Spartans Adapted During State Championship Season

By Ron Holt

Talent, aggressiveness and disciplined execution were on display weekly during Bixby High’s march to the 2023 Class 6A-I state football championship, the Spartans’ ninth state championship and second straight Class 6A-I title.

While finishing the season at 13-0 – which included winning 74 of its last 75 games and extending its winning streak to 16 consecutive games – Bixby also impressively designed productive halftime adjustments as evidenced during three games this past season.

In a district battle at Westmoore, the Spartans led the high-powered Jaguars 36-21 at halftime. Westmoore scored on two long-distance passes and returned a pass interception for a TD. Bixby regrouped at intermission to outscore the hosts 42-7 in the second half en route to a 78-28 win.

In the regular season finale at Jenks, with the district title up for grabs, Bixby trailed the Trojans 14-7 at halftime. Second half adjustments and execution allowed the Spartans to outscore JHS 24-0 in the final half in rolling to a 31-14 win.

And, in the Class 6A-I state semifinals against Owasso at Sand Springs, the Spartans held a 14-7 halftime advantage before outscoring the Rams 42-7 in the second half in capturing a 56-14 win.

Longtime defensive coordinator Rodney Flowers and the defensive staff and the offensive staff led by veteran offensive coordinator Tyler Schneider are credited with making necessary game adjustments throughout the season.

“Rodney does a really good job of making adjustments. One drawback to having our guys play on both sides of the ball is you don’t always have your guys over there on the sidelines to talk about wholesale changes during the game,” said 14th-year Spartan head coach Loren Montgomery. “Certain groups, like offensive linemen, can.

“Tyler and the offensive staff do a really good job of putting together what we call drive series for the second half … looks we’ve settled in on for the game plans. Those guys are master coaches,” he said.

“One advantage we have is we have really smart kids who understand football and understand what we’re trying to get done. That and having a lot of kids who have played a lot of snaps helps. This season we had some kids who didn’t have a lot of varsity snaps, but you look at the junior varsity games, 7-on-7 and summer camp and they’ve had a lot of snaps.”

Bixby improved throughout the unbeaten season, ending the season with its most complete effort in the 49-21 victory over Jenks in the Class 6A-I state championship game at the University of Central Oklahoma’s Chad Richison Stadium in Edmond.

“I thought the last game was probably our best game, for some of our seniors it was their very best game,” coach Montgomery said. “Guys who come to mind are Kordell Gouldsby with five touchdowns, but we also had guys you might not have realized. Guys like Nate England, one of our offensive linemen, he played great and had his best game.

“Payton Hawkins (lineman) was great, he had a really good game. Jett Turner, a senior, with 250 yards rushing … you go back to nearly every state championship game and the ability to run the ball ends up being crucial. Whether it’s Nick Roller, Tucker Pawley, Brennan Presley or Cade Cavender, we’ve had 200-yard rushers in state championship games.

“Getting some of the seniors playing their very best games was awesome,” coach Montgomery added.

Bixby opened the 2023 season with a 42-16 win over Owasso in the second Battle of the Burbs at the University of Tulsa’s Skelly Field at H.A. Chapman Stadium. Wins at Springdale (Arkansas) Har-Ber (75-18) and Sand Springs (61-7) ended the non-district portion of the schedule.

In District 1 play, the Spartans dominated Norman North (60-2), Southmoore (66-0) on the road, Enid (79-7), Broken Arrow (51-7) on the road, Westmoore on the road, Moore (68-5) and the regular season finale at Jenks before drawing a first round bye in the state playoffs.

Bixby routed Norman (59-20) in the state quarterfinals at Lee Snider Stadium before toppling Owasso in the state semifinals and Jenks in the state championship.

Bixby entered the season with talented, but unproven players, at the critical quarterback position. Senior Clay Peters had seen limited action at quarterback while sophomore Carson Kirby and junior Cooper Parker received preseason snaps at quarterback.

The 5-11 Kirby received the starting nod with Peters, a starting defensive back, and Parker, a starting linebacker, contributing key snaps in the Spartans’ explosive offensive attack.

Kirby steadily improved as he finished the season passing for 2,220 yards and 35 touchdowns while being intercepted seven times. He was 148-of-206 passing, a completion percentage of .718.

“Throughout the summer Kirby’s progression was really good in 7-on-7 and things like that,” coach Montgomery said. “Anytime you have a quarterback race we get all those guys equal number of reps and chart everything. For a sophomore to execute and protect the football the way he did this year was pretty awesome.”

While starting on defense, Peters also contributed 656 yards passing and seven touchdowns while Parker entered during short-yardage situations, finishing with 413 rushing yards and nine TDs.

Senior Jett Turner, also a starter on defense, led the Spartans ground attack, rushing 122 times for 1,046 yards and 14 touchdowns. Senior Kordell Gouldsby rushed for 386 yards and six TDs while also catching 39 passes for 470 yards and six TDs.

Sophomore tight end Cord Nolan led BHS in receiving with 23 catches for 632 yards and 10 touchdowns. Senior Garrett Vaughn snared 39 passes for 470 yards and eight TDs while junior Blake Hogshooter established himself as a player to watch as he caught 19 passes for 404 yards and eight TDs. Senior Yetxiel Perez caught 16 passes for 311 yards and five TDs. Eighteen Spartans caught passes this season.

“Hats off to the kids for being in tune with what we’re trying to do. That’s one thing I noticed this year … we put a lot on the kids’ plate. But I think it helps them in practice, so it doesn’t become monotonous. They have to be dialed in while ingesting everything,” Montgomery added. “

Defensively, veteran senior linebacker Hank Puckett led Bixby in tackles with 116 total stops, including 67 solo tackles. He also had 17 tackles for loss and eight sacks. Senior linebacker Colton Kaiser and Parker each were credited with 86 total tackles. Parker had 59 solo stops, 16 tackles for loss and five sacks while Kaiser had 35 solo stops and four tackles for loss.

Bixby, which needed replacements for several graduated starters in the secondary, recorded 26 pass interceptions this season – three each by Kordell Gouldsby, Sam McCormick, Perez, Parker and Tyler Wright while Cord Nolan and Kaiser each had two interceptions.

Cody Crull, Turner, Peters, Emory Snyder, Chase Kirby, Troy McGlothlin and Puckett each had one pick.

“Coach Flowers did a good job of being multiple with those guys, giving different looks. In years’ past, those guys have been so good we could do whatever we wanted. This year we were able to manipulate things and it helped having such a strong front seven,” coach Montgomery noted.

Another strength for the 2023 Spartans was the play of the offensive and defensive lines. Both lines featured veteran returnees along with promising newcomers. Productive line play, on both sides of the ball, didn’t go unnoticed.

“I thought on both sides of the ball collectively might have been our best line play. They all had such a good year,” coach Montgomery said. “Burch (line coach Corbin Burchett) does a good job getting those guys reps in multiple positions to have the best guys on the field. We had two guys who could snap the ball which was crucial.

“We had guys like Brody Duffel on the line who had started for three years, and Evan McClure was really smart … having those two guys on the line helped the younger ones,” he said.

“We lost Evan (McClure) for a couple of weeks early in the season. Alfonso Villasenor got hurt in the summer and it took him a while getting back but he got back in the game when Evan was out. A young one, Jacob Hamlin, was good and a young Beckham Hooper was undersized but played really well.

As is the case each season, Bixby lost numerous talented players to graduation. Preparation for next season began shortly after the smoke cleared this season. Coach Montgomery and the coaching staff begin working evaluating returnees and newcomers and defining roles next season.

“We lost a lot. We lost 10 starters on defense … we’ve got Cooper Parker back. We had a couple of guys who started some games and guys who got a lot of reps on defense,” Montgomery said. “When you look at offense we have Kirby, Hogshooter (Blake), Nolan, and (lineman) Broderick Shull … we have four returning starters on offense.

“We’ve had classes before with 30 seniors but that’s why we try to develop the kids like we do. Our younger teams, both the red and blue, got nine games each and we had some good JV games, too. Our JV lost one game while one of the younger teams lost one game and the other lost two early in the season.

“I saw a lot of guys get meaningful reps. Our deal is that we’re going to be the best program in the state in developing our student athletes and that’s why we try to get each player a lot of reps. The way we structure spring ball, and the summer is a lot of work … but it’s helped us,” Montgonery added.

ALL-STATE – Two Spartans were named to the 2024 Oklahoma Coaches Association’s All-State Team. On the East Offense were offensive lineman Brody Duffel and athlete Kordell Gouldsby. In addition, linebacker Hank Puckett was named Class 6A East Defense All-Star by Class by the OCA.

Bixby senior offensive lineman Brody Duffel was named to the Tulsa World’s First Team All-State Offensive Team while linebacker Hank Puckett was named first team defense on the World’s All-State Team. Gouldsby was named a Special Team All-Purpose player by the World.

Spartan defensive lineman Justin Kirk was second team defense. World All-State honorable mention recognition went to sophomore quarterback Carson Kirby, running back Jett Turner, tight end Cord Nolan, linemen Kason Hatley, Payton Hawkins, Brandon Hobbs and Evan McClure, linebackers Sam McCormick and junior Cooper Parker and defensive back Yetxiel Perez.

Spartans honored on the 111th Daily Oklahoman all-state team are Duffel, first team offense; Kirk and Puckett, first team defense, and Gouldsby, first team Special Teams’ punt returner. Named to the Oklahoman’s honorable mention list were Turner and Nolan.

ALL-DISTRICT – Bixby, champions of the Class 6A-1-District 1, dominated all-district selections announced after the season.

Running back Jett Turner was named the offensive player of the year, linebacker Hank Puckett was named the defensive player of the year while head coach Loren Montgomery shared coach of the year honors with Westmoore’s Lorenzo Williams.

Other Spartans included on the Player of the year list included Justin Kirk, defensive line, and Kordell Gouldsby, Ironman.

Bixby All-District selections included running back Cody Crull, wide receivers Gouldsby and Garrett Vaughn, offensive linemen Payton Hawkins, Evan McClure, Brody Duffel and Nate England, defensive linemen Kirk, Kason Hatley and Brandon Hobbs, linebackers Puckett and Sam McCormick and defensive backs Yetxiel Perez, Clay Peters and Colton Kaiser. Also honored to the district’s special team was kicker Troy Nguyen.

NOTEBOOK – Unbeaten Bixby finished ranked No. 18 in the USA Today Super 25 final football rankings recently. The Spartans were also ranked No. 24 on the Sports Illustrated Power 25 national rankings and were ranked No. 34 on MaxPreps final national rankings. … Bixby’s 2023 roster included 109 players. … Bixby has recorded three straight wins over longtime rival Jenks while the Spartans have beaten the Trojans six times in the past seven meetings. … At the annual Bixby Football Banquet in early December, Sam McCormick was given the Lee Snider Award, Kordell Gouldsby and Jett Turner received the Tom Boone-Bixby Bulletin Award, Brody Duffel was given the Kevin Riddle Core Value Award and Payton Hawkins was the first recipient of the $1,000 Frank Roach Scholarship.  …. Versatile Spartan Kordell Gouldsby finished his senior season with 1,580 total all-purpose yards, an average of 158 all-purpose yards a game. Despite missing three games, he had 386 rushing yards, 470 receiving yards, 120 kickoff return yards, 589 punt return yards and 15 interception return yards. …BHS kicker Troy Nguyen was 85-of-87 on extra- point kicks while going two-for-two on field goal attempts. His longest field goal was 34 yards. … The Spartans averaged 59.6 points per game while limiting opponents to an average of 12.2 points per game. Bixby scored 70-plus points three times and more than 60 points four times. Bixby’s defense had one shutout while opponents scored in single digits six times.

2024-02-15T18:26:07+00:00February 15th, 2024|

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