High School Football

Second annual Border Brawl between Tulsa, Mansfield schools ready to kick off season

Ask anyone from Texas and they would say this is the state where football is king.

Duncanville, Allen, Aledo, Highland Park — you get the idea. And that’s just Dallas-Fort Worth.

But Oklahoma would like to have a few words.

For the second straight year, schools in the Tulsa area will face off against the five Mansfield schools in the “Border Brawl.”

“It all started 2 1/2 years ago with conversations in the press box at Vernon Newsom Stadium,” Mansfield ISD Athletic Director Philip O’Neal said. “We think Mansfield has some of the best football in Dallas-Fort Worth and we wanted to find a way to showcase our teams.”

Last year was the first Border Brawl as the five Mansfield schools traveled to play on the same Friday night at Union, Broken Arrow, Jenks, Bixby and Sand Springs.

Oklahoma won four of the five games. Summit was the lone winner from Texas, beating Sand Springs 41-28.

“They gave us everything we wanted in a first game,” said Summit coach Channon Hall as the Jaguars play the Sandites at 7 p.m. Saturday at RL Anderson Stadium. “When I schedule a game, I look for someone who will be tough and well-coached so we can judge ourselves and they were exactly that.”

“We went there with some expectations; we didn’t win many of the games, but the experience and hospitality was incredible,” O’Neal added. “We appreciated the opportunity to go play up there and we’re very excited to be able to host this year. I think it will be another great experience for the student-athletes we serve.”

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Jenks coach Keith Riggs, left, and Legacy coach Chris Melson. Brian Gosset bgosset@star-telegram.com

Oklahoma connection

Legacy and Jenks will kickoff the “Brawl” when they meet at Newsom Stadium at 7 p.m. Thursday.

Playing a team from Oklahoma is special for Legacy coach Chris Melson, who was an all-state athlete at Ada High School in the 1980s before playing wide receiver at the University of Oklahoma.

“I have a lot of respect for those teams and coaches from Oklahoma. I still keep up with a lot of those guys,” he said. “I wanted to play Jenks because they’re the best. They’re all good, but as a kid growing up, I admired Jenks. I had a chance to coach at Jenks. I was offered a job, but passed on it to come to Texas.”

Jenks won last season 35-14.

“Oklahoma doesn’t have many schools, but the ones they have, they’re good and Tulsa is good,” Melson said. “As a head coach, I always wanted to play someone in Oklahoma, I just didn’t know how to get it done.

“Working with the school districts and athletic directors and saw this thing come to reality. It’s great exposure for our kids. They get to go somewhere different, maybe play a different style of football and get to play in a different environment.”

Starting a rivalry?

O’Neal said administrators are in discussion to continue the Border Brawl in 2020 and beyond, but nothing is concrete. There’s also talks about expanding it to other sports.

“We’ve done this for several years. I got to experience different programs and different states, but have settled here in Texas because of the quality of football,” Union coach Kirk Fridrich said. “Without a doubt, this type of game is a marquee game and we look forward to it every year.

“It’s a source of pride in our state. Oklahoma and Texas have always been a battle whether it’s high school or college. We’re not only playing for Union, but for the state of Oklahoma.”

The game has been the buzz around Lake Ridge this month. The Eagles play Union at 7 p.m. Friday at Newsom.

“Anytime you can create an exciting atmosphere for the kids, you jump on board, that’s just the age we live in now,” Lake Ridge coach Kirk Thor said. “Game like this with two good programs is always fun to watch.”

Union defeated Lake Ridge last season 36-30.

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Lake Ridge coach Kirk Thor, left, and Union coach Kirk Fridrich. Brian Gosset bgosset@star-telegram.com

Nothing like TXHSFB

Broken Arrow is known for playing Texas teams in the past. It’s the fifth straight season the Tigers will play a team from the Lone Star State (Southlake Carroll, Euless Trinity, Coppell).

It’s something the players look forward to even at a younger age.

“Back when my players were eighth- and ninth-graders, when we were playing Coppell, Trinity and Carroll, they wanted to know ‘what Texas team are we going to play next’ so it’s exciting,” Broken Arrow coach David Alexander said. “All our schools border each other so playing these Texas teams, it’s a whole new energy level.”

Broken Arrow, which plays Mansfield at 7 p.m. Saturday at Newsom, is coming off its first state title.

“Phenomenal game day atmosphere and it was a great thing for our players to see, and we absolutely enjoyed going to Oklahoma. We try to play the good teams and what better way to start the season than against the state champs,” Mansfield interim coach Greg George said. “One of the best teams we’ve ever played since I’ve been at Mansfield in 17 years.”

Broken Arrow defeated Jenks in the state final. Jenks knocked out Union in the semifinals.

“Nothing but reputation, I know Texas is the best and it’s someone the Oklahoma high schools want to play especially Jenks, who’s drawing a lot of competition so it’s a big deal for us to come down and play,” Jenks offensive lineman Max Johnson said. “I definitely know Allen. I watched the playoffs last year; it’s crazy they play at the Cowboys stadium.”

Game of the week?

Timberview faces Bixby at 7 p.m. Friday at RL Anderson.

Bixby won last season’s matchup 36-33 before going on to win its fourth state title in five years.

“It’s exciting to see people from other states,” said Timberview 4-star corner Jalen Kimber, who’s committed to Georgia. “We usually only play schools around here, so it’s nice to see the different styles and how Oklahoma football is played.”

The Wolves went three rounds deep last season. They return 16 starters and have three 1,000-yard rushers.

“We enjoyed getting to prep for a solid team and we got a good draw with Bixby. They have great coaches that have built up a culture and winning tradition,” Timberview coach James Brown said. “Most of our kids hadn’t even traveled out of the state before so it was unique. The experience was great and it’s something we want to try and continue to do with Bixby whether or not this event keeps going.”

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Born and raised in Hawaii, Brian Gosset graduated from Northern Arizona University with a degree in journalism before coming to Texas in 2014. He’s covered high school sports — yes, pretty much every high school sport — for the Star-Telegram ever since.