By Ron Holt
It’s just one game but some questions were answered while others remain as Bixby’s Spartans ran their winning streak to 37 games after a first half eruption paved the way for a 69-14 victory over visiting Mansfield (Texas) Timberview Friday night at Lee Snider Stadium.
An overflow crowd – on hand early for the annual Military Appreciation presentation prior to kickoff – watched as the top-ranked Spartans scored 21 straight points late in the first quarter to lead 28-7, a lead that ballooned to 49-7 by halftime.
The youthful Wolves struggled to find success – offensively or defensively – against the Spartans, who out-gained Timberview 566 yards to 301 yards while capitalizing on three Mansfield turnovers.
After rolling in the first of three non-district challenges, the Spartans realize the intensity increases this week when they visit longtime rival Jenks Friday, September 3. The Trojans went into overtime before winning 20-14 at Mansfield (Texas) Summit last Friday night.
Entering the Zero Week opener, one question surrounding the Spartans was how senior quarterback Christian Burke would respond in his first starting assignment after playing in a back-up role in the past. Statistically, Burke impressively passed his first test as a starter. He completed 18-of-25 passes for 284 yards and five touchdowns with all five TD passes connecting in the first half. He played with confidence and composure.
“After warmups I was locked in and ready … I had gotten all my nerves out,” the 5-10, 176-pound Burke said. “We’ve been watching film all week, preparing for them and we came out ready to play. I felt way more comfortable as the game went on. I felt like I was settling in like everyone else.”
In the first quarter, Burke opened the game with a one-yard touchdown strike to Jakeb Snyder while also connecting with Dylan Hasz for a 28-yard TD and Beau Bertelli with another 28-yard TD pass play.
Junior quarterback Connor Kirby ran two yards for another first quarter TD.
In the second quarter, Burke passed to talented running back Braylin Presley, who quickly distanced himself from the Wolves’ defense for a 70-yard TD reception. Senior receiver Preston Solomon grabbed a 34-yard TD pass play from Burke with 5:30 left in the opening half while Kirby’s two-yard TD plunge ended the first half barrage.
Bixby maintained control of the game in the second half as Zach Blankenship scooted eight yards for a TD, Kirby scored on a five-yard run and sophomore quarterback Clay Peters scored from seven yards out in the final stanza.
“We did some good things. They’re young, they graduated 35 seniors last year and most of those seniors started,” said l2th-year Spartan head coach Loren Montgomery said of the Wolves. “They’ve got some talent. Obviously, we had a couple of turnovers, putting the ball on the ground and throwing once to them but we’ll work on that and get it fixed.
“I felt like we blocked well and ran the ball pretty well … and converted on some big third and fourth downs. For the most part, we protected well.
“Defensively, I thought we played well with three new starters on the defensive line. Connor Stacy had an excellent game at inside linebacker … that’s what he’s done his entire career. He played a lot as a sophomore and all last year. I thought we had several guys do some good things,” he added.
Timberview’s athleticism was on display on its two scoring plays – a 46-yard, first quarter TD pass play from quarterback Jaeden Marshall to receiver Titus Evans, who made a leaping grab being a Spartan defender, and an 81-yard third quarter TD aerial from Marshall to Cemarion Chambliss.
Other than those two plays, Bixby’s defense turned in a solid season-opening performance with numerous players contributing key plays. One of those players was senior linebacker Stacy, who helped turn back a serious Timberview threat with his career first pass interception with 2:20 left in the opening stanza.
Three plays later, Bixby increased its lead to 21-7 on a Burke to D. Hasz 28-yard scoring pass.
“We were really fired up,” said Stacy, who was credited with 58 total tackles last season. “We had the best game plan… we have the best coaches in the state in my opinion and we executed the game plan perfectly and got the victory.
“On the interception, I saw the running back creeping across the corner. There was pressure on their quarterback … he got nervous and threw it and I stepped in front of it. We’ve been working on that all week. I knew if the outside backer was gone, I had the running back. That was my first interception … it felt great.”
Senior linebacker Jack Puckett picked up where he left off in 2020 when he finished with 83 total tackles and seven sacks.
“Our coaches did a great job of teaching us that this was a great athletic team we were facing, we knew that from past experiences,” Puckett noted. “They can break plays really quick, so it was important for us to stay on them. I felt we did a good job tonight and had a lot of guys step up.
“Connor Stacy starting at the will position made a lot of great plays, he took advantage of the opportunities given to him. Beau Bertelli had a heckuva game and our D-line with some sophomores, played well. Brandon Hobbs, a sophomore, had a great sack,” Puckett added.
Stacy led Bixby’s balanced defensive effort with 12 total tackles, including nine solo stops. He had four tackles for losses and an interception. Puckett ended with nine tackles, four solo tackles, three tackles for losses and caused a fumble.
NEXT GAME – Bixby’s early season challenge will be magnified Friday when the Spartans visit Jenks in a battle of the Class 6AII and Class 6AI state champions in 2020, respectively. Kickoff at Allan Trimble Stadium is set for 7:30 p.m.
Jenks saw an early 14-0 lead disappear as Mansfield (Texas) Summit used a touchdown and two-point conversion to tie the game and force overtime last Friday. The Trojans’ defense rose to the occasion by forcing and recovering a Summit fumble at the one-yard line. Jenks secured the win on a nine-yard TD run by former Booker T. Washington running back Jaiden Carroll.
Jenks won’t lack for incentive going into the game after losing at Bixby (42-35) last season and falling 57-7 at home in 2019. In 2020, Jenks led 21-7 late in the second quarter before the Spartans scored 21 straight points on two touchdown passes by quarterback Mason Williams and a pass interception return for a TD by Dylan Hasz.
“We’re looking forward to playing Jenks. It doesn’t matter if it’s there or here … I love the atmosphere at both places,” Puckett said. “We’ve got to stay focused. We’ve got a mature bunch and a lot of leadership on this team that should help us stay locked in.”
Coach Montgomery added, “Jenks will be a big game … there will be a lot of attention on that game.” NOTABLES – Bixby is now 3-0 in the Border War series with Timberview. … Senior Braylin Presley saw limited action in the second half but had a couple of impactful plays – the 70-yard TD pass reception and a returned a punt 43 yards to set up a Spartan TD. He ended with 132 total offensive yards. … Bixby displayed a balanced offensive attack, passing for 300 yards and rushing for an additional 266 yards. Nine Spartans carried the ball with Kirby leading the way with 11 carries for 62 yards and three touchdowns.
Braylin Presley added 54 yards on seven carries and Adian Hill also had 54 yards on 13 attempts. Presley led the receiving corp with six catches for 78 yards and one TD. Luke Hasz had three grabs for 49 yards and Beau Bertelli had two catches for 49 yards and a TD. … Besides Stacy’s interception, Bixby’s Rodrigo Romero and Bertelli each had interceptions. … With the game tied at 7-7, Mansfield’s Jordan Sanford picked off a deflected pass by Burke in Timberview territory but fumbled the ball away when hit by Puckett. … Timberview quarterback Jaeden Marshall was 19-for-34 passing for 258 yards and two TDs while being intercepted twice. … Following the Jenks’ game, Bixby will have a week off before ending non-league play against visiting Stillwater on Friday, September 17.