STILLWATER — When he was in the third grade, Tucker Yarbrough viewed his father's state championship ring as a cool show-and-tell item.
Now, it's a link between the past and present of Blanchard football's greatest achievements.
Tucker, now a junior at Blanchard, is the starting center for the Lions, who will play Kingfisher for the Class 3A football championship at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Boone Pickens Stadium.
His father, Darren Yarbrough, was a starting lineman on the Lions' 1979 team, which won the school's only football state championship in its only previous title game appearance. Eight years ago, Darren let his son take the championship ring to school to show off, and on Friday, Tucker gets a chance to earn his own.
“Knowing my dad played on that team, there's a significance for me in playing this game,” Tucker said. “This is part of my father's heritage, and I'm going to get to take part in that and have a chance at winning a state title.”
Tucker already has a special place in the Yarbrough family football history. Between Darren, his three sons, Darren's brother and his son, the family has played 33 seasons of Blanchard football, and Tucker was the first in the family to score a touchdown when he returned an opponent's onside kick attempt 52 yards earlier this season.
“That was a big deal,” Darren said with a laugh.
Tucker's duties on the offensive line are much different from his father's were, considering the 1979 team ran the wishbone, and the current Lions average about 22 pass attempts per game in the spread.
“These guys have completed more passes in the last two ballgames than we did all year,” Darren said. “We tease Coach (Jeff) Craig that we wish he'd line up in the wishbone and run the ball more.
“But I guess if they keep having success, I wouldn't care if they ran the Wing-T, I'd be for it.”
Earlier this year, Craig showed his team a documentary-style video that was made about five years ago by some of the 1979 players, reliving their glory days as state champs.
“They asked the players, ‘What did it mean to you, and what does it mean now?'” Tucker said. “They all talked about the camaraderie, and how tight they were as a team, and what it meant to be stepping on ground that had never been stepped on before at Blanchard.”
The Lions' return to the state finals might have surprised some outsiders this season. They were No. 20 in The Oklahoman's preseason rankings, coming off a 5-5 season.
“At the beginning of the season, Coach Craig told us nobody would be talking about us, and everybody would doubt us,” Tucker said. “We just took that as motivation — naysayers, and we're out to prove them wrong.”
The 1979 Lions went 15-0 in Class A, defeating Hartshorne 37-14 in the title game. At 12-1, this year's team can't quite match that record, and it has a stiff test ahead in 14-0 Kingfisher, which has had only two games with a final margin closer than three touchdowns.
Regardless of the outcome, there's going to be one incredibly proud father in the stands, watching his son following his footsteps in Blanchard football history.
“It's more special watching him,” Darren said. “You want your children to do well, you want them to succeed.
“I've been able to see the camaraderie these guys have, and that's what I remember most about our team — the camaraderie and the teammates.”
Darren says about a dozen players from 1979 are still in Blanchard, and the title team certainly hasn't been forgotten.
“We always get to ride at the front of the parade,” Darren joked. “But we'd be more than happy to turn that over to these guys.”