BLANCHARD — Friday night's Class 3A semifinal game against Plainview didn't start out well for Blake Owen.
The Blanchard quarterback missed on all seven of his pass attempts in the first half, and was even replaced by backup Kanon Kirchner with the Lions needing to throw late in the second quarter.
Luckily for Owen, it's more important how you finish than how you start.
After Plainview took a 17-14 lead with 2:33 remaining, Owen came through.
The senior led the defending champion Lions down the field, connecting on all three of his pass attempts and picking up 55 yards on the game-winning drive.
The 20-17 victory sent top-ranked Blanchard (13-0) back to the Class 3A championship game to face No. 2 Kingfisher (14-0).
“I just didn't execute very well early on,” Owen said. “But it came down to a do-or-die situation. There was no tomorrow for us if it didn't work out on that last drive. We all believed in each other, executed better, and pulled through.”
Running back Braden Stringer picked up the other 18 yards of the 71-yard final drive, including a 1-yard touchdown run.
“Things just kind of came together for that drive,” said Blanchard coach Jeff Craig. “Sometimes when you get in that hurry-up mode, you don't have time to think and you just react. Taking the brain out of it a little bit and just being reactionary seemed to work good for us.”
The game-winning drive capped a stellar second half for Owen. Early in the fourth quarter, he converted a third and 15 with a 58-yard pass to receiver Braden Bush. He found Stringer three plays later on a 17-yard touchdown pass to give Blanchard a 14-3 lead.
“You've got to have a short memory,” said Craig after Friday night's win. “You can't dwell on the bad passes, you've got to go to the next play. (Owen) put all that stuff behind him when we had to have it and got it done.”
Owen went 6 of 7 in the second half to finish 6 of 14 with 128 yards and a touchdown. He added 64 rushing yards on 16 carries, often finding running room after keeping an option read with the defense focusing on Stringer.
“We showed that no matter what, if teams want to try and take (Stringer) away, we can make plays other ways,” Owen said. “He's our go-to guy, and he can always make people miss, but the opportunities came for me to run and throw it a little bit late and we got it done.”
Thursday night's game will be a rematch from the 2012 Class 3A title game, which Blanchard won 28-21.
“Kingfisher's a good team that we're going to have to really prepare for,” said Stringer, who scored the decisive touchdown in last year's win over Kingfisher. “Personally, I think we made too many mistakes (against Plainview). We're going to have to limit those. If we can do that, I think we can win it again.”
No. 1 Blanchard (13-0) vs. No. 2 Kingfisher (14-0)
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
Where: Boone Pickens Stadium, Stillwater
TV: FSOK (Cox 37/HD 722, Dish TBD, DirecTV 679, U-verse 754/1754)
Noteworthy: These two teams have seemingly been on a collision course for a rematch since last year's state championship game, a 28-21 Blanchard win. On paper, they're almost mirror images of each other as both rely on a star running back and stingy defense. This one has nail-biter written all over it.