By Ron Holt
PONCA CITY – In between an early glitch and finishing with 13 penalties, Bixby’s top-ranked Spartans dominated on both sides of the ball in romping to a 66-13 Class 6AII-District 2 victory over Ponca City at Sullins Stadium here last Friday night.
Bixby (9-0, 6-0) positioned itself for an outright district championship when the Spartans visit explosive Booker T. Washington (8-1, 5-1) in the regular season finale next Friday (Nov. 5). The Hornets whipped Muskogee, 54-21, last Friday to enter the district showdown with Bixby motivated by a five-game winning streak.
It will be a Class 6AII feature game and could impact the 6AII-2 standings as Washington and Choctaw are each 5-1 in league play trailing the unbeaten Spartans.
The Spartans got off to a shocking start against Ponca City. A quick pass by quarterback Christian Burke was almost intercepted but dropped.
After urging from Wildcat coaches, senior Devin Zimmerschied scooped up what was determined to be a lateral and returned the fumble 30 yards for a touchdown and 6-0 lead – after the conversion kick bounced off the left upright – with 9:35 showing in the first quarter.
Being behind for the first time this season didn’t last long. By the time Ponca City scored its final touchdown with 7:12 left in the fourth quarter Bixby had scored 59 consecutive points to remain unbeaten in the short series with the Wildcats.
Bixby played without standout senior running back Braylin Presley, who was held out with a leg injury as a precaution and is expected to return for the regular season finale. The Spartans relied on a variety of other offensive weapons to impressively pick up the slack, wasting little time seizing the momentum.
Junior Jakeb Snyder caught a pass from Burke near the sideline and impressively stepped inside the pylon for a 28-yard touchdown. Connor Noland’s conversion kick gave BHS a 7-6 lead with 7:58 left in the opening frame.
It was a successful outing for Snyder, who also rushed twice for 19 yards – his first rushing attempts this season – and finished with three tackles, one unassisted, in limited playing time.
“It was fun, I like playing running back. I only got two plays, but it was fun. The beginning of the game was slow. I’m not pleased with that, but we finished strong and got the win,” said Snyder, who has scored five TDs this season. “We’ll go to work on Booker T. which will be another big game.”
Junior quarterback Connor Kirby ran one-yard for a TD while Burke connected with Cale Fugate on a 51- yard TD bomb as the Spartans expanded the lead to 22-6 after one quarter.
Senior Zack Blankenship, who started at running back in place of Presley, scored on a two-yard run early in the second quarter before Burke caught fire, hitting senior Beau Bertelli for a 27-yard TD and found senior Preston Solomon for a 28-yard TD giving Bixby a 43-6 lead with 1:31 left before halftime.
Bixby’s defense got into the scoring act with 35 seconds left when Ponca City quarterback Tay Moore couldn’t handle a bad snap. Spartan senior Connor Stacy alertly scooped up the ball and returned it 15 yards for a TD and 50-6 Spartan lead.
“It felt great, I don’t think I’ve scored since my sophomore year when I played running back,” said Stacy, who also finished with two solo tackles in one half of play. “I think they had a bad snap, my hole opened up and the ball was there, so I picked it up and ran.
“I thought we played great for the most part, but they did a good job slowing the game down. I still think we gave them too many penalties, something we’ve been doing lately.”
Bixby’s defense also contributed to the next score as senior Caleb Rogers tackled Wildcat running back Blake Bristow in the end for a safety and 52-6 Spartan lead with 6:23 left in the third quarter. The lead grew to 59-6 with 58 seconds left in the third period when senior quarterback Camden McCrary and junior receiver Joshua Newkirk combined for a 15-yard TD pass.
Ponca City’s Moore passed 21 yards to Jabron Stanton for a touchdown and Cayden Anderson kicked the conversion making it a 59-13 game with 7:12 remaining. Bixby’s Adian Hill, a hard-running senior
reserve tailback, bolted 20 yards to the end zone and Levi Hoffman kicked the conversion to end the scoring with 3:43 left.
“This is a tough place to come play but I thought the overall execution was good,” said Spartan head
coach Loren Montgomery. “We got the ball in a lot of guys hands. We had a bunch of penalties we’ve got to clean up but other than that I’m pleased with the way we played.
“Jake (Snyder) did a good job with the ball in his hand, Zach had an excellent game, we got the ball to Beau and Cale and Solomon had a big catch. We distributed the ball really well and I thought the defense played well, too.”
Bixby’s domination was evidenced in the final statistics. The Spartans ended with 605 total offensive yards while limiting Ponca City to 60 yards. The Wildcats had six total offensive yards in the first half. Burke continued effectively throwing the ball, especially the deep ball. He was 13 for 17 passing for 239 yards and four TDs, all in the first half.
“We’ve got a lot of dudes, we just try to get the ball to them,” Burke said of the balanced attack. “We felt pretty comfortable tonight … we had a few mistakes, but I think we did pretty good.
“Throwing that deep ball to Preston, that’s something I’ve gotten comfortable with right now,” he said. Hill capitalized on his running opportunities, leading the Spartans’ ground attack with a career high 138 yards and a TD. Kirby had 72 yards rushing and Blankenship ended with 63 yards. Nine Spartans carried the ball.
Fugate topped the receiving squad – which featured 12 players catching passes – with two receptions for 65 yards and a TD.
NEXT GAME – Bixby visits Booker T. Washington at S. E. Williams Stadium Friday, Nov. 5, starting at 7 p.m. The Spartans carry a three-game winning streak over the Hornets, winning at home in 2020 (70- 21), on the road in 2019 (31-0) and at home in 2018 (21-7).
Washington, led this season by Oklahoma commit Gentry Williams and quarterback Lathan Boone, defeated Bixby twice in 2017 – 21-0 during a regular season road game and 28-21 in the Class 6AII state championship game at Jenks. The Hornets defeated Bixby 28-0 at home in 2016 but lost at Bixby 52-7 in 2015.
This season, the Hornets won at Southmoore (51-7), at Del City (39-26) and at home against Edison (62- 14) in non-district games. Washington lost the district opener at Choctaw (29-20), won at home against Bartlesville (63-0), won at Sand Springs (37-31) and won back-to-back home games against Putnam West (61-6) and Ponca City (41-10) prior to hosting Muskogee.
“There are doing a good job, the quarterback is distributing the ball well,” coach Montgomery said of the Hornets. “And they always play good defense.”
Bixby’s defense will be tested against the prolific Hornet offense, led by Boone, a 6-2, 180-pound junior quarterback. In the 54-21 home victory over Muskogee last week, Boone was 29 for 34 passing for 331 yards and seven touchdowns. He also ran 26 yards for a TD.
Ethan Washington, a senior, led the Hornets in rushing against Muskogee with 78 yards while senior D. J. McKinney caught eight passes for 119 yards and three scores. Washington’s defense – led by 5-11, 190- pound junior middle linebacker Aiden Walker – intercepted three Muskogee passes while recovering three fumbles.
“We know they are a great team. We’re going to work real hard just like we did Choctaw week, we’re going to practice great. We’ll be ready to go,” said Stacy.
DEFENSIVE LEADERS – Senior linebackers Jack Puckett and Beau Bertelli led Bixby’s balanced defensive effort with six tackles each. Puckett had four solo tackles and one tackle for a loss while Bertelli had two solo stops and two tackles for loss.
Cale Fugate, Rodrigo Romero and Caleb Rogers each were credited with four tackles as numerous young Spartans played most of the second half.
VETERAN LINEBACKERS – Bixby has relied on the talent and experience among its linebacking group this season.
Senior Jack Puckett leads Bixby in tackles with 75 total, 38 unassisted. He has 13 tackles for loss, eight sacks and has been credited with 11 hurries. Senior Connor Stacy has 57 total stops, 34 solos, and four sacks. He has 11 tackles for loss, one interception, five hurries and one fumble return for a TD.
Senior Beau Bertelli has 39 total tackles, 14 unassisted, five tackles for loss, two interceptions and six hurries while senior Preston Solomon has 31 total tackles, 14 solos, five tackles for loss, one sack and 11 hurries.
“They are seniors and are smart players, they do their jobs,” said Brian Douglas, Bixby’s 13th-year assistant coach, who coaches linebackers. “Their expectations are high … they understand the standard, they stay on track.
“They are still coachable, if they make a mistake, they take the criticism. I’m very lucky to get to coach those guys. Connor was an outside backer who moved inside which was an easy transition because he’s a smart kid. They have been with us since they were young and with me coaching eighth grade as well it helped me get to know them. Those guys have played together for so long.
“We’ll need them to play well next week. Booker T. is going to be tough. They are very fast and they’re well coached. They’ve gotten better … obviously we’ve got to be locked in next week,” Douglas added. NOTABLES – Bixby ran its winning streak to 45 consecutive games in the Ponca City win. … The Spartans were ranked No. 20 nationally by MaxPreps… With a win at Tulsa Washington, the Spartans would capture their fourth straight Class 6AII-District 2 championship. Since the Class 6A split in 2014, Bixby won a district title in 2014, finished fourth in 2015 and second in the league in 2016 and 2017. In winning district titles in 2018-2020, Bixby has a 19-0 record (two less district games played in Covid- plagued 2020 season). … Bixby ended the game with a season-high 13 penalties for 130 yards while Ponca City was flagged 11 times for 90 yards. Ironically, it’s Bixby’s most penalties since being flagged 17 times for 200 yards Oct. 5, 2018, at Ponca City. The Wildcats had nine penalties for 105 yards in that game, won by Bixby 57-20. … Bixby’s 11th-year offensive coordinator Tyler Schneider was named Teacher of the Year at Bixby’s Alternative Center.
DISTRICT TWO – In other District 2 play last Friday, Sand Springs won 41-20 at Bartlesville and Putnam City West dropped a 60-20 decision at Choctaw.
In regular season final games Nov. 5, Ponca City (3-6, 2-4) visits Muskogee (2-7, 2-4), Putnam West (0-
9, 0-6) goes to Sand Springs (6-3, 3-3) and Choctaw (7-2, 5-1) journeys to Bartlesville (2-7, 1-5). NON-DISTRICT FOES – In action last Friday involving Bixby’s non-district opponents, Mansfield (Texas) Timberview (5-4) rolled at Cleburne, 56-15; Jenks (8-1) blanked Edmond Memorial, 44-0, at home and Midwest City fell at Stillwater (7-2), 50-0, last Thursday.