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story.lead_photo.caption Fayetteville players dump water on coach Bill Blankenship after defeating North Little Rock on Dec. 2 to claim the 7A championship at War Memorial stadium in Little Rock. - Photo by Michael Woods

After a stellar career as a high school coach in Oklahoma and four seasons of mixed results on the collegiate level at Tulsa, Fayetteville Coach Bill Blankenship landed in the right place.

Fayetteville's 53-19 victory over North Little Rock in Class 7A state championship game at War Memorial Stadium came in Blankenship's first season with the Bulldogs.

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"This is an incredible pleasure, just to be a part of this," Blankenship said afterward.

Fayetteville started the season as the defending 7A state champion after winning the 2015 title under Daryl Patton, who resigned and is now the head coach at Bauxite.

North Little Rock Coach Jamie Mitchell took over the Charging Wildcats' program after the dismissal of Brad Bolding in 2015. He said he knows first-hand the challenge a coach faces when handed a program under such circumstances.

"He came in, took over a tough situation, and they didn't miss a beat," Mitchell said. "They played great football. They deserved to win. We made some mistakes, but those guys didn't, and on this stage and this platform, that's what wins.

"The kind of situation he came into is tough on your community, tough on your school. It's not easy, and to do what they've done is a great tribute to them and to their coach."

Fayetteville senior quarterback Taylor Powell, the game's most valuable player, said the Bulldogs recognized the quality of their new coach from the start.

"He made it a really easy transition," Powell said. "He was a great fit for what we have. Coach Blankenship is a heck of a coach and that obviously showed."

Blankenship has tasted success before. His teams at Tulsa Union won state championships in 2002, 2004, and 2005. During his 14 seasons as the school's head coach, Union compiled a 154-26 record and won eight consecutive district championships.

Blankenship became an assistant at Tulsa in 2007 and became the school's head coach in 2011. In its first season under Blankenship, Tulsa was 8-5 and advanced to the Armed Forces Bowl, which it lost to BYU, 24-21.

Tulsa was 11-3 in 2012, winning the Conference USA West Division championship. The Golden Hurricane capped the season with a 31-17 victory over Iowa State in the Liberty Bowl.

Despite his early success, Blankenship was fired after Tulsa finished a combined 5-19 the next two seasons. After a year out of football, Blankenship was hired to replace Patton as Fayetteville's head coach on June 7.

Blankenship, 59, said he had a lot to consider when Fayetteville made its offer.

"I just didn't know at first if it was what I wanted to do at this point in my life," Blankenship said. "I thought I could wait out another college opportunity, but the timing was just so bad to take a job in June after spring practice, after coaching staffs were intact.

"This is a great job, it just wasn't what I was looking for, but once we started having discussions, I knew this was definitely the right place and the right time."

Sports on 12/03/2016

Print Headline: Blankenship: Right place, right time

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