By Ron Holt
A festive atmosphere highlighted by an abbreviated four-team scrimmage ended Bixby High’s annual spring football practices last week at Lee Snider Stadium.
This year, Bixby’s spring game featured food trucks, recognition of all-state Spartan student-athletes along with recognition of three-sport athletes and academic state champion teams. Spirit squads were also a part of the evening.
Mark Wozniak, a former Spartan assistant football coach and color commentator on BHS football broadcasts, provided commentary – seen on the video board – during the event.
In addition, Spartan football alumni were part of the coaching staff as Bixby split its roster into four teams – Red, Blue, White and Gray – with special offensive and defensive points earned. The Gray team emerged victorious.
Alumni coaches for the offense were Cade Cabbiness (Class of 2016), Tanner Griffin (2017), DeAndre Jennings (2013), Chandler Miller (2014), Brennan Presley (2020) and Mason Williams (2021). Defensive alumni coaches were Drake Allen (2017), Cade Cavender (2019), Trevon Holt (2020), Tyler Parsons (2020), Jack Puckett (2022) and Jordan Reagan (2020).
Despite the roster being evenly divided which prohibited crispness from any of the teams there were highlights provided by veterans and newcomers.
“It was sloppy … we didn’t have a lot of cohesion by splitting everybody up, but it was fun. I think the kids enjoyed it,” Spartan head coach Loren Montgomery said afterward. “Without a doubt, it was a festive atmosphere with the food trucks and calling out the championship teams.
“It was great having the alumni guys coming back as coaches … things like this are always better after you do the first one,” he added.
“Spring practice is 100 percent important. We split our guys right down the middle as far as rosters go so guys are having to go against good guys. It creates competition. We find out a lot about our guys as some of them grow up or when the light bulb comes on.”
Spring practice began May 1. The practices begin with helmets only before spending a week working out without players involved in other sports. The last week of practice includes the full roster. It’s a limited time of workouts but a crucial time.
“I really enjoy the way we do it two weeks before with helmets only before spring ball begins. We can get those guys an introduction to our base scheme stuff. When we get the pads on, we can only go with contact every other day,” said long-time Spartan defensive coordinator Rodney Flowers.
“Coach (Tyler) Schneider and I get together and divide the guys into different teams, red and blue. We practice with one half of the group and flip them over, so we get to see all the kids and get them some reps. They’re breathing really hard by the time they get out of here, which is good.
“The way we split it up gives our young kids an opportunity to get out on the grass. With all the kids we’ve got we want them to be able to get reps and for us to be able to get tape on them,” coach Flowers noted. “There is an opportunity to get in a lot of coaching as our eighth grade and ninth grade coaches are out here with them. It’s a really good time.”
Schneider, the veteran Spartan offensive coordinator, also understands the importance of spring practice.
“The way we structure it at our practices you see kids everywhere with a lot of kids getting reps. It’s a great way for our sophomores to get used to the varsity speed and the way we practice … they’re not just standing in the back watching guys,” Schneider said.
“I think that’s the most valuable part of our spring ball. We all believe they are going to learn football by playing football instead of listening to us talk. We counted it up the other day and in an offensive practice session we’re running like 210 plays in an hour’s time. That’s what we want … a lot of kids getting reps.
“Some guys pop up you didn’t know and there are some guys who have a growth spurt from last year … we’ve got some sophomores that definitely fit in that mold. They’ve grown a lot since their freshman year and they’re doing a lot of good things,” he added.
TEAM CAMP – The Spartans won’t wait long for competitive workouts as Bixby hosts several prep powerhouses during a team camp Wednesday through Saturday (May 31-June 2) at Lee Snider Stadium and BHS’s track.
“Next week, we’ll get about half a season’s reps in the team camp,” Coach Montgomery said. “The team camp includes us, East St. Louis, Tulsa Union, Midwest City and Edmond Memorial the first day and then Bentonville (Arkansas) and Bentonville West will come during the final two days.”
East St. Louis (Illinois) was 12-2 and Class 6A state champion last season, Union was 11-1 last season, Midwest City went 8-3 in Class 5A play and Edmond Memorial was 4-7 last season while qualifying for the playoffs. Bentonville finished 11-2 in 2022 and Bentonville West was 9-4.
NOTABLES – Bixby is idle June 5-9 before returning to workouts June 12. BHS hosts the 7-on-7 passing league on Tuesday, June 13. … The popular Eastern OK OL/DL Camp is scheduled Tuesday and Wednesday (June 20-21) from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. daily and is expected to attract numerous linemen from the state and from out-of-state.