By Ron Holt
SPRINGDALE, Arkansas – For the second straight game this season, Bixby’s unbeaten Spartans benefited from contributions by newcomers and veterans in all three phases in dominating Springdale Har-Ber, 59-0, at Wildcat Stadium last Friday night.
Class 6AI’s top-ranked Spartans, ranked No.66 nationally by MaxPreps, improved to 2-0 on the season while extending the state record 11-man winning streak to 51 games. Har-Ber dropped to 0-2.
The Spartans make their first home appearance on Friday (Sept. 9), hosting Sand Springs in the final non- district game this season. Kickoff for the annual Military Appreciation event at Lee Snider Field is set for 7 p.m.
Despite eight penalties for 70 yards and turning the ball over three times, the Spartans set the tempo early and often in spoiling Har-Ber’s home opener in front of a large crowd.
Bixby’s defenders celebrated a shutout, limiting the Wildcats to 216 total offensive yards. It was Bixby’s first shutout since winning 71-0 at Bartlesville last season. In 2020, the Spartans blanked Union (34-0) and Ponca City (59-0) – both at home – while BHS recorded three shutouts – Putnam City, Booker T. Washington and Sand Springs – in 2019.
“I thought we played really well on defense and we’re going to celebrate a shutout … whenever you play good enough to get a shutout that’s something to be proud of,” said Bixby head coach Loren Montgomery. “Early on we were a little sloppy, but the defense continued to pin their ears back and play well.
“I was proud of the intensity and proud of the way we played at times. We’ve still got a lot of things to do. We had some penalties and turned the ball over … you’ve got to be better than that. We’re still searching for our identity a little bit,” he added.
Bixby’s focus was evident from the start as senior quarterback Austin Havens tossed a short pass to senior Jakeb Snyder resulting in a 32-yard touchdown and 7-0 Spartan lead following senior Levi Hoffman’s point-after kick with 10:05 showing in the opening quarter.
After turnovers by both teams, the Spartans extended the lead to 14-0 with 8:38 left in the first quarter when Havens and junior newcomer Kordell Gouldsby combined on a 33-yard TD pass play and Hoffman kicked the conversion.
Bixby’s defense then joined the scoring parade when junior Colton Kaiser picked off a deflected pass by the Wildcats’ Luke Buchanan and returned the interception 75 yards for a touchdown, lifting the Spartans to a 21-0 lead with 52 seconds left in the first stanza.
“My guy didn’t even run a route, so I just read the quarterback. Someone tipped the ball and it fell into my arms and I just saw daylight,” said Kaiser, a 5-9, 150-pound junior who backs up starter Cale Fugate. “It was great … that’s the first time I’ve ever scored.
“Tonight, we did great. I believe in our team, so it didn’t surprise me we shut them out,” he added. While the defense was throttling Har-Ber’s offense, Bixby continued its offensive pursuit in the second quarter, scoring on a four-yard TD run by senior quarterback Connor Kirby, a 30-yard burst by senior
running back Jersey Robb and a 50-yard TD pass play from Havens to Gouldsby for a 42-0 lead with 4:35 left before intermission.
Junior newcomer Jett Turner scored from one yard out in the third quarter and the Spartans’ tacked on a 36-yard field goal by Hoffman and a five-yard scoring pass play from Kirby to junior Garrett Vaughn in the fourth quarter.
Havens was 15-of-19 passing for 199 yards and three touchdowns while being intercepted once. “We were definitely more sharp tonight than we were the last game. I think as the season goes on and we get more reps we’ll come together even more,” said Havens.
“I feel comfortable with the receivers. We threw a ton in the spring, but we never got game reps … we’re working those things out. When we eliminate some mistakes, we can be a really good football team.”
Robb, one of seven Spartans carrying the ball, led the rushing attack with 70 yards on seven carries and one TD. Kirby had 51 yards rushing on four carries and scored once. Gouldsby caught three passes for 101 yards and three touchdowns.
It was the first scores for Gouldsby, who returned to Bixby this season after playing at Holland Hall. It’s been an easy transition.
“Honestly as soon as I got here, I felt welcomed,” said Gouldsby, who has eight pass receptions for 160 yards this season while also returning three punts for 71 yards. “I played here in the sixth grade. It was just like coming back home … I made a logical choice.
“I finally got a touchdown tonight but I’m just happy we got the win. We’ve got a lot of weapons. We play together as a team … we’re all looking for each other to succeed. That’s just how we do it,” he said. Offensively, Bixby finished with 450 yards of total offense, averaging 8.7 yards per play. It was another productive outing for an offense featuring new faces in the starting lineup.
“We got off to a slow start but once we stopped making mental mistakes we started rolling,” said 6-4, 235-pound junior offensive lineman Brody Duffel. “I’m the only returning starter in the line this season. We have four new linemen, but I feel like they are getting better too. We’re like one big family.
“Each week in practice we seem to get better, we’re starting to click but we’re not near to our potential yet,” he added.
NEXT GAME – It will be a battle of unbeatens when Bixby hosts Class 6AII’s Sand Springs Friday. The Sandites, under head coach Bobby Klinck, opened the season during Zero Week with a 35-21 rivalry win at Sapulpa. Sand Springs, idle last week, went 8-4 last season, defeating Del City (21-17) in the state quarterfinals before losing to Deer Creek-Edmond (20-17) in the semifinals.
“We thought Sapulpa was pretty good when we saw them in a scrimmage and Sand Springs beat Sapulpa. They’ll be tough,” coach Montgomery said. “Bobby does a good job … they are well coached. Their offensive line is enormous.”
Sand Springs hasn’t beaten Bixby since a 20-0 regular season finale home win over the Spartans Nov. 11, 2015. Bixby regrouped to upend the Spartans 38-28 in the 2015 Class 6AII state finals. Bixby has eight straight victories over the Sandites and 10 wins in the last 11 meetings between the two teams.
KICK SUCCESS – With reliable Connor Nolan lost to graduation, Bixby’s kickoff, place-kicking and punting is being handled this season by Levi Hoffman, 6-2, 185-pound senior. He’s off to a productive start, sending most kickoffs into the end zone while also connecting on 13-of-14 conversion kicks and booming a 36-yard field goal at Har-Ber.
“That’s a big asset, kicking the ball into the end zone,” Montgomery said of Hoffman.
Hoffman, who like other Spartan kickers in the past, started playing soccer before joining the football team as a sophomore. “I backed up Connor Noland, he taught me everything I know,” Hoffman said. “The first time I kicked it hit right on the end zone and a few kicks later it went into the end zone, it’s been that way since. That’s what I want to do.
“I was a little nervous going into the Owasso game since I’d never been a starter. I knew it was up to me and I had to be responsible and do the job. The coaches were excited so I’m just going to keep going.
Kicking the field goal was exciting … I’ve never had one before,” added Hoffman, who said competing in track last season has helped him in football.
NOTEBOOK – Junior Colton Kaiser led a balanced defensive effort with 11 tackles, including six solo stops, and an interception. Sophomore Cooper Parker ended with eight tackles, all solos. Junior linebacker Hank Puckett had nine tackles, four unassisted, and one for loss. Junior Sam McCormick and junior lineman Kason Hatley had five tackles each while senior Jersey Robb and junior Cody Crull each had four tackles. Puckett and Jaydyn Bartels each had sacks while sophomore Brooks Dixon returned a pass interception 33 yards while Jett Turner also had an interception. … Har-Ber was led offensively by back- up quarterback Rhett Richardson, who was 17-of-29 passing for 132 yards and one interception. …In games involving Bixby opponents: Owasso (0-2) lost at Jenks (2-0), 14-7; Norman North (1-0) defeated Norman, 40-36; Southmoore (1-1) lost to Mustang, 51-26; Enid (1-1) defeated Ponca City (32-20); Broken Arrow (0-2) lost to Union, 28-7: Westmoore (1-1) defeated Yukon, 30-7, and Moore (2-0) won at Edmond North, 49-23