By Dan Stillwell
Jason Blankenship is right where he’s always wanted to be — the new head football coach at his alma mater, Oak Hill High School.
“It’s a dream come true to coach where I lived and grew up,” Blankenship said Monday, a few hours after learning the Fayette County Board of Education had named him to replace the retiring Eddie Souk.
“I’ve been an assistant coach in football, track and basketball,” he said. “I thought it was time for me to lead these young men myself.”
Blankenship, a 2003 graduate, was a two-time first-team all-state linebacker for the Jim Martin-led Red Devils. He then played four seasons at linebacker and on special teams under Greg Quick at Concord University.
After getting his degree as a physical education and health education teacher, he returned to Oak Hill, and then Mount Hope, as an assistant coach.
When Mount Hope closed, Souk took the reins at Oak Hill, and Blankenship followed him and became defensive coordinator.
“I told the administration when I was interviewed that I’ve played and coached under some great coaches and picked from things they’ve taught me,” Blankenship said.
“Coach Martin is an old-school guy. The thing I learned from him is how important the weight room is in the offseason. He was always there, staying as late as he needed to.
“Coach Quick was great at teaching life lessons, more than just football He helped turn me from a teenager into a man that could be successful.
“Coach Souk taught me how to get young men excited about football. The kids always wanted to play for him. He was hard on them, but they responded.”
Oak Hill went 7-3 and 8-2 the past two seasons, claiming berths in the Class AAA playoffs.
“We’ve had two real good seasons. We lost kids, but others stepped up and filled spots,” Blankenship said. “We lose 12 to 15 seniors. That’s 48 out of 54 touchdowns, and nine out of 11 starters on the offense.”
Quarterback Deonte Scruggs and tight end Joey Re return, however, and the defense will be solid around outside linebackers Re and Jacob Lafferty, defensive end Antwon Smith and stellar free safety Antonio Gray.
“They’re the leaders on defense and they’re coming back,” Blankenship said.
While he is certainly defensive-oriented, he looks forward to working with the offense as well.
“To be a good defensive coach, you have to know about offense,” he said. “I think we can come up with something on offense that will be productive.”
Blankenship is currently assistant basketball coach at Fayetteville High School. He teaches weightlifting and drivers education at Oak Hill.
“I’d just like to say I’m very thankful for my parents’ and sisters’ support over the years,” he said.
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