By Ron Holt
After impressively rolling through the regular season schedule unbeaten, Bixby’s No. 1-ranked Spartans realize the stakes are elevated beginning Friday (Nov. 17) during the Class 6A-I state quarterfinals at Lee Snider Field. It’s the time of the season when teams aspire to survive and advance.
Bixby, 10-0 and winners of 71 of its last 72 games, drew a first-round bye last week but attempts to keep alive its goal of winning the program’s ninth state championship – and sixth state title in a row – when the Spartans host the No. 8 Norman Tigers (5-6), starting at 7 p.m. Friday’s battle will be the first between Bixby and Norman High.
Norman, led by seventh-year head coach Rocky Martin, advanced to the quarterfinal after a strong defensive effort late allowed the Tigers to hold off Broken Arrow 21-18 in last Thursday’s state first-round game at Norman’s Harve Collins Field. The surging Tigers have won three of their last four games.
Trailing 21-18, Broken Arrow received an opportunity to either tie or win the game after a short Norman punt gave BA the ball at the NHS 46-yard line with eight minutes left in the game. Norman’s defense, however, stopped BA on fourth down at the NHS 37 with 4:14 left in the game and maintained possession the remainder of the game to secure the playoff win.
Norman jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead behind Kamran Donald’s 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown followed by BJ Randle’s 31-yard scoring reception from quarterback Phoenix Murphy. Broken Arrow got on the scoreboard later in the first quarter thanks to a 76-yard TD run by BA quarterback Cooper Bates.
NHS scored the decisive touchdown early in the fourth quarter on a two-yard TD run by 5-9, 170-pound senior running back Devin Alexander. The Tigers’ defense withstood several challenges by Broken Arrow to preserve the win.
This season, Norman junior quarterback Phoenix Murphy has passed for 1,719 yards and 17 TDs while being intercepted eight times. Alexander has rushed the ball 201 times for 1,190 yards and 12 TD’s. He’s had five 100-plus yard games this season.
Dax Noles, a 6-0, 185-pound senior linebacker-running back has been a playmaker on both sides of the ball for the Tigers. Offensively, he’s gained 93 yards on 28 carries while scoring twice while running the wildcat offense. He’s also caught 21 passes for 432 yards and six TDs.
Defensively, Noles is credited with 103 total tackles, 56 unassisted. He has three tackles for loss, three pass interceptions and a fumble recovery.
Broken Arrow outgained Norman 439-298 but two turnovers, nine penalties and big plays by the host Tigers were too much to overcome.
“Norman is playing with a lot of confidence,” Spartan head coach Loren Montgomery said. “They have a very elusive quarterback (Murphy) who extends plays and can both run and find receivers when he scrambles.
“Defensively, they are multiple and have excellent players at nose guard, safety and corner. They are a good team as evidenced by their win over BA on Thursday,” he added.
The Tigers’ win over Broken Arrow last week was their first playoff victory since a 38-13 win over Yukon in 2012.
‘D’ EFFORT – Bixby featured numerous outstanding defensive performances in the regular season finale victory at Jenks, led by senior linebacker Cooper Parker, who was credited with 14 tackles, 11 unassisted, two tackles for loss and a sack.
Senior linebacker Hank Puckett ended with eight total tackles, including six solo stops while senior Colton Kaiser recorded seven tackles. Senior Clay Peters had six tackles, including one solo while senior Chase Kirby had five tackles, all unassisted.
Senior defensive linemen Justin Kirk and Brandon Hobbs each had four total tackles, Kirk had three unassisted tackles and a quarterback hurry while Hobbs had two unassisted stops and recovered a fumble. Senior defensive back Kordell Gouldsby intercepted a Jenks pass, giving him three interceptions this season.
Through 10 games, Puckett paces the Spartan defense with 88 total tackles, 50 solo stops, and 10 tackles for loss. Kaiser has 61total tackles, 25 unassisted, and one tackle for loss while Parker has 60 total tackles, 41 unassisted, and eight tackles for loss. Kirk had 38 tackles, 19 unassisted, and six tackles for loss.
Senior linebacker Jett Turner and senior defensive tackle Kason Hatley each have 29 total tackles. Turner has 13 solo stops and 12 tackles for loss while Hatley has 12 unassisted tackles and 10 tackles for loss.
Through 10 games, Bixby’s defense has recorded 31 sacks, 76 tackles for loss, 19 pass interceptions and three blocked punts.
‘O’ OUTLOOK – Through the regular season – sparked by a solid offensive line effort – Bixby’s dynamic offense is averaging 261.4 passing yards per game with 37 touchdowns. The Spartans are averaging 224.3 rushing yards per game with 35 TDs. Bixby is averaging 61.1 points per game while allowing 10.4 points per game.
Sophomore quarterback Carson Kirby has passed for 1,937 yards and 29 touchdowns while being intercepted five times. He’s averaging .728 of his pass attempts. Senior Jett Turner paces the balanced ground attack with 614 yards on 78 attempts while scoring 10 touchdowns. He averages 7.9 yards per carry.
Sophomore tight end Cord Nolan tops a talented receiving group with 15 catches for 523 yards and five TDs while senior Garrett Vaughn has 32 receptions for 464 yards and seven scores. Junior Blake Hogshooter has been a recent scoring threat. He has 14 pass receptions for 284 yards and seven touchdowns.
Senior Kordell Gouldsby leads the Spartans in all-purpose yards with 957 total yards. He’s scored nine touchdowns this season – three rushing, three pass receiving and three on punt returns.
NOTES – In other Class 6A-I quarterfinal games Friday, Norman North (9-2) visits Owasso (8-2), Tulsa Union (10-0) hosts Westmoore (6-5) and Jenks (6-4) hosts Edmond Santa Fe (7-3). Bixby played four of the state quarterfinalists this season, defeating Owasso, Norman North, Westmoore and Jenks. The Spartans play the Norman North-Owasso winner in the state semifinals at a site to be determined. … Bixby was ranked No. 41 nationally this week by MaxPreps. … Historically, Norman has captured five state championships, winning crowns in 1907, 1908, 1911, 1961 and 1992. … Bixby and Norman have three common opponents – Norman North, Moore, Owasso and Broken Arrow. The Tigers lost at Norman North (21-0), at home to Moore (43-42 and at home against Owasso (49-18) before winning in the state opener against Broken Arrow. Bixby, meanwhile, defeated Owasso (42-16) in the Battle of the Burbs at the University of Tulsa, rolled to a 60-2 home win over Norman North, won 51-7 at Broken Arrow and routed Moore 68-5 at home. … Friday’s game will be broadcast over The Sports Animal, 97.1FM, with Shawn Tiemann handling play-by-play and Mark Wozniak providing color commentary.
BHS SCOREBOARD – Bixby’s 2023 Results (home team boldfaced): Bixby 42, Owasso 16 (at TU); Bixby 75, Springdale (Arkansas) Har-Ber 18; Bixby 61, Sand Springs 7; Bixby 60, Norman North 2; Bixby 66, Southmoore 0; Bixby 79, Enid 7; Bixby 51, Broken Arrow 7; Bixby 78, Westmoore 28; Bixby 68, Moore 5; Bixby 31, Jenks 14.
NHS SCOREBOARD – Norman High’s 2023 Results: Norman North 21, Norman High 0; Moore 43, Norman 42; Stillwater 28, Norman 6; Norman 34, Edmond North 28; Moore 44, Edmond Memorial 43; Tulsa Union 65, Norman 0; Edmond Santa Fe 52, Norman 48; Norman 27, Mustang 19; Norman 63, Yukon 21; Owasso 49, Norman 18; Norman 21, Broken Arrow 18.