By Ron Holt
Bixby’s intricate, efficient offensive performance – featuring a multitude of weapons – created problems for Norman North’s defense all evening as the top-ranked Spartans rolled to a 60-2 victory over the previously unbeaten Timberwolves in the Class 6A-I-District 1 opener last Friday night in front of a large Lee Snider Field crowd.
The Spartans, winners in 64 of their last 65 games, improved to 4-0 on the season and are tied for the early district lead at 1-0. Sixth-ranked Norman North fell to 3-1 and 0-1.
Offensively, Bixby finished with 626 yards of total offense. The Spartans rushed for 185 yards, averaging 6.6 yards per carry, and ended with 431 passing yards, averaging 23.9 yards per reception. The Spartans turned the ball over once and were penalized six times for 50 yards.
Seven different Spartans scored touchdowns against the Timberwolves while 10 different Spartans caught passes and carried the ball. Bixby quarterbacks Carson Kirby and Clay Peters combined for six touchdown passes with Kirby throwing four and Peters two.
While the offense was doing its thing, Bixby’s defense had a physical, dominating performance, limiting Norman North to 59 rushing yards and 164 passing yards. The Spartans also forced four North turnovers with Justin Kirk and Cord Nolan recovering fumbles and Kordell Gouldsby and Colton Kaiser each intercepting North quarterback Owen Eshelman.
“There are things obviously every game that you’ve got to correct but I thought our guys were physical and executed pretty well for the most part,” Loren Montgomery, Bixby’s 14th-year head football coach said afterward. “A lot of our drives were stopped because we put ourselves behind the chains with a penalty or sack.
“I was pleased with our effort and execution and our ability to hit some big plays. There are a lot of weapons out there and coach (Tyler) Schneider does an excellent job of putting those guys in position to make plays with all the motion and things we have going on that keeps defenses focused on adjusting.
“It gets better and better and some of our kids played well tonight. To come out in the second half and quickly strike was good … I was pleased with our effort tonight,” he added.
The opening series of the game was indicative of the way this battle of unbeatens would progress with all three Spartan quarterbacks involved in the first score.
Norman North netted four yards in four plays opening the game before the Spartans used a 30-yard, tackle-breaking run by Peters, a senior quarterback-defensive back, before Kirby connected with Blake Hogshooter for a 16-yard touchdown at the 8:41 mark of the first quarter. Quarterback Cooper Parker ran for the two-point conversion and an early 8-0 BHS lead.
Norman North, which had some offensive weapons and moved the ball at times, went on a short drive on its next possession before punting the ball to the Spartan six-yard line. Three plays later, Peters hit Gouldsby with a short pass. The talented Gouldsby ran into trouble going to his right before reversing the field and followed a convoy of blockers down the sideline for a stunning 83-yard TD. Troy Nguyen’s point-after kick gave Bixby a 15-0 lead with 4:11 left in the opening stanza.
“We got quite a bit done during the off week but there’s definitely things we need to do differently and get better at,” said Peters, who ran four times for 40 yards and was 3-for-3 passing for 158 yards and two TDs while also punting once for 63 yards. “We threw the ball well tonight and did some good things. All of our dudes (receivers) work hard and put their work in … we’ve got a lot of guys who can get the job done.”
Gouldsby stopped North’s next drive when he intercepted Eshelman and returned the interception 23 yards. It was his second pass interception of the season.
On North’s next possession deep inside Timberwolves’ territory, Eshelman bobbled the snap in the end zone and was tackled by Kirk and senior Sam McCormick for a safety and 17-0 Spartan lead with 1:38 showing in the first quarter.
With 7:47 left in the second stanza, Kirby faked a throw to the right before launching a pass to a wide-open McCormick, who raced untouched to the end zone for a 62-yard TD pass play. Parker ran for the two-point conversion as Bixby led 25-0.
On the next BHS possession, Peters faked a handoff before rifling a pass over the middle to tight end Cord Nolan for a 58-yard touchdown and 32-0 Spartan lead before Kirby connected with Nolan minutes later on a similar play for a 68-yard TD and 39-0 Bixby lead with 2:21 left before halftime.
Early in the third quarter, Cody Crull ran 23 yards to the Bixby 45-yard line before Kirby passed to senior Garrett Vaughn for a 55-yard TD giving BHS a 46-0 lead at the 10:58 mark. It was Vaughn’s third touchdown reception this season.
“My coaches put me in position to make plays and the offensive line is always blocking everything up … I just make the most of my opportunities which I’m thankful for,” said Vaughn. “I’m just glad we came in here for this home game and were locked in for the district opener … I felt like we did good.
“Coming into the season I wanted to get faster and our coaches in SPA got us going on that and another thing I wanted to improve was running better routes,” he said. “I wanted to get out quicker. Last year I got out on my break and then looked for the ball but now I just run with the mindset to look for the ball quicker.”
Bixby wrapped up its scoring on a one-yard TD rush by Parker and a 31-yard TD sprint by sophomore quarterback Stone Turner with 6:48 remaining in the game. Norman North scored its only points on a safety at the 3:02 mark.
Senior linebacker Kaiser led Bixby’s balanced defensive effort with nine total tackles, including four solo stops. Senior linebacker Hank Puckett finished with eight tackles, four unassisted, and Parker was credited with six tackles, three unassisted. Kirk ended with five tackles, two solo, and was credited with three sacks, giving him four this season.
Senior linebacker Jett Turner, who doubles as a running back, ended with two tackles including one sack. He leads the Spartans in tackles for loss with eight and in sacks with 5.5 while also credited with six quarterback hurries during four games.
“I love defense … it’s probably my favorite side of the ball,” Turner said. “We cleaned up a lot of things offensively and defensively during the off week. The defense tried not to give up any explosive plays since they are a great offense.
“I get a little tired,” he said of playing both ways. “But it’s all mental, you’ve just got to tell yourself you’re not tired and just keep playing. This summer I tried to get bigger, faster and stronger and one thing that’s showing up better this year is my pass rush. I tried to improve in that area and get more sacks … I think I already have one more than I did last year.”
NEXT GAME – Bixby goes on the road Thursday (Sept. 28) to play Southmoore in a district game starting at 7 p.m. at Moore Stadium. The game will be aired over the Sports Animal, 97.1FM with Shawn Tiemann handling the play-by-play and Mark Wozniak providing commentary.
Southmoore is 0-4 on the season, losing at Mustang (44-13), to Putnam City North (37-36), at Edmond Memorial (51-7) and last week in the district opener at Broken Arrow (52-13). Against BA, Southmoore scored late on a 37-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Cruz Campbell to Xavier Terrell and a nine-yard TD pass from Campbell to Jalen Ross.
The Sabercats, coached by Jake Monden, went 1-9 last season including an 0-7 mark in the district. They have lost 13 games in a row and haven’t had a winning season since 2016. Bixby defeated Southmoore 80-0 at home last season.
NOTABLES – Bixby was ranked No. 45 nationally by MaxPreps. … Bixby has 955 yards passing through four games and Spartan quarterbacks are completing .728 per cent of their passes while only being intercepted once. Carson Kirby is 45-of-63 passing for 661 yards and 12 touchdowns. He’s completing 71 percent of his passes while Clay Peters is 12-of-15 passing for 284 yards and three TDs. … Senior Kordell Gouldsby tops Bixby in rushing with 11 carries for 233 yards and three TDs while catching 11 passes for 177 yards and two TDs. Sophomore Cord Nolan made the most of his seven pass receptions for a team-leading 240 yards and four touchdowns. Gouldsby leads in all-purpose yards with 619. … Defensively, Hank Puckett leads BHS in tackles with 45. He has four tackles for loss and two sacks. Colton Kaiser has 31 total tackles, Cooper Parker 24 and Justin Kirk with 22. … Spartan captains for the Norman North game were Gouldsby, Sam McCormick, Puckett and Brandon Hobbs.
DISTRICT OPPONENTS – Bixby, Jenks (2-2, 1-0), Broken Arrow (1-3, 1-0) and Westmoore (2-2, 1-0) sit atop 6A-1-District 1 after one week followed by Moore (3-1, 0-1), Norman North (3-1, 0-1), Enid (1-3, 0-1) and Southmoore (0-4, 0-1).
District games this week include Westmoore at Jenks, Norman North at Broken Arrow and Enid at Moore.
MANAGERS – When Bixby’s football team takes the field for either a practice or game, there’s a group of student managers playing a key role behind the scenes.
“They come to practice and are here early. They set up the camera, film practice and film games and they help with the upload,” said Bixby’s 12th-year offensive line coach Corbin Burchett, who oversees the managers. “They do a lot of behind the scenes stuff the players use and the coaches use throughout the week.
“Their jobs are a whole lot more important than a lot of people realize because if we don’t have good film, we have nothing to show to teach our kids. They are extremely valuable. I’ve got a really good group this year, they’ve done a fabulous job … I’m really pleased,” he added.
The student football managers are DAndre Snow, Bria Shepler, Adilynn Wood, Calie Helms, Maddie Andrews, Olivia Campbell, Addison Anglin, Juliana Salas and Nora Grellner.