By Ron Holt
Having a week off after earning a first-round bye in the Class 6A-I state football playoffs apparently had an energizing effect on Bixby’s unbeaten and top-ranked Spartans.
The spirited, aggressive and excited Spartans’ time of possession in the first half of last Friday’s state quarterfinal game against the Norman Tigers at Lee Snider Field was six minutes and 49 seconds.
During that first half span, the Spartans scored 59 points, scoring early, often and in a variety of ways to lead the Tigers – whose time of possession in the opening half was 17 minutes and six seconds – 59-0 at halftime.
Bixby (11-0), playing its final home game this season, rested the starters on both sides of the ball in the second half as the Spartans secured a 59-20 victory over Norman (5-7) while advancing to the Class 6A-I state semifinals for the second time in its second season in the state’s largest classification.
The Spartans earned a rematch with the Owasso Rams (9-2) in the semifinals, scheduled at 1 p.m. Friday (Nov. 24) at Sand Springs’ Memorial Stadium. In the other Class 6A-I semifinal at Sand Springs, Tulsa Union (10-1) plays Jenks (7-4) at 7 p.m.
While penalties remain an issue with the Spartans and there’s room for improvement in several areas, 14th-year Bixby head coach Loren Montgomery was pleased with the productive start.
“Two weeks is a long time … I think our guys were ready to get back on the field,” Montgomery said. “We came out and got after it quickly and I was proud of the guys for that, but it was still a little sloppy and there are some areas we’ve got to clean up. We’re lucky we have another week to work on some things.
“They (Norman) have big play capabilities, but our defense came out and got us field position right off the bat and we were able to execute and score quickly. We did some good things on defense. We got after their quarterback, and we contested some balls in the air like we want our corners to do,” he added.
The game’s scenario was set on each team’s opening possession. Norman had the ball first but tackles for loss by Spartan linebacker Cooper Parker and defensive lineman Justin Kirk helped push the Tigers into fourth-and-18. A 25-yard Tiger punt gave Bixby the ball at the NHS 37.
Bixby responded with a 22-yard run by senior Jett Turner, a 13-yard pass from sophomore Carson Kirby to senior Kordell Gouldsby to the Tiger two-yard line where Turner scored uncontested with 9:31 showing in the first stanza. Troy Nyugen’s kicked the conversion for a 7-0 lead.
Norman’s Devin Alexander fumbled the ensuing kickoff and the Spartans’ Brooks Dixon recovered at the Tigers’ 14-yard line. Two plays later, Kirby scrambled away from pressure before firing a 17-yard touchdown pass to Blake Hogshooter at the 8:24 mark. Parker ran for the two-point conversion, giving BHS a 15-0 lead.
Norman went on a 10-play drive, highlighted by a seven-yard first down run by senior Dax Noles on a fourth down fake punt at Norman’ s 27-yard line to keep the drive alive.
The drive stalled three plays later and Tiger quarterback Phoenix Murphy’s punt was returned 70 yards for a touchdown by Gouldsby, a senior receiver-defensive back. Sophomore Cord Nolan caught a two-point conversion pass from senior Chase Kirby, extending Bixby’s advantage to 23-0 with 4:03 left in the first quarter.
‘Honestly, I do feel like I have a chance to score every time I catch a punt. If I don’t take it to the house, it’s disappointing for me,” said Gouldsby, who recorded his fourth punt return for a touchdown this season. “But I have to rely on my guys to block and a lot of the credit goes to our coaches putting us in those situations.
“Our defense opens things up for our offense,” added Gouldsby, who has also scored four rushing TDs and caught four TD passes this season. “It makes us a lot more comfortable knowing that we don’t have to put up 70 points a game because our defense is able to hold people down. I always feel pretty good about our defense.”
The next time Bixby touched the ball it went on another three-play drive, ending in an impressive 37-yard touchdown pass from Kirby to senior receiver-defensive back Yetxiel Perez with 24 seconds left in the first stanza. Nyugen’s point-after kick gave BHS a 30-0 lead.
“We had built up excitement for the game, we knew they were wanting us … this was a very personal game,” said Perez, a move-in this season from the Houston, Texas area. “The playoffs are an exciting time.
“We made it to the third round two years in a row at my school in Texas but it’s nothing like here. The atmosphere here is crazy. I love the fans … it’s a great community to be around,” he added.
On the Spartans’ defensive effort, Perez said, “Everyone thinks our defense is a weak link and the DBs in particular but they’ve been coaching us every single day, going hard on us only because they want the best for us.
“We went into the game knowing they were going to test us, so we just had to show them what we’ve got … we took it personal,” he said.
The Spartans kept applying pressure offensively and defensively in the second quarter, scoring on a well executed 20-yard pass from Kirby to senior Garrett Vaughn, who returned to the lineup after missing last week’s game because of illness. Parker passed to Nolan for the two-point conversion and 38-0 Bixby lead with 8:01 left in the second quarter.
On its next possession, Bixby’s Gouldsby scored on a one-yard run and Nyugen kicked the conversion for a 45-0 lead with 5:11 before halftime. The drive featured a 31-yard pass play from Kirby to Hogshooter, who made the reception in a crowd near the goal line.
Kirby connected with Gouldsby for a 42-yard TD pass with 2:36 left in the first half, ending Bixby’s next possession, which took only four plays.
Senior Sam McCormick’s jumped a short pass by Norman sophomore quarterback Crew Noles for a pass interception, giving Bixby the ball at the Tigers’ 42-yard line with 15.3 seconds left. A 36-yard pass from Kirby to Hogshooter took the ball to the Tiger six where Parker fired a jump pass to Nolan for a touchdown with 5.4 seconds remaining in the opening half. Nyugen kicked the conversion for the 59-0 halftime lead.
Spartan reserves and junior varsity players played the second half as Norman’s starters capitalized as C. Noles scored on a 22-yard run in the third quarter and the Tigers had two fourth quarter scores – a four-yard TD pass from C. Noles to Port Hartsock and a five-yard TD pass from C. Noles to D. Noles.
“It was nice getting the younger players in there in the second half,” coach Montgomery said. “I wish those guys had looked a little better, but it is a luxury to have some guys who know what we’re doing … it was good for those younger JV guys to get some playoff experience.”
Despite 13 penalties for 106 yards, the Spartans were sharp offensively, finishing with zero turnovers. Bixby ended with 360 yards of total offense. Bixby’s quarterbacks were 14-of-15 passing for 228 yards.
Carson Kirby was 5-for-5 with 152 yards and four TDs, all in the first half. Hogshooter caught three passes for 86 yards and a TD while Gouldsby had three catches for 55 yards and a score.
“I think getting to rest and take two weeks to prepare for Norman helped,” senior offensive lineman Evan McClure said afterward. “We were glad to get back after it. We got on them quick, which gave us some momentum.
“Owasso is a good team. We’re going to have to prepare and have a good week in practice,” he added of the Spartans’ next challenge.
Bixby’s defense had another balanced effort in blanking the Tigers in the first half. Parker, a senior linebacker, and senior linebacker Hank Puckett led the Spartans with seven total tackles each. Parker had four unassisted stops, three tackles for loss and one sack while Puckett had three solo stops.
Senior Jett Turner and sophomore linebacker Trey McGlothlin each had six tackles while Dixon, a junior, and senior Colton Kaiser each were credited with five total tackles and sophomore Tyler Wright ended with four tackles, two unassisted.
“The week off was good for us even though we wanted to play but it gave us a chance to recover,” said Parker, who has 67 total tackles and 11 tackles for loss this season. “We were ready to play tonight. They have some shifty guys. Their quarterback is shifty as is their running back … we were glad to shut them down.”
For numerous seniors, the Norman game was their final time to play on Lee Snider Field. Going out on a winning note was important.
“This being our last game out here in front of our fans with the whole community supporting us, it made us play with an edge,” Gouldsby said. “We didn’t want this to be our last game.”
Senior Chase Kirby agreed. “Everyone had a lot of energy since it was the last game at Lee Snider for the seniors,” Kirby said. “I’ve played here since first grade, so it was pretty emotional. It’s been a lot of fun playing with my brothers, not many people get to do that … it’s pretty special,” Kirby said of playing alongside older brother Connor and younger brother Carson.
RAM REMATCH – Bixby and Owasso, led by legendary head coach Bill Blankenship, have become opponents in recent seasons. In the 2023 sweltering, season-opening Battle of the Burbs at the University of Tulsa’s Skelly Field at H.A. Chapman Stadium, Bixby defeated the Rams, 42-16.
The Spartans were led by senior Kordell Gouldsby’s 205 yards of total offense while Cooper Parker and Clay Peters scored two touchdowns each and sophomore quarterback Carson Kirby threw a TD pass to Blake Hogshooter.
Owasso scored all 16 of its points in the fourth quarter with talented sophomore running back Jayden Hall scoring on a one-yard run.
Bixby’s defense, which was credited with five sacks, was led by senior linebacker Hank Puckett’s 19 tackles while Parker ended with nine tackles.
In 2022, Bixby toppled the Rams, 49-14, in the Battle of the Burbs and the Spartans captured a 69-6 win over the Rams in the Class 6A-I state championship game. In 2010, Owasso beat the Spartans, 44-20. During Spartan head coach Loren Montgomery’s 14-year run, Bixby holds a 3-1 record over OHS.
“When we played them before it was Zero Week. They are a different team and we’re a different team. Both teams have picked things up so it should be a good game,” said Bixby’s Parker.
In last week’s 50-21 state quarterfinal win over Norman North, the Rams were led by senior quarterback Knox Dyson, who was 20-of-25 passing for 234 yards and four TDs. Hall rushed for 100 yards and two scores while also catching a TD pass. Seniors J’Kharri Thomas and Deuce Chalk pace Owasso’s receivers.
NOTEBOOK – The Spartans were ranked No. 40 nationally this week by MaxPreps. … With the win over Norman, the Spartans have won 72 of their past 73 games and have won 14 games in a row. … Through 11 games, Spartan quarterback Carson Kirby has passed for 2,089 yards and 33 touchdowns. He’s completed .736 percent of his passes. Senior Jett Turner tops the balanced running attack with 653 yards and 11 TDs. Sophomore Cord Nolan (529 receiving yards and eight TDs), senior Greg Vaughn (484 yards, eight TDs), senior Kordell Gouldsby (384 yards, four TDs) and Blake Hogshooter (370 yards, eight TDs) pace the talented receiving group. … Norman’s talented junior quarterback Phoenix Murphy suffered an injury late in the second quarter and didn’t play in the second half. … Owasso is on a seven-game winning streak.
BHS SCOREBOARD – W, Owasso (42-16) at TU; W, Springdale ( Arkansas) Har-Ber (75-18); W, at Sand Springs (61-7); W, Norman North (60-2); W, at Southmoore (66-0); W, Enid (79-7); W, at Broken Arrow (51-7); W, at Westmoore (78-28); W, Moore (68-5); W, at Jenks (31-14); W, Norman (59-20, state quarterfinal).
OHS SCOREBOARD – L, Bixby (42-16) at TU; W, Jenks (34-28); W, Broken Arrow (41-21); L, at Tulsa Union (55-22); W, Mustang (55-3); W, at Edmond North (54-30); W, Yukon (63-42); W, at Edmond Memorial (49-42); W, Edmond Santa Fe (57-53); W, at Norman (49-18); W, Norman North (50-21, state quarterfinal).