By Ron Holt
Top-ranked Bixby and surging Del City are riding momentum waves entering a Class 6AII state quarterfinal game Friday, Nov. 20, at the Spartans’ Lee Snider Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
Bixby, 8-0 and winners of the past two Class 6AII state championships, received a bye last week while fast-starting Del City (4-5) knocked off Ponca City, 41-7, in a home play-in game. The Eagles led 28-0 after one quarter and 41-0 at halftime.
The Spartans, riding a 33-game winning streak, closed out the regular season – disrupted by the coronavirus – with an impressive 70-21 home victory over Booker T. Washington two weeks ago. The victory was one of the more complete performances this season.
Del City, coached by Mike Dunn, lost its first five games before regrouping to carry a four-game winning streak into the state quarterfinal battle. The Eagles had several close contests this season, losing at Booker T. Washington (15-13), at home to Carl Albert (21-14), at home against Stillwater (48-27), at Midwest City (19-10) and at home against Putnam City North (10-6).
The Eagles finished the regular season by defeating Deer Creek (28-14) at home, winning at U. S. Grant (47-8) and downing Lawton (35-22) at home before the play-in win over Ponca City.
There is some familiarity between the two teams which met in last year’s state semifinal game in Putnam City. The Spartans used a strong second quarter eruption in rolling past the athletic Eagles, 47-19, to play in the Class 6AII title game for the sixth straight season.
“Del City is good. They have four or five guys with power 5 offers. They are very talented,” Bixby head coach Loren Montgomery said of the Eagles. “We talk about playing our best football going into the playoffs.
“The win over Booker T gives us some momentum and confidence going into the playoffs. In the playoffs there are no second chances … you have to win or it’s over,” he added.
While having to replace the majority of graduating senior receivers along with several linemen, the Spartans offense continued rolling this season behind senior three-year starting quarterback Mason Williams and junior running back Braylin Presley.
The offense progressed nicely during the season, turning in outstanding efforts in victories over the likes of Tulsa Union (34-0), Jenks (42-35), Class 5A’s top-ranked Carl Albert (56-14) and Booker T. Washington in the regular season finale which secured the District 2 championship.
Williams enters the playoffs after passing for 2,068 yards and 23 touchdowns. He’s been intercepted four times. He’s averaging 258.5 yards per game and is completing .683 per cent of his passes. Presley tops Bixby’s ground attack with 1,129 yards on 137 carries. He’ scored 18 TDs and has had five 100-yard plus games. He’s averaging 141.1 rushing yards a game.
Through eight games, Bixby – as a team – has 1,900 rushing yards and 32 TDs along with 2,116 passing yards and 23 TDs.
Presley also is Bixby’s top receiver, catching 45 passes for 584 yards and eight scores. Sophomore Luke Hasz has 28 receptions for 652 yards and eight TDs while sophomore Jakeb Snyder has 17 catches for 285 yards and three scores.
Senior Jackson Rogers has 17 receptions for 198 yards and three TDs while sophomore Cale Fugate has 10 catches for 162 yards.
“We’ve got a lot of guys coming on and playing their best ball,” said Bixby’s 10th-year offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Tyler Schneider. “Caleb Townsend is playing outstanding on the line along with several others and Braylin has been unreal. He’s doing a great job. Mason is playing as good at quarterback right now as I’ve ever seen from a high school player.
“We have a lot of guys doing a lot of good things and I think that goes back to emphasis on practices. I think our guys are doing a good job of being a good practice team. It’s better than we could have imagined … I’m proud of them,” he added.
Bixby’s defense has also improved throughout the season, highlighted by a season opening shut out of Tulsa Union, denying Jenks late, a goal line stand to turn back Choctaw in a tight district contest and shutting out Booker T. Washington in the second half after giving up 21 first half points in the regular season finale.
Senior defensive back Tanner Doyle leads the Spartans in tackles with 72 total stops, 32 unassisted, while intercepting one pass. Linebacker Beau Bertelli is credited with 58 total tackles, 38 solos; linebacker Jack Puckett has 56 tackles with 11 tackles for loss; linebacker Nick Wedel has 55 total tackles, 27 unassisted, and six tackles for losses.
In addition, Connor Stacy and Devonta Owens each have 40 total tackles while Owens has one interception. Defensive back Dylan Hasz has 39 tackles and a team-leading three pass interceptions while defensive back Snyder has 33 total tackles. Seniors Macqeilen Ware and Ethan Watkins and junior Ky Roller have played well in the defensive line.
NEXT GAME – If Bixby wins the quarterfinal game with Del City it advances to a semifinal battle against the Midwest City-Booker T. Washington quarterfinal winner on Friday, Nov. 27, at a location and time to be determined.
PLAYOFFS – In other Class 6AII play-in game results last Friday, Midwest City blanked Muskogee (39-0), Tulsa Washington routed visiting Lawton (56-14) and Putnam North eliminated Bartlesville (31-6) while Sand Springs held off visiting Deer Creek-Edmond (34-29) Saturday afternoon. … Second-ranked and unbeaten Stillwater, which received a bye, hosts Sand Springs in a state quarterfinal game Friday while Choctaw, which also received a bye, entertains Putnam North.
LAST MEETING – In last season’s semifinal win over Del City, Bixby took an early 17-7 first quarter lead before outscoring the Eagles 23-6 in the second stanza for a 40-13 first half lead. BHS ended with 521 yards of total offense while Del City totaled 372 total yards. Quarterback Mason Williams was 20-of-27 passing for 271 yards and three TD’s in that game while Braylin Presley rushed 15 times for 211 yards and three scores. Brennan Presley had nine receptions for 79 yards and two TDs while Luke Creeger added three catches for 86 yards and one score. Reis Vernon kicked a 25-yard field goal and safety Trevon Holt tackled Del City’s punter in the end zone for a safety. … Graduated Eagle quarterback Quinlan Ganther passed for two TDs and ran for another in the game.
SPECIALISTS – Entering the 2020 season, Bixby’s special teams had to replace deep snapper Trevon Holt, holder Grant Dishman and punter/kicker Reis Vernon. Holt and Vernon handled their assignments for three seasons while Vernon is currently a freshman punter at the University of Kansas.
Stepping into those roles this season are deep snapper Caden Hurt, a 5-9, 150-pound sophomore; holder Rigo Romero, a 6-0, 163-pound junior, and punter/kicker Connor Nolan, a 5-11, 161-pound junior. It’s been a smooth transition.
“All three have done a fantastic job. I think that snapping/holding/kicking is a very specialized process that often gets overlook,” said Bixby’s third-year assistant coach Trevor Suffal, who is the special team coordinator. “These guys spend quite a bit of time after practice perfecting their craft and they have done a great job so far this year.
“I feel like each of them has gotten more confident as we move through the season. As the season progresses these reps become more and more important and these guys continue to work hard and get better each week.”
Through eight games, Nolan is averaging 35.7 yards per punt with three coming to rest inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. He’s also 50-for-50 on extra-point kicks while converting two of three field attempts. He’s scored 56 points this season.
Nolan has also steadily improved on kickoff attempts as several kickoffs have landed near the opponent’s goal line. Kickoff and kickoff return teams are also another crucial element in Bixby’s special team effort.
“We spend more time on kickoff than probably any other special teams,” Suffal added. “I track our special team performance each week. I feel our performance on kickoff has been above average. Our goal is to have the opposing team start their drive inside the 25-yard line. We have exceeded that goal about 70 per cent of the time this year.