By Ron Holt
While fourth-ranked Choctaw executed its game plan to perfection in the first half, top-ranked Bixby responded offensively in the second half and relied on a gritty goal line stand late in turning back the Yellowjackets, 24-13, in a Class 6AII-District 2 battle at Lee Snider Stadium.
It was a frustrating game from both perspectives. Each team had nine penalties and a turnover. Each had dropped passes, errant center snaps and crucial defensive breakdowns. There were also clutch offensive and defensive efforts by both squads, including a late performance by Bixby (5-0, 2-0).
“I told everybody going in that’s how they play ball. They’ve got talented guys and an unorthodox scheme,” veteran Spartan head coach Loren Montgomery said. “The goal line stand was nice, but I was just very disappointed in the way we played. We came out flat.
“We had a lot of mistakes – false starts, let guys go in the back end. I think we’re a better team than that. It’s an ugly win but we’ll take it,” he added.
In the scoreless first quarter, Choctaw (3-3, 2-1) dominated. The Yellowjackets, who drained time off the clock, ran 17 plays to three for the Spartans. The fifth time Bixby touched the ball, the Spartans took a 7-0 lead as junior speedster Braylin Presley found an opening outside and won a sprint to the end zone with 10:57 showing in the second quarter.
After Bixby’s Connor Nolan was wide left on a 30-yard field goal attempt, Choctaw put together a game- tying drive which included a botched center snap that Choctaw’s 6-4 sophomore quarterback Steele Wasel retrieved, ran to his right and lobbed a pass to Wes Zeigler at the Spartan one.
Choctaw sophomore LaTrell Ray scored on the next play to tie the game at 7-all with 3:06 remaining until halftime. Bixby sophomore defensive back Dylan Hasz intercepted Wasel as time expired to thwart the final Yellowjacket drive of the first half.
After a penalty on the first play of the third quarter, Bixby capitalized on a 23-yard run by Presley and a 30-yard pass from quarterback Mason Williams to Cale Fugate to highlight a drive that ended in a three- yard Presley TD run at the 11:04 mark of the third frame for a 14-7 Spartan lead.
A 24-yard field goal by Nolan increased Bixby’s lead to 17-7 with 9:29 left in the game. The Spartans then capitalized on Wasel’s botched punt for zero yards, starting from the Yellowjacket 27-yard line. Four plays later, Presley spurted up the middle for a 10-yard TD and 24-7 BHS lead with 6:21 left.
Choctaw wasn’t done as the Yellowjackets scored on a 52-yard touchdown pass from Wasel to Ray, trimming the deficit to 24-13 with 5:31 remaining.
With 2:48 showing, Choctaw received another scoring opportunity when Williams was intercepted by the Yellowjackets’ Ethan Rone on a screen pass attempt to Presley. Rone returned to the hosts’ 24-yard line. A 23-yard pass from Wasel to Ziegler ended on the Spartan one where Bixby’s defense made a statement. Wasel was stopped by Bixby senior linebacker Nick Wedel for a six-yard loss before Choctaw faced a fourth-and-goal at the Spartan one. Ray tried to run up the middle before bouncing outside and being met by senior defensive end Macqeilen Ware and several teammates. Ray lost four yards while turning the ball over to Bixby with 1:15 left.
“Biggest player on that tackle was Macqeilen Ware, it was a gang tackle, but he got penetration and tackled the dude,” said Bixby senior linebacker Nick Wedel. “I’ve got to give credit to Choctaw, they played hard and they do a lot of stuff on offense that’s a little tricky to get used to. I’m glad our guys stepped up and ultimately did the job.”
Ware, who was credited with nine total tackles, two unassisted, was happy he was at the right place at the right time to thwart Choctaw’s final scoring attempt.
“I saw the running back hit the hole in the middle and then he bounced it out and was one-on-one with me and I made the tackle,” said Ware, a 6-3, 265-pounder. “I expected something crazy on the play since we were on the one-yard line. I was just trying to make the play.
“I shed the blocker and was in position. It felt great … It feels great to shut them down at the end. We’ll learn a lot from this game. The main goal is to get the W.
“We needed this … they came out and punched us in the mouth early. I feel like I did pretty good this game, I tried to do what I can do. We have a lot of work to do in the coming weeks … we’re not a
championship team yet,” Ware noted.
NEXT GAME – Bixby goes on the road during fall break, visiting Sand Springs Thursday, Oct. 15, for an important district encounter. Kickoff at Memorial Stadium is set for 7 p.m.
Coached by first-year head man Bobby Klinck, the Sandites fell to 4-2 overall and 2-1 in district play after a surprising 49-0 loss at fifth-ranked Booker T. Washington last Friday night. Bixby routed the Sandites, 75-0, at home last season.
This season, Sand Springs won at Sapulpa (21-15), lost to Tulsa Kelley (28-24), defeated Shiloh Christian of Springdale, Arkansas (27-26), won at Ponca City (35-10) and downed Muskogee (45-14) at home prior to the Washington loss.
DISTRICT SCORES – In other District 2 games Friday, No. 10 Bartlesville won at Muskogee, 52-24, and Ponca City topped Putnam City West, 21-7, at home.
League games scheduled Thursday, Oct. 15, include Muskogee at Choctaw, Ponca City at Bartlesville and Booker T. Washington at Putnam West.
NOTEBOOK – Bixby extended its winning streak to 30 games. … The start of the fourth quarter was delayed because a referee was apparently choking. He was cared for by training staffs and finished the game. … On the game’s opening possession, Choctaw went on a time-consuming drive before turning the ball over to Bixby on downs with 2:21 left in the quarter. … Bixby, which had 315 total offensive yards, was led on the ground by Presley, who rushed for 167 yards on 28 carries and scored three touchdowns. Quarterback Mason Williams was 14-of-25 passing for 138 yards. Presley also had four catches for 14 yards while Jakeb Snyder and Cale Fugate each had three catches for 69 and 17 yards, respectively. … Choctaw quarterback Wasel was 16-of-33 passing for 297 yards, one TD and one interception. Senior Terrill Davis had eight catches for 142 yards for CHS. … This season, Presley has 1,241 all-purpose yards – 788 yards rushing, 295 receiving, 114 on kick returns and 44 on punt returns. … Bixby junior linebacker Jack Puckett is enjoying his return to the lineup after missing last season because of an injury. “I’m extremely happy I’m back this year, it was tough missing last season,” said Puckett, who finished with nine total tackles, including six solo stops and one tackle for a loss against Choctaw. “I feel like we have a lot of mentally strong guys who know how to respond like at the end on the goal line. I saw our guys fight like that against Jenks earlier. It was a very frustrating game and we have a lot of things to work on … but I’m proud of the way the guys fought back,” he added.
DEFENSIVE CHART – Bixby’s defense gave up 312 yards of total offense to Choctaw but only 15 yards rushing. Spartan defenders made key plays at key times, especially late. … Junior linebacker Beau Bertelli led the Spartans with 13 total tackles, including 10 solo stops. He had two tackles for loss and one sack. Senior safety Tanner Doyle finished with 11 total tackles and one pass defense while senior linebacker Nick Wedel finished with 10 total tackles and one tackle for a loss. Through five games, Doyle leads Bixby with 48 total tackles, followed by Puckett with 35, Bertelli with 34 and Wedel with 31.
Sophomore DB Dylan Hasz snared his team-leading third pass interception of the season to end the first half.