By Ron Holt
JENKS – Late in the regular season, Bixby’s head football coach Loren Montgomery said: “The best way to control your own destiny is to keep winning.”
That sentiment was up for grabs here last Friday night as the top-ranked Spartans visited longtime rival Jenks in front of an overflow crowd at Allan Trimble Stadium with the Class 6A-I, District 1 title going to the victor.
In the first half, there were few positive moments for Bixby. The Spartans were victimized by critical penalties, two explosive Jenks touchdowns, two Spartan touchdowns called back by penalties and – for the first time this season – went to halftime trailing 14-7. It easily could have been a demoralized halftime locker room.
Instead, Bixby’s coaches refocused the Spartan offense which erupted for 24 second half points and the Spartan defense which shutout a Jenks offense featuring a variety of weapons as the Spartans rolled to a stunning 31-14 victory in the regular season finale.
Bixby, which was flagged 10 times for 76 yards, ended the regular season at 10-0 with a 7-0 District 1 mark while earning a first-round bye in the Class 6A-I playoffs starting Nov. 9-10. The Spartans – winners of 71 of their past 72 games – ran their winning streak to 13 consecutive games. Fifth-ranked Jenks is 6-4 overall and 5-2 in the district.
“It was one thing after another in the first half,” Coach Montgomery said afterward. “We had holding calls, something we’ve been doing. We’ve got to look ourselves in the mirror really hard and say, ‘why are we getting some of these holds and how can we fix it.’ It mattered tonight … anytime you are playing a quality team like that it matters.
“At halftime coach (Rodney) Flowers was saying the defense was going to get a stop and the offense was going to score … let’s pin our ears back and take this game back over. I was super proud of them. Nobody was panicking in the locker room at halftime, being down seven.
“We knew that we had some looks but just made some mistakes. The second half our guys got after it. That was an excellent game for us to have going into the playoffs,” he added. “It was a physical battle. We had to stress and had to come from behind … it was a good win.”
Bixby 6-4 junior wide receiver Blake Hogshooter, an emerging offensive weapon, highlighted the Spartans’ second half resurgence, catching three touchdown passes from sophomore quarterback Carson Kirby including a 14-yard TD reception to tie the game at 14-all with 10:17 showing in the third quarter. He hauled in a contested reception for a 42 yard TD with 9:45 left in the fourth quarter for a 24-14 lead and capped off the Spartans’ scoring effort with a 36-yard TD grab with 7:06 remaining in the game.
“We had a good talk at halftime and came back and played well,” said Hogshooter, who ended the regular season with 14 pass receptions for 284 yards and a team leading seven touchdowns. “The mindset was just do what we know how to do, take care of business and don’t let up.
“It feels really good, but we couldn’t get anything done without the coaches knowing the game plan or without the linemen blocking for us … it takes everybody,” he said.
The 5-11, 180-pound Kirby epitomized Bixby’s second half focus. In the opening half, he threw a pass interception without throwing a touchdown pass. He, like the rest of the Spartans, recovered nicely in the second half, finishing with 12-of-17 pass completions for 156 yards and three touchdowns.
“During the summer and during this season I’ve been working on not getting too down when something goes wrong. Just move on to the next play and don’t let one play get you down. Coach (Tyler) Schneider has helped me a lot with that … he just told me I’m fine,” Kirby said.
Jenks’ senior Ilias Cooper intercepted Kirby on the Spartans’ first possession of the game, setting up the Trojans’ first TD thanks to a trick play. JHS junior quarterback Owen Jones handed the ball to sophomore Kaydin Jones, who tossed the ball back to Jones. Jones lofted a pass to a wide-open Khyier Beaty for a 31-yard touchdown and an early 7-0 lead with 9:29 left in the first stanza.
The Spartans pulled even on their third possession, which ended in a three-yard touchdown run by senior Jett Turner. Troy Nguyen’s point-after kicked tied the game at the 2:27 mark of the first quarter. The scoring drive featured a 41-yard pass play from Kirby to senior Yetxiel Perez.
Bixby’s special teams struck early in the second quarter when senior Cody Crull blocked a punt attempt by Jenks’ Eliott Atyia, giving Bixby the ball at its own 48-yard line. The drive never gained traction because of a holding penalty early in the drive and an ineligible receiver downfield penalty late in the drive forcing a BHS punt.
Jenks went on a lengthy scoring drive midway through the second quarter, ending in a 36-yard TD sprint by K. Jones and a conversion kick by Jack Franklin for a 14-7 Trojan lead with 3:22 left before halftime. Bixby senior Kordell Gouldsby intercepted a Jenks pass to stop a late JHS drive but the ensuing Spartan drive, which appeared to include an impressive touchdown pass from Peters to Hogshooter was nullified by a holding penalty on the Spartans.
Bixby’s first possession of the second half featured an ineligible receiver downfield penalty which canceled a nine-yard TD pass from Clay Peters to Cord Nolan. But Kirby connected with Hogshooter for a 14-yard TD and Nyugen’s kicked the conversion, tying the game at 14-all.
The Spartan defense entered the spotlight on Jenks’ next possession as the Trojans bobbled a handoff which Spartan senior defensive lineman Brandon Hobbs recovered at the Jenks’ 23. “It feels good to be out there,” said Hobbs, who returned to the lineup after being sidelined with a leg injury. “It was hard watching my boys compete, but they played their tails off. We went in at halftime knowing we needed to be more physical than they were … we had to go harder than they did. It was a great win … I love four quarter games.”
Hobbs’ fumble recovery set up a 36-yard field goal by Nguyen, giving the Spartans their first lead at 17-14 with 3:29 left in the third quarter.
“It was great, it’s just pure enjoyment. I enjoyed every second of it,” Nguyen said of his second field goal this season. “I just keep practicing, staying after practice, just putting in the hours. “I was nervous. My coach told me if you don’t show a little nervousness that means it doesn’t matter to you, but to show some nerves means you’re focused,” he added.
Coach Montgomery said of Nyugen: “Troy kicked one last week early in the game, that’s why we sent him out there last week so when we do have situations like tonight in a close ball game, we feel comfortable putting him out there. He just gets better and better.”
Kirby and Hogshooter connected twice in the fourth quarter as the Spartans turned a tight game into a comfortable win. Kirby passed to Hogshooter for a 42-yard TD pass with 9:45 left in the game and at the 7:06 mark of the final stanza, Kirby eluded pressure, scrambled to his right before lofting a pass that Hogshooter caught and eluded a Jenks defender as he stepped into the end zone for the 31-14 lead. Bixby’s defense was dominant in the second half. The Spartans forced the Trojans to punt five times, recovered a Jenks fumble and ended one JHS drive with a pass interception by Perez, his second interception this season.
Jenks finished with 116 yards rushing and 94 yards passing for 210 total offensive yards. The Trojans turned the ball over three times, two on pass interceptions and once by a fumble. Owen was 6-for-19 passing for 57 yards and one TD and two interceptions while being sacked once. Jones reeled off 98 yards on 18 carries and one TD to pace the hosts’ ground game.
“They have so many explosive options to go to, for us to be able to hold them to zero points in the second half was astounding,” coach Flowers, Bixby’s veteran defensive coordinator, said. “We told the kids don’t let them have explosive plays, but they had two of those in the first half.
“We were able to limit the explosive plays in the second half and the kids had a great night after that. Not playing four quarters for a while you never know what you’re going to get but I thought the kids held up well … practice this week was phenomenal.
“We had several good practices this week. The kids were involved in every situation. Everything was dialed up another notch because when you are playing a quality opponent like them that’s what you have to do,” he added.
6A-1 PLAYOFFS – Bixby, No. 2 Tulsa Union (9-1), No. 3 Owasso (8-2) and No. 5 Jenks (6-4) all received first round byes in the Class 6A-I state playoffs. The Spartans await the winner of a first-round game between No. 10 Broken Arrow (3-7) at No. 8 Norman (4-6) on Thursday (Nov. 9). The Spartans host the winner on Friday, Nov. 17, in a state quarterfinal battle. Edmond North (3-7) visits Norman North (8-2) in a first-round game Friday (Nov. 10) with the winner meeting Owasso in the state quarterfinals. No. 9 Mustang (6-4) visits No. 7 Westmoore (6-4) with the winner playing Union in the quarterfinals. And Enid (3-7) goes to No. 4 Edmond Santa Fe (6-3) for a first-round game with the winner advancing to a quarterfinal game at Jenks. The state semifinals are scheduled Nov. 24-25 at sites to be determined while the Class 6A-I state championship game is scheduled Friday, Dec. 1, at 7 p.m. at the University of Central Oklahoma’s Chad Richison Stadium in Edmond. Bixby won the 6A-1 District 1 title with a 7-0 record followed, in order, by Jenks (5-2), Norman North (5-2), Westmoore (5-2), Broken Arrow (3-4), Enid (2-5), Moore (1-6) and Southmoore (0-7). In regular season district results last week, Broken Arrow won at Moore, 42-35; Enid lost 62-6 at Norman North and Westmoore beat Southmoore 42-13.
NOTABLES – Bixby has defeated Jenks five times in the past six meetings. … The last time Bixby trailed at halftime was 17-14 against Jenks in last season’s regular season finale at home. Jenks won 38-35. … Spartan captains for the Jenks game were Brody Duffel, Hank Puckett, Sam McCormick and Clay Peters. … BHS senior Cody Crull’s blocked punt was his second this season. … Entering the playoffs, Carson Kirby is 131-of-168 passing for 1,937 yards, 29 touchdowns and four interceptions. Jett Turner tops the Spartan ground attack with 614 yards rushing on 79 carries and 10 TDs. Sophomore Cord Nolan tops the receivers with 15 catches for 523 yards and five scores followed by Blake Hogshooter and Yetxiel Perez’s 13 receptions for 247 yards and two TDs. … After his pass interception last Friday Kordell Gouldsby joined teammate Tyler Wright with three team-leading pass interceptions this season while Perez, Cooper Parker and Colton Kaiser each have picked off two passes.
Bixby 31, Jenks 14
JHS – Khyier Beaty 31 pass from Owen Jones (Jack Franklin kick), 11:18
BHS – Jett Turner 3 run (Troy Nguyen kick), 5:47
JHS – Kaydin Jones 36 run (Franklin kick), 5:23
BHS – Blake Hogshooter 14 pass from Carson Kirby (Nguyen kick), 10:17
BHS – Nguyen 36 field goal, 4:49
BHS – Hogshooter 42 pass from Kirby (Nguyen kick), 9:45
BHS – Hogshooter 36 pass from Kirby (Nguyen kick), 7:06