By Ron Holt
The atmosphere is the same, the setting is familiar, but the opponent is unfamiliar as Bixby’s unbeaten and top-ranked Spartans finalize two weeks of preparation for the Class 6AII State Championship game scheduled Thursday, Dec. 2, in Edmond.
Bixby (12-0) challenges Deer Creek-Edmond (10-2) at University of Central Oklahoma’s Chad Richison Stadium in search of its seventh Class 6AII state championship in the past eight seasons. It will be the Spartans’ last appearance in the Class 6AII title game because of the move to Class 6AI in 2022.
Coach Loren Montgomery’s Spartans, winners of the past three Class 6AII state titles, have dominated this season behind an explosive offense and aggressive defense. Solid practice preparation and unwavering focus for every opponent has been a strength for Bixby, which has won 48 consecutive games, tying the state 11-man record.
Deer Creek-Edmond also had one of its most successful seasons in making its first appearance in the Class 6AII state title game. The Antlers of head coach Wade Standley finished third in 6AII-District 1, suffering overtime losses to district champion Del City and league runner-up Stillwater. Both losses were by 35-28 and both were on the Antlers’ home turf.
“Deer Creek is a sound, well-coached team that is playing with a lot of confidence,” said Coach Montgomery, who in his 12th season led the Spartans to the 6AII-District 2 crown with a 7-0 record. “Their only two losses were in overtime. It’s kind of unique to be playing against someone new.”
Deer Creek, winners of its past four games, is on a roll in the playoffs. The Antlers knocked off last year’s state runner-up Choctaw, 36-20, in the state quarterfinal on the road and capitalized on a late 13-play drive to turn back improved Sand Springs, 20-17, in the state semifinal at Yukon.
Defensively, the Antlers have made key plays when needed and are strengthened by the move of 6-6, 305-pound senior offensive lineman Jacob Sexton – an Oklahoma commitment – to nose guard in recent weeks.
“He’s a big athletic kid, he’s not just a big kid. Playing him at nose guard is probably a strength for them,” said Bixby’s 11th-year offensive coordinator Tyler Schneider. “They do some things on defense that’s a little different from what we’ve seen so having an extra week helps us adjust to those wrinkles. “They are on a roll … we told the kids that they haven’t lost a game in four quarters. They had double digit leads when they lost those games in overtime. They could easily be an undefeated team.
“A week off in some ways helps but in other ways its annoying. It’s hard to keep the kids locked in when they don’t have a game, but these kids do a good job of staying locked in. Having an extra week helps with the normal bumps and bruises you get in a long season,” Schneider added. “We should be at full strength.”
Deer Creek’s 6-4, 180-pound senior quarterback Brett Pense, who led the 13-play, game-winning drive against Sand Springs, threw a touchdown pass to Berkley Dalton with less than two minutes left for the deciding points. This season, he’s passed for 2,234 yards and 28 touchdowns while being intercepted three times. He’s also rushed for 221 yards and seven TDs.
Deontaye Wilson, a 5-18, 175-pound junior, is DC’s rushing leader with 959 yards and 10 TDs while Michael Holley, a 5-7, 165-pound senior, has 31 pass receptions for 457 yards and six TDs, Dalton has 27 grabs for 367 yards and five TDs and Gavin Smith, a 6-2, 175-pound senior, has 17 receptions for 304 yards and five TDs.
The Antlers average 40.75 points a game while allowing 15.25 points an outing. DC averages 194.8 passing yards a game and 159.3 rushing yards a game.
“They’ve got some really good skill guys and some big offensive linemen that do a good job getting their running game going,” Bixby’s 10th-year defensive coordinator Rodney Flowers said of the Antlers. “Their receiving group has about four to six kids there and their quarterback has been throwing the ball well.
“They are really athletic and like to up-tempo and run some gimmick plays at times. They had the 13-play drive (against Sand Springs) which was a big drive for them. They made a lot of critical catches when they needed to make plays. They are very confident and disciplined,” Flowers added.
“In past years we’ve had to play a team twice and it’s hard to beat a team twice no matter how good they are so it’s good playing a team we haven’t faced before. We’ve got a good group of guys and we’re pretty deep at most positions … we’re going to utilize those guys and get after them.
“You never know the identity a team will take. We’ve done a pretty good job with the run game and as our offense gets up on teams they start throwing more and our guys in the back end have done a nice job
… coach (Chris) Cole and coach (Michael) Nelson do a good job with those guys.”
Bixby and Deer Creek have common opponents this season as the Spartans defeated Stillwater twice, Choctaw and Putnam City North. Deer Creek lost to Stillwater while defeating Choctaw and Putnam North.
Bixby’s offense has been led by senior running back Braylin Presley, an Oklahoma State commitment. Despite missing a game and seeing limited second half playing time often this season, Presley has 947 rushing yards on 95 carries and has scored 14 rushing TDs while averaging 10 yards a carry.
He also has 50 pass receptions for 632 yards and seven scores. He has amassed 1,724 all-purpose yards this season. Presley, who has 99 career touchdowns and needs 100 yards in the final game to become the Spartans leading rusher, tops BHS in scoring with 22 touchdowns and 132 points.
Bixby senior quarterback Christian Burke has 2,834 yards passing and 34 touchdowns this season while being intercepted four times. The Spartans’ rushing attack also features quarterback Connor Kirby, who has rushed for 738 yards and 19 TDs.
Junior Jakeb Snyder has 33 pass receptions for 572 yards and seven TDs while Preston Solomon has 14 receptions for 494 yards and six TDs and Luke Hasz has 31 receptions for 406 yards and two TDs.
Bixby has featured a balanced defensive attack led by senior linebacker Jack Puckett, who has 96 total tackles and 21 tackles for loss. Linebacker Connor Stacy has 72 total tackles and 13 tackles for loss while senior defensive end Miles Hill, who leads the team with 23 tackles for loss, has 48 total stops. Defensive back Cale Fugate has 53 total tackles.
Since the formation of Class 6AII, Bixby has won six of seven state titles, finishing runner-up in 2017. In 2014, Bixby defeated Lawton (35-21), the Spartans defeated Sand Springs (38-28) in 2015, defeated Lawton (39-31) in 2016, downed Stillwater (34-13) in 2018, beat Stillwater (40-36) in 2019 and downed Choctaw (17-14) in 2020. Short-handed Bixby lost to Booker T. Washington (28-21) in 2017.
SPARTANS SCOREBOARD – This season Bixby defeated Mansfield (Texas) Timberview (69-14), won at Jenks (23-15), defeated Stillwater (42-14), won at Bartlesville (71-0), beat Putnam City West (81- 6), won at Choctaw (70-7), defeated Sand Springs (58-14), downed Muskogee (56-14), won at Ponca City (66-13), won at Booker T. Washington (69-20), defeated Putnam City North (78-7, state quarterfinal) and defeated Stillwater (48-6, state semifinals, Langston).
ANTLERS SCOREBOARD – This season Deer Creek defeated Edmond North (35-7), beat Southmoore (44-0), won at Yukon (35-14), lost at home to Stillwater (35-28, overtime), won at Putnam North (38-13), defeated Northwest Classen (70-0), won at Midwest City (23-6), lost at home to Del City (35-28, OT), won at Lawton (67-20), beat U. S. Grant (65-7), won at Choctaw (36-20, state quarterfinal) and defeated Sand Springs (20-17, state semifinals, Yukon).
NOTABLES – The game will be broadcast by The Sports Animal, FM 97.1, in Tulsa with Shawn Tiemann providing play-by-play commentary with Mark Wozniak working as the color commentator. … Bixby is the home team at the Class 6AII state championship Thursday and will sit on the press box side of the stadium. It’s the first time Bixby has been the home team in Edmond. … The top-ranked Spartans are ranked No. 19 nationally by MaxPreps and USA Today. … Deer Creek will be seeking its second state championship. The Antlers defeated Seminole, 24-13, to win the Class 3A state crown in 2000. … Bixby’s non-district opponent Mansfield (Texas) Timberview ended its season at 8-5 after a 24-20 Class 5A Division II, Region II semifinal loss to Lovejoy last Friday night. Also, Spartan non-district foe Jenks plays Union for the Class 6AI state crown at 1 p.m. Saturday at UCO.
THANKSGIVING PRACTICE – In recent seasons, Bixby’s football staff invites former players to attend the annual Thanksgiving morning practice at Lee Snider Stadium. Despite the weather, numerous former Spartans attend to show support to the current Spartans. Such was the case last week.
After the hour-long practice, the former players introduced themselves while former Spartan hard-running tailback Nic Roller, a star on two Bixby state championship teams, spoke to the squad.
“Probably in 2015 or 2016 we started inviting the alumni to the Thanksgiving practice and it’s been
awesome,” said Coach Montgomery. “We had a good group of alumni here and I was super glad Nic was able to speak to the team … he’s a man of few words but he did a great job.”