On Friday night, Jenks and Tulsa Union, two of Oklahoma's most storied prep football programs, will face off in the fourth edition of the Backyard Bowl presented by Midfirst Bank.
Skelly Field at the University of Tulsa's Chapman Stadium will once again host this historic battle that has been ranked the No. 1 high school football rivalry in the nation.
Since 2004, when the game received its moniker, an official sponsor and a traveling trophy, Jenks has won all three non-district matchups between the two schools, which are separated by less than 10 miles.
The two teams have been dominant on the state football scene in recent years. Jenks won the class 6A state championship in 2006 over Enid High School at Skelly Field, while Tulsa Union has won two class 6A state championships in that same time span, including the 2004 championship over Jenks.
The Jenks Trojans (1-0), ranked 4th in the Rivals.com Fab 50, are coming off a 27-3 victory at home against Bixby, while the Union Redskins (1-0) had an impressive 31-0 rout of Canton McKinley (OH) on a national stage at the Kirk Herbstreit Ohio vs. USA Challenge, which lifted them from unranked to 28th in the Fab 50.
The 2007 Backyard Bowl will be receiving national coverage Friday night as NFL Films has picked up the game for its high school game of the week series starting on October 18. Neither of these two schools are strangers to national media coverage; last year Union played Hoover (Ala.) in a game televised on Fox Sports Net, ESPNU televised Jenks vs. Springdale (Ark.) in 2005, and in 2003 ESPN broadcast Union's 35-0 jaw-dropping victory over Jenks. The Trojans went on to win the state championship that season and avenged their shutout against Union with a 14-12 upset in the state semifinals.
"This game means a lot," Jenks junior wide receiver Tramaine Thompson said. "You know everyone on the other team, growing up, playing against them. Beating them is always a good thing because if you don't you're going to hear about it all year."
"We would love to take this one this year." Union senior quarterback Brandon Rogers said. "We've prepared real hard all week -- as I am sure Jenks has too -— but Jenks has won the last three, so this is personal for all the seniors and our last chance to do so."
Union standout junior running back Jeremy Smith had no problem backing up Rogers and the rest of the upperclassmen.
"Our seniors are really pumped about this," said Smith. "They all know that this is our year to take it all the way and they're not going to let anything stop us."
In 2005 Jenks overcame a 16-point deficit in the final seven minutes of the fourth quarter to claim a 48-44 win even after losing starting quarterback Mark Ginther to injury, and in last year's contest was settled by field goals in a 9-6 final.
For most of the players who grew up in the Tulsa area and watched this rivalry since elementary school, playing in this game is a victory in and of itself, and some even consider it bigger than playing for the state championship.
"We've been raised to hate Union since eight years old and with this being my senior season I want them to remember we won," Jenks left guard Cory Dorris said. "I remember the opening game of my sophomore year at Bixby being real nervous in front of only like 1,000 people, when a senior came over and slapped me on my helmet and said 'Just wait until next week.' He was right. The very next week when we got to Skelly Stadium, 30,000 fans were looking down at us. It gets the adrenaline pumping and there is no better feeling."
In the end this is a game of bragging rights as each team plays in separate districts under the 6A classification and the outcome of the Backyard Bowl will not factor into playoff scenarios come November.
"I'm just going to go out there and lead my team," Rogers said, "It's a team sport and as the quarterback I feel that's my duty. Obviously it's a huge game, but I understand that it's only week two and a step towards our ultimate goal later in the season, a state championship."