By Ron Holt
LANGSTON – It took nine offensive plays from the outset for Bixby’s unbeaten Spartans to seize the momentum and end the suspense in a Class 6AII state semifinal battle with Stillwater at Langston University’s W. E. Anderson Stadium here last Friday night.
Scoring 21 points in nine plays during its first three offensive possessions in the first quarter, Bixby continued attacking, scoring 27 second quarter points for a 48-6 halftime lead over second-ranked SHS. That was also the final score with the Spartans landing in a familiar spot – the Class 6AII state championship game.
Top-ranked Bixby (12-0) plays Deer Creek-Edmond (10-2) for the state championship in two weeks after the Antlers rallied past Sand Springs, 20-17, in the other state semifinal game last Friday at Yukon. “Getting a fast start and kind of taking them out of the game early was important. When we were able to score a couple of times quickly which took the wind out of their sails,” Bixby 12th-year head coach Loren Montgomery said afterward. “Our guys had a really good week of preparation.
“Everything was sloppy the second half with turnovers and penalties,” Montgomery added about the scoreless second half.
Bixby received the game’s opening kickoff. Two plays later Spartan senior quarterback Christian Burke fired a pass into the flat to junior Jake Snyder, who broke through SHS’s defense and won the race to the end zone from 61 yards for a TD and 7-0 Bixby lead at the 11:27 mark. It was a two-play, 59-yard drive in 29 seconds.
After stifling the Pioneer offense, Bixby took five plays to capture a 14-0 lead after quarterback Connor Kirby rambled 24 yards for a touchdown. A 21-yard pass from Burke to Beau Bertelli and a 14-yard dash by senior Braylin Presley highlighted the drive, which went 67 yards in five plays and took 2:51.
On the ensuing kickoff, Stillwater had problems picking up the pooch kick, which went out of bounds at the Pioneer 10. Bixby’s defense forced a punt with the Spartans taking over at its own 49.
Two plays later, junior running back Jersey Robb bolted through an opening and out-ran the Pioneers for a 41-yard TD and a 21-0 lead with 4:52 left in the first quarter. Bixby’s third possession went 51 yards in two plays and took 34 seconds.
“It’s always good to start fast and get the momentum and not have to play catchup. We got on them quick and tried to keep scoring and keep slowing them down,” said Snyder, who finished with five catches for 154 yards and one TD while also recording five tackles.
“I like to score but it’s whatever helps the team. We had a good week of practice … we just wanted to go 1-0 on the week. We wanted to keep the shut out, but six points is okay as long as we keep scoring.” Bixby’s lead ballooned to 28-0 with 8:01 left in the second quarter after a one-yard TD run by Presley, which was his 99th career touchdown. The drive was kept alive when Burke scrambled away from pressure on third-and-15 before finding Snyder for a 65-yard pass play to the Pioneer six.
Junior Dylan Hasz provided the next score as he fielded a punt by Stillwater’s Gage Gundy, broke an arm tackle and weaved his way toward the end zone completing a 59-yard punt return for a TD expanding Bixby’s advantage to 35-0 with 4:45 left before halftime.
“When I’m back there I’m always thinking it’s going back all the way,” said D. Hasz, who was credited with three punt returns for 61 yards and a TD along with three tackles and three pass defenses on defense. “Practice is a huge part of coming out strong at the start.”
Stillwater (9-3) avoided being blanked as Gundy, a junior, connected with Heston Thompson for a 53- yard TD pass at the 4:29 mark. Chase Edwards’ extra-point kick attempt was blocked by Snyder.
A 17-yard Pioneer punt set up Bixby’s final touchdown – a two-yard run by Robb with 31.9 seconds left for a 48-6 lead after the conversion kick failed.
Both offenses struggled in the second half fueled by penalties and turnovers. Bixby, which ended with 11 penalties for 105 yards, lost two fumbles and had a pass intercepted.
The Pioneers, who were flagged eight times for 65 yards, lost a fumble and had a pass picked off when Gundy was intercepted by Bixby junior Tyson Williams midway through the third quarter.
Bixby outgained the Pioneers 600 yards of total offense to 143, had 27 first downs to seven for SHS and outrushed SHS 324 yards to 36 yards. The Spartan defense also recorded six sacks.
Burke was 13-of-24 passing for 276 yards and one TD while Zack Blankenship rushed 13 times for 110 yards and Presley had 100 yards rushing on 13 attempts. Robb ended with 70 yards on seven carries and two TDs. Snyder’s five catches for 154 yards and one TD led the Spartan receivers while senior Preston Solomon had one grab for 52 yards.
Junior Luke Hasz had three catches for 36 yards, including a big time, leaping takeaway from Pioneer defender Julius Talley for 12 yards late in the first quarter.
“I had a guy on me, but I just went up and got it. My hands felt good all week so I knew if the ball came my way I would catch it,” L. Hasz said. “Our offensive coordinator knows how to get us open … I play all over the field. It makes it hard for defenses to stop us.”
Defensively, senior linebacker Jack Puckett paced Bixby with seven tackles, five unassisted, and four tackles for loss. Defensive back Cale Fugate had six tackles, three solos, while Miles Hill, Caleb Rogers and Rodrigo Romero each had five tackles. Hill had two tackles for loss.
Puckett and M. Hill each had two sacks while Preston Solomon and Connor Stacy each were credited with a sack. Through 12 games, Bixby’s defense has recorded 49 sacks.
Bixby now prepares for its normal pre-state finals routine, which includes a practice session Thanksgiving morning, usually watched for former Spartans.
“We’re excited because we’ve been in this position before and we know what to expect … we’ll have another good week of practice and be ready to go,” said D. Hasz.
“This never gets old,” said a smiling Snyder.
NEXT GAME – Bixby advances to its eighth straight Class 6AII state championship game on Thursday, Dec. 2, against Deer Creek-Edmond, starting at 7 p.m. at the University of Central Oklahoma’s Wantland Stadium in Edmond.
It’s a rare meeting between the two programs. Deer Creek left Class 4A for Class 5A in 2008 and moved up from Class 5A to Class 6AII in 2016. Since moving to 6AII, the Antlers went 2-8 (2016), 4-6 (2017), 4-6 (2018), 5-5 (2019) and 4-6 (2020).
Deer Creek, coached by Wade Standley, made its first 6AII playoff appearance in 2020 and will play in its first 6AII state championship game against the Spartans.
This season, Deer Creek won at Edmond North (35-7), rolled over Southmoore (44-0), won at Yukon (35- 14), lost to Stillwater (35-28 in overtime), won at Putnam City North (38-13), routed Northwest Classen (70-0), won at Midwest City (23-6), lost to Del City (35-28, overtime), won at Lawton (67-20), blitzed U.
- Grant (65-7) and stunned Choctaw (36-29) on the road in last week’s state quarterfinals.
“I don’t think we’ve ever played Deer Creek so this should be fun,” coach Montgomery said. NOTABLES – Bixby captured its 48th straight victory, tying the 11-man state record set by Wagoner in 2014-17. … The Spartans were ranked No. 19 nationally by both MaxPreps and USA Today. … Bixby senior defensive end Miles Hill had his No. 25 jersey torn in the first half and had to replace it. Hill played the remainder of the game wearing No. 19. … Stillwater’s Gundy was nine-of-27 passing for 108 yards and one TD while leading rusher Holden Thompson was limited to 16 yards on 13 attempts. Heston Thompson ended with four pass receptions for 73 yards and a TD. … The win was Bixby’s eighth in nine meetings with the Pioneers and the sixth straight win. BHS has beaten Stillwater in five playoff meetings since 2014. … Spartan junior Joshua Newkirk recovered a Stillwater fumble. … Bixby is averaging 60.9 points per game while allowing only 10.8 points per outing. … Offensively, Bixby’s Burke has passed for 2,834 yards and 34 TDs this season. He’s completing .688 percent of his pass attempts. Presley is the rushing leader with 947 yards and 14 TDs, averaging 10 yards a carry, while Kirby has 738 yards rushing and a team-leading 19 rushing TDs. Presley leads the receivers with 50 catches for 612 yards and seven TDs while Snyder has 572 receiving yards and seven scores and Solomon has 494 yards and six TDs. … Defensively, J. Puckett tops the Spartans with 96 total tackles with 21 tackles for loss; Stacy has 72
tackles and 13 TFLs and Fugate has 53 tackles and Bertelli 51. Hill has 48 tackles and a team-high 23 TFL’s. Puckett has 12 sacks and M. Hill has 11.5 sacks.
NON-DISTRICT – Spartan non-district opponents remaining in the playoffs continued winning last week as Jenks (11-1) downed Mustang, 17-10, to reach the Class 6AI state finals opposite Union while Mansfield (Texas) Timberview (7-4) topped previously-unbeaten Ennis, 42-21.