The Broken Arrow Tigers were midway through the football season and first-year head coach Josh Blankenship knew the team needed to make some changes.
After an extremely tough early schedule, the Tigers were 2-3 and in danger of slipping out of playoff contention.
“We started with four out of our first five games on the road,” recalled Blankenship. “Our non-district games included Union and Owasso and our first district game was against Jenks. We knew we had our work cut out for us.”
Blankenship and his staff made two major changes to the Tiger offense and it turned their season around. Senior Sterling Ramsey took over at quarterback and senior Maurion Horn was elevated to starting tailback.
The results were instant.
Broken Arrow reeled off six straight wins and have advanced to the 6A semifinals after knocking off Owasso last week in the opening round of the playoffs. The Tigers have averaged 44 points a game during that span and Horn has rushed for more than 1,000 yards in the second half of the season alone.
“It wasn’t like a one game or one weekend decision,” claimed Blankenship on changing offensive personnel. “It was a constant tinkering and moving things around. I give a lot of credit to our players. They bought in to what we asked them to do. The guys were willing to go wherever they needed to go to help us win.”
Ramsey, who played defensive back last season and began the year at receiver, had two touchdown passes and ran for another score in last week’s win over Owasso.
Rated as one of the top individual players in the state, Horn has really made opposing defenses pay the past six games. Against Owasso, he rushed for 170 yards and two touchdowns.
“Maurion, he had played running back in the past,” said Blankenship. “He was a guy we were trying to play full-time at defensive back and some at receiver and running back. When Nate Jones got hurt at Edmond Memorial, it forced the issue a little bit more where Maurion was going to have to play more at running back.
“It made us look bad for not doing it sooner,” joked Blankenship. “He has set the world on fire.”
Blankenship believes the experience he gained at his previous high school and college coaching stops helped him be more willing to making changes in the middle of the season.
“I’m more adaptable that I probably used to be,” admitted Blankenship. “I may have had more of a cookie cutter mindset, coming from a very successful Union program, that things had to be exactly the way we had always done it.”
“Our staff has done that with me,” continued Blankenship. “When you’re asking your coordinators to have guys play both ways, or I need this guy to come over here or go over there. For them to be okay and open to whatever needs to be done to win, that’s huge for them as well.”
Blankenship and the Tigers now face crosstown rival Union Friday night in the 6A-I semifinals. The Redhawks knocked off Broken Arrow 38-28 earlier this season, but this isn’t the same Tiger team that took the field in Week Two.
“Their team speed is my primary concern,” said Blankenship of the Redhawks. “Not only are they big, but they’re extremely, extremely fast. I think it’s going to boil down to, can we meet their intensity? We put ourselves in position to play another playoff game. I just hope we can bring what we brought to the last one and pour it all out on the field.”