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This championship game will have different meaning for Varryl Franklin

For all that Franklin has seen and one as a coach at Millwood, Thursday night will be something different. He'll be in the stands as his son, his only child, coaches the Millwood football team.
by Jenni Carlson Published: December 18, 2013

Pops will sit near the tip top of the bleachers, his regular roost regardless of the stadium, and watch his son in the high school state championship football game Thursday night.

It will be a proud moment.

The same could be said of any parent who will watch a son playing for a state title in Moore or Stillwater or Cache. But none of those folks are quite like Pops.

That's what his son calls him.

Millwood folks call him Chop.

You can call him the man who's won more state titles than any other basketball coach in Oklahoma history. Varryl Franklin has coached boys basketball at Millwood for so long that it's hard to imagine anyone else doing so. Along the way, his teams have won 13 state titles.

But for all that he has seen and done, Thursday night will be something different. He'll be in the stands as his son, his only child, coaches Millwood. Darwin Franklin, in his first year as the Falcons' head coach, will try to lead the always-powerful program to its first state football title since 2006.

“It's been a little different,” Pops said of game nights this season. “I'd be lying if I said it didn't (feel different).

“That's yours out there.”

And he knows how well his son wants to do.

Darwin, after all, has been around Millwood since childhood. He would tag along to basketball practice with Pops. Football practice, too.

Pops, after all, was also a football coach. He spent three decades as an assistant coaching the Millwood linemen. That's where he got the nickname Chop; he was forever telling his linemen to move their feet quickly.

“Chop! Chop! Chop!” he would bark.

Darwin played at Millwood for his dad. And Leodies Robinson. And Don Willis. And so many other great coaches. Maybe it was only a matter of time before he got into coaching, though his Pops hoped for something different.

Darwin was talented in math and statistics. Perhaps he would be an engineer.

“Coaching?” his dad said. “Oh, Lord.”

Pops laughed.

“I thought he was a little smarter than me.”

But the son followed in the father's footsteps, coaching at Washington High in Kansas City, Kan., before reuniting with Willis at Lakeview High in Garland, Texas. They moved back to Oklahoma City last year when Willis took the head coaching job at Centennial, where Darwin was the offensive coordinator and assistant head coach.

Then, the Millwood job came open. That was always a dream, to come home.

But still, being a head coach at the school where the expectations are already lofty and your dad is a coaching legend?

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by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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