By BOB CRAMER
Persistence paid off in December for Robert Foreman, Mustang High School’s athletic director, as he searched for a replacement for the Broncos’ head football coach.
Foreman interviewed candidates from Dec. 3-6 to replace Jeremy Dombek and thought the Broncos’ next coach might be among them.
But one of his top choices withdrew.
Foreman’s list included Bartlesville’s first-year head coach, Lee Blankenship, who guided the Bruins to a competitive 4-6 record in 2018 after the previous team went 1-9 with the only win a forfeit.
“My wife and I had bought a house in Bartlesville. I had no intention of leaving. I was happy there,” said Blankenship, 33. “Then I received a phone call from Robert Foreman after their job came open. I told him I wasn’t interested. A week later, Robert called again.”
After Foreman’s second call, Blankenship and his wife, Abbey, changed course and decided to visit Mustang High School on Friday night, Dec. 7.
“I just kept coming back to this guy,” Foreman explained. “I said, ‘He checks all the boxes, all the criteria we wanted.’ He was on our short list from the very beginning.”
Blankenship interviewed before the four-person search committee, answering their questions and told them about his coaching philosophy.
“He knocked it out of the park,” Foreman said. “The committee was just blown away. We said, ‘This is our guy.’ We moved quick.”
The following Monday night, Mustang had its next head coach after he was approved by the school board.
“I have worked very hard in my coaching career to be at a school this size and level, the highest level in Oklahoma,” Blankenship said. “But what I like is Mustang has that small town feel and pride.”
Blankenship was 64-30 in his nine seasons at Gore, Beggs and Bartlesville.
“Toughness and work ethic are definitely what we are known for,” Blankenship said. “That’s the mindset I want to instill in our kids. Success for me is giving your best every single day.”
In 2017, Blankenship’s Beggs team was beaten in the waning minutes 14-7 by Oklahoma City John Marshall in the state Class 3A championship in Stillwater.
The game was played at Oklahoma State University’s Boone Pickens Stadium.
Blankenship hopes to create championship-caliber teams at Mustang, but also stresses developing character, maturity, vision and confidence in his players so they can be successful young adults and husbands.
“We’re all about impacting our kids in a positive way,” he said.
The past eight years, Blankenship’s teams have been known for an up-tempo, multiple offense and their “Play PHAST” moniker: play physical and fast.
Blankenship, a Spiro native, was a walk-on quarterback at the University of Oklahoma. But in 2005 when he and a friend were loading a horse into a trailer, he injured his right hand when it spooked.
The accident cost him part of his index finger and he spent the next two years relearning how to throw the football.
As a senior at East Central University, two games into the season he became the starting quarterback/key backup. Bronco offensive coordinator-offensive line coach Cody McDaniel was ECU’s center.
“They called me the three-finger slinger,” Blankenship joked.
Blankenship is second cousin to Bill Blankenship, the state high school coaches hall of famer who was highly successful at Tulsa Union High School and later coached at the University of Tulsa.
Bill Blankenship now coaches Owasso, where he and Lee Blankenship will be District 6A-1 rivals.