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Oklahoma 4A state championship game preview: Wagoner looks to defend its title

Blanchard attempting to win its third championship in program history
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Two of Class 4A’s most dominant squads will square off Thursday night in the state championship game between Blanchard and Wagoner

The game is scheduled for a 7 p.m. kickoff at Chad Richison Stadium, located on the University of Central Oklahoma campus in Edmond.

Wagoner (13-0), ranked third in last week's SBLive Oklahoma poll, is coached by Dale Condict in his 19th season as the head coach. Blanchard (12-1) was ranked 19th and is coached by Jeff Craig, who is in his 17th season.

The two teams have met once in the 4A quarterfinals back in 2017, where Blanchard won, 23-14, ending Wagoner’s 48-game winning streak, which is the second-longest win streak in the state. The Bulldogs also won three consecutive state championships before that run was ended by the Lions.

Wagoner is the defending 4A champion and won its seventh state championship by beating Cushing, 24-21, in last year's title game. Condict has coached for eight state championships including this one.

Wagoner lost the title games in 2005 and 2010. But since then, Wagoner has won six state championships: 2011, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2020 and 2022.

“Coaching and winning in all these state championships makes a huge difference in your program,” Condict said. “The kids on this team have grown up seeing us win gold balls. They expect to and we have many returning players from last year's win.

"Fast forward a year and we are right back in the title game. The pressure is on us since we are on top of 4A. We are playing well and are healthy, so we are looking forward to Thursday’s state title game.”

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Blanchard is back in the state championship game for the first time since 2013, but lost to Kingfisher. The Lions have won two state championships, one in 2012 and in 1979. The 2012 title was Blanchard beating Kingfisher.

“It is always good to be back and it is our goal every year,” Craig said. “Ten years being out of the championship game is a long time.

"We are excited to compete for a state championship and are looking forward at the opportunity to bring a gold ball back to Blanchard.”

For Wagoner, the players understand the tradition and expectations. Tight end Alex Shieldnight, a University of Oklahoma commit, has been huge for the Bulldogs, along with wide receiver Witt Edwards - a Vanderbilt commit - and linebacker Keyton Cole.

Quarterback and inside linebacker Kale Charboneau has 37 touchdowns and more than 2,600 yards with 800 yards rushing in his career at Wagoner. Against Broken Bow in the first round of the playoffs, he threw four touchdown passes and for more than 200 yards in that game alone.

Wagoner has outscored its opponents, 129-14, in the playoffs. Wagoner beat Broken Bow 57-7, then beat Tuttle 30-0 in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, they took on Ada and won the game, 42-7.

“I love winning games, especially in the playoffs,” Condict said. “This group has been great to coach and are physical. They prepare and practice well.

"It can be difficult to maintain focus when you are picked in every game. I am proud of how well we play in the playoffs, and how we are dialed in week in and week out.”

Wagoner has dominated most of its games, but held on to win the rematch of last season's 4A title game against Cushing, 15-14, with a defensive stop.

“We felt a little too comfortable in the Cushing game,” Condict said. “Cushing is really good and knows us well. We knew it would be a battle, but definitely were humbled.

"I am so proud of us finding a way to win that close district game and proud of us for playing much better the rest of the season.”

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Condict remarked the big key to winning Thursday is stopping quarterback Carson Cooksey, who has thrown 20 touchdown passes and scored eight rushing touchdowns. Condict added they have outstanding wide receivers as well.

“I know Coach Craig well and they play great defense,” Condict said. “Could be the best offensive line we have seen and Carson does a great job leading the team.

"Their wide receivers are capable of making a play on any given down. But, they have playmakers at every position.”

For Blanchard, the Lions have relied on their defense to win games, as they have given up 14 points per game on average. Lineman Kade Saunders has tallied five sacks and Brayson Carter has caught five interceptions.

“It is nice knowing we can stop teams instead of having to outscore teams,” Craig said. “Our defense has been huge and when you average giving up two scores a game, it makes life on the offense easier.”

Cooksey also has weapons he can throw to, such as wide receiver Hudson Periman, who has caught 12 touchdowns. Wide receiver Coric Pierce has caught six touchdowns, too.

Craig credited the offensive line for creating time and space for Cooksey and the skill players to make plays.

“Our O-line and D-line play has been solid,” Craig said. “They all block so well for us and on defense, they make it tough for teams to run and are good at disrupting the quarterback. They are one of the biggest reasons we have had success.”

Blanchard’s lone loss came to Piedmont, 21-7. Since that loss, Blanchard has rallied off 11 wins, including tough district matchups against Tuttle and Newcastle.

In the playoffs, the Lions defeated Cache 27-0, then Sallisaw 55-28 and in the semifinals, beat Poteau 26-14. Craig said the Piedmont loss helped their offense improve and it did, as Blanchard scored no less than 20 points in the rest of its games.

“Piedmont was a caliber opponent who exposed us,” Craig said. “We improved and spent some time and improved on offense.

"We knew we could be a good defensive football team and it is nice not having to outscore some teams. Making this run through the 4A gauntlet is because of how well we have stopped teams.”

With Wagoner having outstanding players, Craig said the Lions must work together as one if they hope to bring a gold ball back to Blanchard.

“Wagoner does everything well,” he said. “Their tight end (Shieldnight) does a great job. We must stop their run game and if we have to commit too many people to the run, they could hurt us through the passing game.

"But our team has great chemistry and are all friends off the football field. I love this group and we are excited for Thursday night.”

Photo of Wagoner's Witt Edwards by Michael Kinney

-- Josh Jennings | @SBLiveOK