By Ron Holt
Bixby and Stillwater spent the first quarter trying to find offensive rhythm in a Class 6AII feature battle last Friday night at BHS’s Lee Snider Stadium.
The unbeaten Spartans overcame dropped passes, a bobbled snap and penalties to find their groove early in the second quarter. They capitalized – seizing the momentum, separating themselves from the Pioneers on the scoreboard and turning an anticipated close encounter into a 42-14 romp in the non-district finale.
Bixby, No. 1 ranked in Class 6AII and No. 21 nationally ranked by MaxPreps, improved to 3-0 on the season and increased its winning streak to 39 straight games. Second-ranked Stillwater dipped to 2-1.
It’s easier to get into a groove when getting the ball into the hands of speedy senior tailback Braylin Presley, who was scheduled for a break-out game in 2021. Breakout games for Presley normally happen in high stakes contests. Through two earlier games, he had rushed for 174 yards and one touchdown while catching 11 passes for 134 yards and one TD.
He was unstoppable against the Pioneers. Presley rushed for 233 yards on 16 carries – an average of 14.6 yards per carry – and three touchdowns while catching six passes for 12 yards and another TD. In the open field, Presley was electric.
“We always want the ball in Braylin’s hands … he does great things with it,” BHS veteran offensive lineman Levi Dunsmore said. “We just need to get off to a better start, but I feel like the offensive line is improving and coming together.”
Senior offensive lineman Cody Paschall agreed. “We knew that they like to bring guys on defense, but we just did what we’ve been taught,” Paschall said. “We just try to hit them in the mouth and give Braylin some space. Whenever we give Braylin space, he does good things.
“We had two weeks to get ready for them which I think was good. We’ve got some things to work on, we had some mental mistakes but we just want to keep improving.”
Bixby’s offensive line played a key role in the Spartans’ amassing 606 yards of total offense – 374 yards rushing and 232 yards passing. Bixby ran 20 more plays than SHS (76 to 56), averaging eight yards per offensive play.
Presley scooted 33 yards with 10:57 showing in the second quarter after taking a direct snap and Connor Nolan kicked the conversion for a 7-0 Spartan lead. The Pioneers quickly tied the game with a 71-yard scoring pass play from junior quarterback Gage Gundy to Heston Thompson at the 10:41 mark.
Bixby controlled the remainder of the quarter, scoring on a four-yard pass play from quarterback Christian Burke to Presley, a 60-yard Presley sprint and a four-yard burst through a spacious hole in the line by quarterback Connor Kirby for a 28-7 Spartan lead at halftime.
A 23-yard TD pass play from Burke to Beau Bertelli handed Bixby a 35-7 lead with 2:10 left in the third quarter while Presley’s 37-yard TD burst at the 9:21 mark of the fourth quarter ended the Spartans’ attack.
“The first quarter was a bit of a struggle, but we just kept fighting and kept pushing and we knew we’d bust something open and that’s exactly what happened,” said Presley, who has rushed for 407 yards on 37 carries and four touchdowns this season.
“We thought it’d definitely be an exciting, high-intensity game which it was. After the first quarter all the players and coaches were saying to just settle down. I’m very excited with the win. It was a great game … but nothing would have been possible without the line doing their job.
“With district starting we’ve got to practice with high intensity just like we have for all the other games. We need to keep improving,” he added.
Stillwater, which fell to the Spartans for the fifth straight time, tacked on a nine-yard TD run by Holden Thompson against Spartan reserves with 1:43 remaining.
“I think we did some good things defensively …we’re still a little funky on offense but if we give Braylin some room, he’s gonna get loose. He’s a special player,” Spartan head coach Loren Montgomery said.
“Miles Hill had a couple of sacks, Caleb Rogers had a couple of sacks and Preston Solomon had a sack. Getting Ky Roller (senior defensive lineman) back was big for our defense. There’s a lot of room for improvement … I can think of several things right now without seeing the film but I’m proud of the guys,” he added.
Bixby’s defense, except for two long pass plays, stifled the Pioneers offensively, limiting SHS to 260 yards of total offense – only 100 yards rushing. In wins at Edmond Santa Fe and home against Mustang, the Pioneers effectively ran the ball.
SHS junior running back Noah Roberts rushed for 153 yards and one TD against Santa Fe and gained 135 yards in the win over Mustang. Against Bixby, Roberts finished with four yards on two carries.
“I felt like we came out and set the tone like we always want to do,” said Bixby’s talented senior linebacker Jack Puckett. “We played a good football club tonight and we’re super happy to get the win and really happy to have held them to seven points before we switched up our personnel to give others a chance to play.
“Other than the big plays I felt we played well. We’ll make sure to go back to work … clearly, we have a lot of things we need to work on. The most important thing in these early games is playing your heart out, improving and showing toughness.”
Bixby’s defense showed toughness in the first quarter after Stillwater’s Julius Talley intercepted a pass by Burke and returned it 23 yards to the Spartans’ seven-yard line. Bixby’s defense stopped the Pioneers on fourth down at the two. Puckett had a key tackle on third down and sophomore lineman Kason Hatley helped stop Gundy short on fourth down.
NEXT GAME – Bixby opens Class 6AII-District 2 play at Bartlesville’s Custer Stadium Friday, September 24, with kickoff set for 7 p.m. Bartlesville fell at home to Class 5A’s top-ranked Collinsville, 42-7, last Friday.
Bartlesville scored first against Collinsville, highlighted by a 42-yard pass play from 6-2, 190-pound sophomore quarterback Simian Gilkey to 6-0, 190-pound senior wide receiver Gage Keaton. Gilkey scored a few plays later. The Bruins trailed 21-7 at half.
Bartlesville, led by third-year head coach Jason Sport, was 3-8 overall last season and 2-5 in the district. The Bruins lost at Bixby, 74-7, last season and fell at Putnam City North (31-6) in a state playoff game.
Bixby has dominated the Bruins in recent years, rolling 61-14 in 2019, 67-6 in 2018, 37-21 in 2017 and 63-14 in 2014. The 2019 and 2017 games were played in Bartlesville.
The Bruins last win over the Spartans came on Oct. 2, 2015, when Bartlesville captured a 50-33 district win at Bixby. In the 6AII state semifinal game later in 2015, Bixby avenged the loss with a 63-14 win over the Bruins at Owasso.
DEFENSE DOMINATE –Bixby’s defense recorded nine sacks against the Pioneers. Senior standout linebacker Miles Hill led the way with three sacks, followed by senior Connor Stacy and senior Caleb Rogers with two each. Senior Jack Puckett and senior Preston Solomon each had one sack.
The 6-2, 205-pound Hill, who is off to an impressive start, led the Spartans with 10 total tackles, including five solo stops and the three sacks. Junior defensive back Cale Fugate was credited with eight tackles, five unassisted, while Puckett had six tackles, two solos, and Stacy ended with five tackles, three unassisted. Senior linebacker Beau Bertelli and Solomon each finished with four tackles.
NOTEBOOK – Preston Solomon and Caleb Rogers made their presence known Friday. Solomon, who missed most of 2020 with an injury, had his finest offensive outing, catching three passes for 101 yards. Defensively, he ended with four tackles and a clutch sack. Rogers, a senior linebacker, had his most productive defensive outing, recording a pair of sacks. …Zack Blankenship, Bixby’s energetic running back-linebacker, announced his commitment last week to wrestle collegiately at Oklahoma State. … Bixby leads the series with Stillwater, 6-1. … Pioneers’ Julius Talley and JoJo Beale each intercepted a Spartan pass. Beale’s interception led to Stillwater’s final TD. … Sophomore receiver Heston Thompson caught five passes for 145 yards and one TD for SHS while Gundy was 10-for-25 passing for 160 yards and a TD.
ON THE AIR – Bixby’s game at Bartlesville will be broadcast by the Sports Animal, FM 97.1 with Shawn Tiemann providing the play-by-play commentary and Mark Wozniak offering color analysis. Tiemann also hosts Coach Loren Montgomery’s radio show at 6 p.m. Tuesday from Doc’s Country Mart.
DISTRICT TWO – Other District 2 games Friday (Sept. 24) include Muskogee (0-3) at Putnam City West (0-3), Booker T. Washington (3-0) at Choctaw (2-1) and Ponca City (1-2) at Sand Springs (3-0).
In games last Friday involving league opponents, Booker T. Washington routed Tulsa Edison (64-13), Sand Springs upended Shiloh Christian of Arkansas (40-33), Ponca City fell to Ardmore (28-18) and Putnam North riddled Putnam West (56-6). Choctaw and Muskogee were idle.
NON-DISTRICT FOES – Mansfield (Texas) Timberview dropped to 1-3 on the season after a 35-33 loss at Everman while Jenks (2-1) was idle last Friday.