By Ron Holt
All three phases of the game enjoyed time in the spotlight as Bixby’s unbeaten and top-ranked Spartans celebrated Senior Night with a 56-14 romp past Muskogee in a Class 6AII-District 2 game last Friday night at Lee Snider Stadium.
Bixby, which won its 44th straight game, improved to 7-0 overall and sits atop the district with a 4-0 mark. Muskogee dipped to 2-7 and 2-3.
Offensively, Bixby produced 504 total yards. The balanced attack featured 230 yards passing and 274 yards rushing. Defensively, the Spartans limited the Roughers to 282 total yards while intercepting three passes – all in the first half by junior defensive back Jakeb Snyder – and special teams got into the act by blocking a punt which was returned for a touchdown.
“I thought we played well. Offensively, I thought we had a real good game. In the first half I thought we executed really well and had a lot of different players touch the ball,” said 12th-year Spartan head coach Loren Montgomery. “The defense also played well, and we got to play a lot of seniors.
“We’ve got some good twos (reserves) … that’s pretty much all we played the second half,” he added. “They’re developing and it’s good for them to get some reps.”
Snyder set up Bixby’s first score by intercepting Muskogee freshman quarterback Jamarian Ficklin early in the first quarter. Snyder fumbled the ball, but teammate Dylan Hasz recovered to maintain possession.
Three plays later, Spartan senior quarterback Christian Burke passed to senior running back Braylin Presley, who displayed an assortment of moves topped off by blazing speed to complete the 56-yard TD with 10:27 showing in the first frame. Bixby’s two-point conversion pass failed.
A 17-yard Muskogee punt set up the Spartans next score which featured a 53-yard dash by quarterback Connor Kirby, who later bulled into the end zone from a yard out. Connor Noland’s conversion kick gave BHS a 13-0 lead with 9:01 showing.
Bixby’s third drive ended in a 14-yard TD pass play from Burke to senior Beau Bertelli and a two-point conversion run by Kirby extending the lead to 21-0 with 3:45 left in the opening frame.
Midway through that drive, Bixby’s Presley suffered a leg injury after a two-yard run up the middle. He was assisted off the field at the 5:26 mark and didn’t return. He was held out as a precaution.
Bertelli blocked a Muskogee punt by Skyleer Onebear deep in Roughers’ territory that teammate Preston Solomon secured to score from five yards out. Noland’s point-after made it 28-0 with 2:34 left in the first quarter.
The Spartans kept their feet on the pedal in the second quarter, scoring on a 14-yard run by senior Zach Blankenship, an eight-yard pass play from Burke to D. Hasz and a 38-yard TD strike from backup quarterback Camden McCrary to Solomon for the Spartans’ 49-0 halftime lead.
“We prepared for them just like any other team, we just executed really well,” said Bixby senior offensive lineman Josh Stephens. “You can’t complain about a 56-14 score on Senior Night. The O line is close, we’ve all known each other since we were kids so the bonding between us is good.
“Senior Night kind of snuck up on us, it’s gone by fast. But now I’m looking forward to going to state,” he added.
Snyder had a half of football to remember, intercepting three passes – his first of the season. “I was just trying to get into position. I watched a lot of film, so I knew sometimes what was coming. I tried to wait, read it and make sure I didn’t drop it … I wanted to make sure I made the play,” Snyder said.
Muskogee’s Deshawn Smith broke the Roughers’ scoring drought, returning a pass interception 50 yards for a touchdown. Onebear’s point-after kick cut the deficit to 49-7 early in the third quarter.
An 11-yard TD pass from McCrary to Sam McCormick handed Bixby a 56-7 lead going into the fourth quarter.
“It was really special,” McCrary said of throwing his second and third TD passes this season. “Sam is one of my closest friends and it was good to connect with Preston, too” McCrary said afterward. “I think we’re improving every week. We’ve had good practices … everyone is ready to come in when needed. I practice every week like I’m going to start.”
Burke was 11 of 14 passing for 143 yards and three touchdowns. McCrary was seven of nine passing for 76 yards and two scores while being picked off once while Kirby connected on both of his pass attempts for 11 yards.
Kirby was the rushing leader, gaining 88 yards on eight carries while Blankenship added 69 yards on nine attempts. Presley caught two passes for 58 yards while Solomon had two grabs for 43 yards. Twelve Spartans caught passes in the game.
“The guys are doing what we’re asking of them,” said Bixby’s offensive coordinator Tyler Schneider. “They are practicing really well. Christian does a really good job and he’s extremely coachable,” Schneider said. “His standards are pretty high and our standards at that position are high so he’s doing a great job. Whatever we see on Friday night he corrects the next week.
“I think we’ve zeroed in on what players are going to play and in what positions. It just takes a little time,” Schneider added.
Bixby’s defense bent but never broke in the first half against the Roughers. The Spartans limited Muskogee to 51 rushing yards on 21 carries during the game, averaging 2.4 yards per rush.
“We’re working at getting better every week and playing as physical as we can … we’re doing our job,” said Bixby senior defensive lineman Brayden Darrell, who ended with three tackles, one for a loss. “This season has gone by really fast. It seems like just the other day it was the first game with Mansfield.
“I’m just trying to be the best player I can. Personally, I feel I’ve improved a lot … I’ve just got to keep grinding.”
NEXT GAME – Bixby closes the regular season with a two-game road swing starting Friday (Oct. 29) at Ponca City. The Wildcats of head coach Scott Harmon fell to 3-5 overall and 2-3 in the league after suffering a 41-10 setback at Booker T. Washington (7-1, 4-1) last Friday night.
Bixby defeated Ponca City at Lee Snider Stadium in 2020 (59-0) and 2019 (49-3) while toppling the Wildcats (57-20) at Ponca City in 2018.
“Ponca City is well coached. They’ll play hard and they’ll try to slow the game down. We’ll need to have another good week of practice,” Coach Montgomery said.
This season, Ponca lost at Enid (6-0), defeated Tulsa McLain (37-0), lost to Ardmore (28-18), lost at Sand Springs (30-13), lost to Choctaw (36-0), won at Putnam West (43-6) and defeated Bartlesville (34-7).
DEFENSIVE LEADERS – Several Spartans contributed defensively against Muskogee. Senior linebacker Caleb Rogers and sophomore linebacker Hank Puckett each were credited with six tackles.
Senior linebacker Connor Stacy and junior defensive back Joshua Newkirk each had five tackles.
Senior linebackers Jack Puckett and Beau Bertelli each had four tackles while Snyder intercepted three passes and ended with three tackles, all solos.
- Puckett recorded a sack to give him a team-leading eight sacks this season. Senior defensive end Miles Hill also recorded a sack to raise his season total to seven. This season, Bixby has recorded 35.5 sacks and eight interceptions.
SPECIAL TEAM – Bixby continues receiving solid special team play this season. Senior punter/kicker Connor Noland is into his second season handling kicks for BHS. Rodrigo Romero returns as the holder on place kicks while senior Jake Prox is handling snapping duties.
“They are all seniors, and they do a great job,” said Trevor Suffal, Bixby’s assistant coach and special team coordinator. “They stay after practice to work. And they do a great job of staying focused … there’s not many issues there.
“They had great guys to follow in the program and now guys under them are seeing how it’s done,” coach Suffal added.
This season, Noland averages 37.4 yards on 12 punts, has hit on 51 of 54 extra-point kicks and is two of two on field goal attempts, the longest being 37 yards. In 2020, Noland averaged 37.3 yards on 29 punts, was 66 of 67 on extra point kicks and hit three of four field goal attempts, including what proved to be a game-winning 29-yard field goal in the 17-14 win over Choctaw in the Class 6AII state championship.
Prior to Noland taking over, Bixby featured punter/kicker Reis Vernon, who currently punts for the University of Kansas. Noland admits learning techniques from Vernon.
“I spent a year on the football team under Reis, he taught me everything I know. I didn’t do any football until my sophomore year … I was always a soccer player. Reis and I have the same story,” Noland said. “I didn’t really feel any pressure taking over for him … we have a great team and coaching staff that helped me make my own way.
“I feel like I’m a lot stronger and kicking the ball farther and that I’m more consistent this season. It’s been great and it’s hard to think about not having football. I’ve gotten used to it … it’s been nice,” he added.
NOTEBOOK – The Spartans were ranked No. 19 nationally in USA Today’s poll and No. 20 nationally in MaxPreps poll. … Bixby starters Luke Hasz and Jersey Robb sat out the Muskogee game as precaution for injuries. … Entering the Muskogee game, junior Joshua Newkirk had returned one punt for eight yards. Against Muskogee, he returned two kicks for 40 yards. … Bixby quarterbacks have been consistent this season. Starter Christian Burke (1,937 yards and 25 TDs) is completing .711 per cent of his passes. Cameron McCrary (206 yards and three TDs) has completed .706 per cent of his passes while Conner Kirby (126 yards) has completed .765 per cent of his pass attempts. …Muskogee was paced by freshman quarterback Ficklin, who was 21 of 43 passing for 225 yards and one TD while junior Jayden Bell caught seven passes for 89 yards.
DISTRICT TWO – In other district games last Friday, Bartlesville (2-6, 1-4) rolled 41-19 at Putnam City West (0-8, 0-5) and Choctaw (6-2, 4-1) held on for a 41-28 win at Sand Springs (5-3, 2-3).
District games scheduled Friday (Oct. 29) include Sand Springs at Bartlesville, Muskogee at Booker T. Washington and Choctaw at Putnam City West.
NON-DISTRICT FOES – Mansfield (Texas) Timberview (4-4) won 56-23 at Seguin. Timberview lost at Aledo 35-21 last Friday, Oct. 15. Jenks (7-1) riddled Yukon 48-14 and Stillwater (6-2) blanked Northwest Classen 70-0.