Defense Sparks Bixby's 14-12 State Semifinal Win
11.18.17 by Ron Holt
EDMOND - If Bixby High reached a fourth consecutive Class 6AII State Championship game, the Spartans' defense was expected to play a significant role against an explosive opposing offense.

Bixby's defense survived the challenge thanks to numerous big plays and stops as the Spartans turned back second-ranked Midwest City, 14-12, in a Class 6AII state semifinal game at wind-swept Central Oklahoma's Wantland Field here last Saturday afternoon.

The three-time defending Class 6AII state champion Spartans (8-4) and district rival Booker T. Washington (11-1) battle for the gold ball at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 1, at Jenks' Allan Trimble Stadium. Top-ranked Washington routed Lawton, 50-12, in Saturday's other semifinal game at UCO.

Midwest City, which ends its season at 10-2, featured a solid defensive unit but the Bombers' offense had posed problems for opposing defenses all season, passing and running the ball. MWC was averaging 40 points a game and scored 60-plus points twice this season.
The 12 points the Bombers scored against Bixby were a season low.

"We were hyped up, but we were controlled and disciplined we were ready to play," said talented senior middle linebacker Coby Tillman, who led the impressive defensive effort. "They're a great offense and they came out hitting but we just gave it back to them. We said going into the game that we weren't going to get run on. I'm proud of my teammates.

"I feel our defense played as a team. We were doing our job, every guy on the field was performing," added Tillman, who was credited with eight tackles and consistently pressured Bomber quarterback Preston Colbert. "We should have been playing like this the whole season but we do kick it up during the playoffs."

Midwest City was limited to 76 rushing yards on 25 attempts and finished with 172 yards passing while turning the ball over three times.
After a scoreless first quarter in the defensive battle, Bixby took a 7-0 lead after a two-yard touchdown run by senior Tucker Pawley, who ran for 148 yards on 36 attempts. Reis Vernon's kicked the conversion.

Pawley's score capped a nine-play, 60-yard drive that featured a 23-yard pass play from quarterback Staton King to Eric Calton-Watkins on third-and-nine.

On the ensuing kickoff, Midwest City's Caleb Collins fumbled and Bixby's Cade Cavender recovered at the Bombers' 33-yard line.

A 17-yard TD pass from King to sophomore Brennan Presley with 9:03 left before halftime increased the Spartan lead to 14-0. On the third down scoring play, Presley slipped down as he finished the route, jumped up to catch the ball while being grabbed by Midwest City's DeClaudio Irvin. Presley slipped out of the tackle and raced into the end zone.

Late in the second quarter, King fumbled while being sacked and the Bombers recovered. But, on Midwest City's first play after the turnover, Colbert was intercepted by senior Colton Tafoya to regain the momentum.

Colbert entered the game with 3,057 passing yards and 34 touchdowns while being intercepted only twice. Tafoya's theft and an interception near the Spartan goal by Ryan Kerr to thwart the Bombers' first serious scoring attempt matched Colbert's season total.

"I knew they were going to throw something short trying to get the yardage they needed," said Tafoya. "When they threw it, I saw the receiver go down and I just picked it off. I'm proud of our defense and our team. We had a lot of adversity through the year and came through it."

The momentum began to shift to Midwest City's sideline early in the fourth quarter when a
Bomber defender pulled the ball loose from King forcing a fumble, which was recovered by Jordan Jones at the Spartans' 21-yard line.

On the next play, Colbert passed to Juwan Walker, who split the defense en route to a 21-yard touchdown. An illegal substitution penalty on the Bombers may have contributed to the missed extra point kick by Elliot Janish, leaving Bixby holding a 14-6 lead.

Midwest City's defense then forced a three-and-out and its offense went on an 11-play, 80-yard drive to trim the deficit to 14-12 with 5:45 left in the game after a 26-yard TD pass from Colbert to Irvin. The Bombers' two-point conversion run by Colbert never had a chance as he was smothered by Spartan defenders.

The Bombers' final chance to win the game came with 1:41 left. But, after failing to move the ball on the first three attempts, a fourth down pass by Colbert was tipped away by Presley. The Spartans ran out the clock to secure the win.

"Those guys were great and it was something seeing them coming up on things that we had worked on like the throw-back screen they tried late," Spartan head coach Loren Montgomery said of the defense. "I'm really proud of our defense, especially on that last defensive stop.

"We opened up the game running the ball really well but they did a good job holding us down," he said. "Our guys have been really good in the playoffs we have good intensity in practices and in games.

"Anytime you can go play for a state championship it's special."

NEXT GAME - The Bixby-Booker T. Washington championship game matchup will be a first since the Class 6A split. The two are familiar with each other since they compete in Class 6AII, District 2. In an earlier meeting this season, Washington scored 15 first quarter points and added six early in the second stanza for a 21-0 victory.
The Hornets' dominating defense limited the Spartans to 115 total offensive yards while forcing two turnovers.

NOTABLES - Offensively, Bixby was led by King, who passed for 91 yards on nine-of-16 attempts, Watkins, who had four receptions for 49 yards, and Presley's three pass receptions for 27 yards and a TD. Midwest City was paced by Colbert's 172-yard, two-touchdown passing performance while Walker caught nine passes for 129 yards. Presley and Cavender had touchdown-saving tackles on lengthy Bomber pass plays. On Midwest City's final scoring drive the Bombers converted three third down plays and one fourth-and-11.