GUTHRIE — Guthrie football coach Rafe Watkins was tasked with the challenge of taking down Class 5A power Carl Albert when he was hired by the Bluejays 13 years ago.
Four championships later, there might be another challenge on the horizon.
On Tuesday, Watkins was announced as a finalist for the head coaching vacancy at Broken Arrow along with current Tigers running backs coach David Alexander. If he gets the job, Watkins will be tasked with taking down Class 6A powers Jenks and Tulsa Union.
“I look at it as whenever we all got here at Guthrie, everybody was looking at Carl Albert,” Watkins said. “They had four in a row and won that first year we were here. But by no means am I trying to compare it; that's comparing apples and oranges.
“They are trying to do everything possible. The Broken Arrow district is willing to make it appealing enough that they want to do the very best to give the coaches every opportunity to compete with the Jenks and Unions, which you and I both know takes a lot more than facilities and money. It takes a commitment, not just with the kids but with the community.”
Broken Arrow went 10-3 this season, with each loss coming to Jenks or Union. The Redskins actually beat Broken Arrow twice, including the Class 6A semifinals just before former coach Steve Spavital resigned due to health concerns.
That opened the door for Watkins and others to apply.
A release from the school said nearly 50 people applied for the job, and 15 were interviewed by a committee. An official announcement on the final decision is expected Feb. 10, though a source told The Oklahoman that a decision is expected to be reached next week.
Broken Arrow Superintendent Dr. Jarod Mendenhall is expected to meet with Watkins and Alexander next week to make the final decision.
“I appreciate the work of the interview committee, and I am eager to meet with both of these gentlemen,” Mendenhall said in the release. “One of them will be our next head football coach, and so I am excited to have a conversation with them and learn about their plans for our football program.”
Watkins, who was The Oklahoman's Big All-City Coach of the Year this season, has been extremely successful at Guthrie, missing the playoffs just once.
It's also a place Watkins said he would be happy to remain as coach and co-athletic director.
“The main thing is it's a great honor to be considered in this,” he said. “If I get the job, that would a wonderful honor as well. If not, I have a great job here at Guthrie. It's a win-win situation right now for me.”
When asked why he is applying now at Broken Arrow, Watkins admitted he wasn't sure, other than it's a good opportunity.
Ironically, both Watkins and Alexander have been under fire from the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association.
Watkins was suspended eight games in 2011 for playing a player ruled ineligible. He missed the playoffs and games into the 2012 season.
Alexander was suspended alongside Jenks coach Allan Trimble in 2009 following multiple violations that dated back to 1998. Alexander was reinstated alongside Trimble eight months later by the OSSAA.
Before his Jenks tenure, Alexander was the Tulsa Talons' head coach. He also played 10 years in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Jets. He played collegiately at the University of Tulsa and is a Broken Arrow graduate.
Some consider Alexander the favorite to land the job. Watkins said either way, Broken Arrow is moving in the right direction.
“If I'm here (at Guthrie), I'm tickled to death,” Watkins said. “But that is something that is out there that provides opportunities to do well. I think with that commitment the school has talked about, that whoever gets this job is going to certainly have every opportunity to make it a great job.”