By Ron Holt
Bolting out of the starting gate was unbeaten Bixby’s objective entering the Class 6AII state playoffs last Friday night at windswept Lee Snider Stadium. Mission accomplished.
With senior Braylin Presley returning the opening kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown, Bixby erupted for an astonishing 44 first quarter points in coasting to a 78-7 victory over visiting Putnam City North in a state quarterfinal game.
The top-ranked Spartans (11-0) advance to the 6AII state semifinals against fifth-ranked Stillwater (9-2) on Friday (Nov. 19) at Langston University’s W. E. Anderson Stadium. The Pioneers edged third-ranked Tulsa Washington, 35-26, in a home quarterfinal game last Friday.
Bixby was sharp from the outset – capitalizing on a prolific offense, smothering defense and opportunistic special team play, which included a blocked punt – in settling the issue early. The Spartans led 65-0 at halftime, limiting the eighth-ranked Panthers (5-6) to minus six yards of total offense, minus 22 yards rushing and one first down.
Following Presley’s stunning, untouched TD return, the Spartans followed with touchdown runs of one and 15 yards by senior quarterback Christian Burke, a 30-yard TD burst by Connor Kirby and an 11-yard TD scamper by Presley. It was Burke’s first rushing touchdowns this season.
The first quarter explosion ended on senior Miles Hill’s impressive 66-yard TD run on an end-around play with six seconds left in the stanza. The play was a recent addition to Bixby’s bulky offensive playbook.
“We had that package put in on Monday during our wide receivers’ meeting. The coach (assistant Austin Embrey) let me know I was in that package. I focused all week so I would be able to execute it,” said Hill, a two-way standout. “We haven’t played our best football yet so one thing we really focused on this week was that we needed to set the tone.
“It’s bittersweet to win on our last game at home but I’m focusing on getting to the state championship. But I think it’s great to win during my last varsity game here and score my first touchdown on offense. I will not forget this one,” added Hill.
Bixby’s onslaught continued in the second quarter as Presley ran 11 yards for a TD and caught a one-yard TD pass from Burke, junior Jersey Robb ran five yards for a score and Burke connected with junior Jakeb Snyder for a 35-yard TD with 45 seconds left before halftime. It was Snyder’s sixth TD reception this season.
Putnam North put together its only sustained drive early in the third quarter culminating in a three-yard TD run by Camarion Jones and an extra point kick by Diego Otero.
Bixby final points came on an 18-yard TD run senior Aidan Hill and a one-yard dash to paydirt by quarterback Camden McCrary. Senior Connor Nolan converted seven extra-point kicks while Levi Hoffman added a conversion kick.
“I thought we started really well beginning with that kickoff,” Spartan head coach Loren Montgomery said afterward. “We had some big special teams play with the kickoff and the blocked punt. I thought we played well in all phases of the game.
“I don’t think we’ve ever scored 44 points in a quarter before, that might be a record. We’ve got a lot of really good football players who play really hard. We’re starting to get healthy and hopefully we’ll build some momentum going into the next games,” Montgomery added.
Bixby, which removed the starters in the second half, finished with 529 total offensive yards – 157 passing and 372 rushing. The Spartans averaged 11.3 yards per offensive play and played turnover-free ball.
Burke passed for 124 yards and two touchdowns, completing six-of-12 pass attempts. Presley and A. Hill each rushed six times for 82 yards as 10 Spartans had rushing attempts. Snyder’s three pass receptions for 54 yards and a TD paced BHS receivers. Presley ended with 279 all-purpose yards.
“We always like for the O line to come out with a lot of energy and to keep that energy throughout … coach (assistant Corbin Burchett) always says it starts with us,” said Ian Lonsdale, a 5-11, 240-pound senior offensive lineman.
“It’s sad and bittersweet that this was our last home game because I’ve been playing since first grade. I feel like I’ve improved, I’ve definitely gotten a lot stronger, and my decision making has also improved. This was a good way to go out, but we’ve got to keep our eyes on the main goal,” Lonsdale added.
Bixby’s defense played with intensity and focus in limiting the Panthers to 102 yards of offense. The Spartans also finished with four sacks for 26 yards in loss while Putnam North averaged 2.4 yards per offensive play.
“No matter how much we are favored we put in the work every week to get better. We have a standard we want to live up to,” said senior linebacker Jack Puckett, who finished with six tackles, three unassisted, three tackles for loss and a sack.
“Our job isn’t finished so I’m not going to let my emotions get to me right now about this being my last game here. At some point it’ll hit me … I hope it’s two games from now. For right now I get to come here and practice on Monday,” added Puckett, who leads Bixby in tackles with 89.
Jersey Robb, a junior linebacker, led Bixby in tackles with seven total tackles, including five unassisted stops. He was credited with three tackles for loss. Senior Preston Solomon had five tackles and a sack. This was the final time Bixby’s seniors will play at Lee Snider Stadium. It was emotional for some players, but most put their emotions on hold until this season ends.
“I’ve played here since I was in the third grade and it’s all kinda hitting me right now,” senior running back-linebacker Zack Blankenship said. “It’s personal for me. This is my last game here and I’m going to miss it. I’m going to college to wrestle, so I won’t play football any more after this season ends.”
NEXT GAME – Bixby and Stillwater will play for the second time this season when the two battle in the Class 6AII state semifinals, renewing a playoff rivalry in recent seasons.
In a non-district, early season game Bixby knocked off the Pioneers, 42-14, at Lee Snider Stadium. After a scoreless first quarter in that game, Bixby outscored the Pioneers, 28-7, for the first half lead. The Spartans compiled 606 offensive yards while limiting Stillwater to 260 yards.
Presley ran for three TDs and caught a TD pass against the Pioneers. He finished with 233 rushing yards on 16 carries.
Stillwater, the No. 2 seed in District 1, pulled away late from Tulsa Washington, which ended with three turnovers, to advance to the semifinals. Sophomore Holden Thompson paced the Pioneers by scoring three touchdowns. He rushed 30 times for 185 yards while junior quarterback Gage Gundy rushed 24 times for 74 yards and passed for 79 yards.
The Pioneers are riding a six-game winning streak entering the semifinal battle while recording shut outs in the final three regular season games.
“Stillwater always plays good defense, they had three shut outs in a row before tonight, and they are hitting a stride on offense. They’ll be a much-improved team,” coach Montgomery said of SHS.
This season, Stillwater won at Edmond Santa Fe (30-20), defeated Mustang (33-28), lost at Bixby, won at Deer Creek-Edmond (35-28 in overtime), lost at home to Del City (30-7), won at U. S. Grant (56-6), won at home against Lawton (49-13), won at Northwest Classen (70-0), won at home against Midwest City (50-0) and won at Putnam North (28-0) in the regular season finale.
ROBB RETURNS – After missing much of the season with an injury, junior running back-linebacker Jersey Robb has returned to the lineup in past weeks. He appeared closer to 100 percent against the Panthers, leading the Spartans in tackles with seven total tackles while rushing twice for seven yards, including a five-yard TD.
“I feel great … it’s great to be back. It was awful sitting out but I feel good now,” Robb said. NOTEBOOK – With the Putnam North victory, Bixby ran its winning streak to 47 straight games. … The Spartans were ranked No. 19 nationally by MaxPreps and USA Today. … Bixby and Stillwater have played seven times in recent seasons with the Spartans winning six times including the regular season game this season. In 2019, Bixby beat SHS 40-36 in the 6AII state championship while the Spartans defeated SHS 34-13 in the 2018 state finals. In 2017, Bixby won 41-14 in the state quarterfinals and BHS
captured a 61-28 state quarterfinal win in 2014. Stillwater nudged the Spartans 31-23 in a 2011 regular season game while Bixby won 55-28 in a regular season meeting in 2010. The Spartans made the move from Class 5A to Class 6A in 2009. … Stillwater was designated the home team in the state semifinals at Langston. … Despite not starting, Bixby’s 5-9, 175-pound senior running back Aidan Hill makes the most of his opportunities to carry the ball as he did against Putnam North. He had six rush attempts for 82 yards and scored from 18 yards out. “I just try to stay ready, but I love seeing all my friends go out and do good all the time,” A. Hill said. “I feel like I’m much improved … they do a great job here getting you ready. It’s sad that this was our last game here but I’m ready to get the state championship. We’re not the best yet, we’ve got more to do.” This season, A. Hill has 569 rushing yards on 76 carries and three TDs. 6AII PLAYOFFS – In other Class 6AII state quarterfinal games last Friday, Deer Creek-Edmond stunned Choctaw, 36-29, on the road while District 1 champion Del City fell 21-17 at home to Sand Springs.
While Bixby-Stillwater play in one state semifinal game at Langston University, Sand Springs tests Deer Creek in the other semifinal at Yukon High’s stadium.
NON-DISTRICT FOES – Other Bixby non-district opponents were successful in state playoff openers last Friday night. Jenks (10-1) defeated Norman North 41-14 and Mansfield (Texas) Timberview (7-4) routed Kimball 72-13.