titles.
The home loss to Owasso was just the second for Jenks this DECADE. Still, it was a bad one, "perfect storm" or not. And Barry Lewis of the World, someone who more tuned into the Tulsa preps football scene than perhaps anyone has ever been, actually picked Bixby to knock off the Trojans this week.
While Bixby is no slouch (6A JV champs the last three years), it wasn't until last season (a 38-34 Jenks win) that the Spartans got even remotely close to beating Jenks. Since 2010, the other margins have been 58, 35, 38, 46 and 34 points in the Trojans' favor.
If Bixby does find a way to prove Lewis correct and win, Jenks could be looking at an 0-3 start to the season with Union looming the next week. That's unfathomable in Jenks land.
It's safe to say Union and Broken Arrow represented the state well on Saturday as the two battled in a nationally-televised game. There was a lot of Division I talent on the field, but as been the case for much of the last three decades, Union prevailed 26-15. But that wasn't the best game of the weekend. That can be reserved for eight-man powers Laverne and Tipton.
The Laverne defense made a stand in the final minutes to prevail 44-36 at home. The Tigers are the defending Class B champs while Tipton won the Class C crown. Tipton trailed by 10 late in the game when it fumbled deep in Laverne territory with just over a minute to play. With the game seemingly over, Tipton got a safety to pull within eight and then got back in scoring position on a Sema McBride 40-yard run. McBride already had three rushing touchdowns in the game. However, the Laverne defense held on the next four plays inside the red zone to earn the dramatic Week 0 win.
If you keep up with the behind-the-scenes stuff in football, you know we're going back to "the way things used to be" in football next year. Instead of splitting up Classes 3A, 2A and A as evenly as possible (around 55 in each class), it will be 32 in Class 3A, 64 in Class 2A and the rest - about 70 - in Class A.
The current classification system has been in place since 2010. In the grand scheme, I like the new-old system better. With some exceptions in Class A, we'll got back to eight-man districts in the classes, which will solve some scheduling hiccups.
However, don't be surprised if it stays like this forever. I'm told football coaches will work on a long-term, comprehensive classification plan to offer up down the road.
How far down the road? Still not sure. What will the changes be? Don't know that, either. But as one coach put it to me: "Too many coaches are only worried about how something affects them. They won't look at the big picture and realize what's best for the group as a whole. We've got to get to that point."
Whatever the plan, don't let Bill Blankenship know about it early...he'll spill the beans and take credit for it.
I kid, Bill. I kid.