Voice of the Trojans, Don King, reflects on 1998 Jenks/Union matchup
Jenks hosts Union this week, as two of the most storied high school football programs in the country are set to write another chapter in what has become one of the top rivalries in the nation.
However, for the first time in 22 years, Union will play at Jenks. The last time the Redskins played on Jenks soil was in September of 1998.
Union came out on top in that game 55-45 and was ranked No. 1 in Class 6A. Running back Danny Morris scored six touchdowns against the Trojans, which stands to this day as the top individual touchdown performance in the storied series.
The 100 combined points scored is still the most points ever scored by both teams in a Jenks home game.
Local sports radio and television personality Don King has been calling Jenks-Union football games since 1988. King reflected on the 1998 game at then Hunter-Dwelley Field.
“Jenks was coming off maybe one of the best high school teams in state history with the 1997 team,” King said. “In 1998, Union set a record in Class 6A for most points scored in a season, so they were really thought of, as maybe their best team up to that point. It was certainly one of their better offensive teams they have had. Union jumped on Jenks pretty quickly and the Trojans always had to fight back.”
King said first-year defensive coordinator Darren Melton, who is now the head coach at Lincoln Christian, received a phone call from then Jenks head football coach Allan Trimble later that night.
“I remember Darren saying he thought he was going to get fired after the game,” King said. “Coach Trimble called Darren after everyone had gone home and said, ‘Hey, I know you are worried and disappointed, but the sun will come up tomorrow and we are going to get back to work,’, and they did. They got better as the season went along.”
Bill Blankenship was the head coach for Union in 1998. Blankenship’s son Josh was the quarterback with Morris at running back and Michael Johnson at receiver. All three of those players went on to play major college football.
King said Blankenship’s offensive mind was ahead of his time in the late 1990’s.
“Bill Blankenship broke out the no-huddle offense that year,” King said. “He really fashioned the empty backfield look and going no-huddle. He really took offensive football to the next level. Not a lot of teams passed the ball that much in those days, but that Union team, with Josh Blankenship at quarterback, passed a lot more than most teams. They were just fun to watch. They were just so good back in those days. Josh was a great quarterback. Danny Morris was a great running back and then Michael Johnson was a great receiver.”
The Redskins were not just loaded at the skill positions. Union was stacked with talent on the offensive and defensive lines that year, according to King.
“They had another great player, Kory Klein, who played on both the offensive and defensive lines,” King said. “Kory went on to play at OU (University of Oklahoma) and interestingly enough, he and Matt McCoy (Jenks 1998 senior), ended up being roommates and living together throughout their OU careers and are great friends today. Matt said it took he and Kory and few weeks into their freshmen season at OU to put the Jenks-Union rivalry behind them and realize they were now teammates.”
King said that was the case for a lot of former Jenks-Union players from those days.
“You can go back in that rivalry and see a lot of those kids ended up playing together in college, either at TU (University of Tulsa), OU or somewhere else,” King said. “A lot of them have actually become good friends. They all have known each other throughout the years and eventually had to put their Jenks-Union rivalry aside.”
King added that the players from that time are linked in history forever.
“If you think about it, when those two schools set the bar and established themselves, the 1998 season was the first year they ended up playing each other for the state championship. That season was really the beginning of that great 21-year run where they won consecutive championships between those two schools. There will always be a bond between those players with what they built during that great run with consecutive championships.”
It had been a rough start to the 1998 season for the Trojans, who were not used to losing football games. The 55-45 loss to Union was not the first one that year. Jenks had previously lost at home to Booker T. Washington 28-27.
Following the loss to Union, King said Trimble took his team into the locker room and made several statements that resonated with his players.
“One of Coach Trimble’s comments after the game woke the players up,” King said. “He told them, “Hey, (Jason) Lohr, (and (Rocky) Calmus are not here anymore. Those guys are gone. They are playing in the Big 12 now, so it’s up to you guys to realize this is your team and you have to get better,’, Matt McCoy said he and Ben Bowling, who were two of the main leaders on that team, really took that to heart.”
The Trojans would not lose another game for the remainder of the regular season and then went on to pull off the miraculous upset over Union 41-28 in the 1998 Class 6A State Championship Game giving Jenks its third-straight gold ball.
Bowling passed for three touchdowns in the upset and ran for one more. Another highlight of the game was McCoy running around the field with Morris’ helmet after a play with seconds remaining on the clock. McCoy, of course was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, but the Trojan faithful, who made the drive to Stillwater, loved it.
“I thought Union, having won the first matchup that season and having scored early in the state championship game, thought they were going to boat race Jenks,” King said. “The Trojans stuck to their game plan and chipped away and finally went ahead and ended up winning that championship game. I have always thought Union got a little gassed. They got a little too excited in that first quarter thinking they were going to run away with it and Jenks just kept to their game plan and kept their head about them. They were a much better team then than they were when they played the 55-45 game.”
Friday, when the 2020 Jenks-Union Midfirst Bank Backyard Bowl kicks off at 7:35 p.m., Allan Trimble Stadium will not be at capacity. COVID-19 precautions being taken by Jenks Public Schools only allows for the stadium to be 30% filled.
King said the crowd at the 1998 game at Jenks was one of the best he has seen.
“That was probably the most electric crowd at Jenks we have ever had,” King said. “This Friday is going to be exciting because for a long time, I have wanted to see Union come to Jenks again. I am disappointed, like everyone else, that it will not be at full capacity, but the atmosphere will still be great. I have broadcast every Jenks-Union football game since 1988, so I am anxious to see this one. There are so many big plays and memories on both sides in this rivalry. It will be fun to see who prevails Friday night with the big play.”