By Ron Holt
TULSA – Throughout this undefeated prep football season, Class 6AII’s top-ranked Bixby has been a picture of consistency.
The Spartans are always focused, sufficiently prepared and play with passion. But when the stakes are magnified Bixby takes its intensity to another level as was evidenced last Friday night against once-beaten Booker T. Washington in a 6AII-District 2 feature game at S. E. Williams Stadium.
Bixby’s offense compiled 509 yards of total offense while the Spartan defense limited the third-ranked Hornets to 103 total offensive yards while converting two Washington turnovers into points in dominating BTW, 69-20, in the regular season finale.
With the win, Bixby captured its fourth straight district championship, went undefeated in the regular season for third straight season and enters the Class 6AII state playoffs against visiting Putnam City North as the district’s No.1 seed.
Bixby (10-0 7-0) forced an early turnover as Hornet running back Ethan Washington fumbled after being doubled teamed with Spartan senior Preston Solomon recovering near the Hornet goal line.
Junior quarterback Connor Kirby scored from three yards out on Bixby’s first play and Connor Nolan kicked the extra point for a 7-0 BHS lead with 11:09 showing in the first quarter. That turnover and Bixby’s quick-strike response set the tempo.
Later in the stanza, Spartan quarterback Christian Burke fired a strike to senior tight end Beau Bertelli, who out-ran the Hornet defenders for a 46-yard TD and 14-0 Spartan lead with 1:20 left in the first quarter.
Bixby erupted for 27 second quarter points including a 60-yard pass from Burke to senior Preston Solomon, a four-yard TD run by Connor Kirby, a 30-yard pass interception return by Bertelli and a three-yard TD run by senior Braylin Presley, who returned to the lineup after sitting out last week’s game at Ponca City because of injury.
BTW (8-2, 5-1) displayed its explosiveness in the second stanza as senior Jaden King returned a kickoff 97 yards for a TD and Tease turned a reception from junior quarterback Lathan Boone into a 66-yard TD, narrowing the halftime deficit to 41-13.
The Spartans sealed the win with a 21-point third quarter outburst, featuring a 10-yard trick pass
from Presley to Bertelli, a two-yard TD run by senior Jersey Robb and a six-yard TD burst by senior Zack Blankenship, his ninth this season.
“It is a big deal winning a district championship. We’ve had those years we didn’t win district, so finishing at the top of the district is important,” said Spartan head coach Loren Montgomery. “This was a big one. To be playing well and executing well helps with confidence rolling into the playoffs.
“They made some big plays like we knew they could. We have some things – like you always do – that we need to clean up, but we got a lot of effort out of a lot of guys tonight,” Montgomery added.
The Hornets’ DJ McKinney returned a pass interception for 37 yards to end BTW’s scoring while Bixby’s scoring ended on a six-yard TD run by junior Garrett Hoskins.
Burke connected on 14-of-22 passes for 258 yards and two touchdowns while Presley’s 61 yards rushing on 10 carries paced the Spartans, who had 11 players compile rushing statistics. Bertelli was the leading receiver with three grabs for 71 yards and two TDs while nine Spartans caught passes in the game.
Bertelli, a 6-1, 200-pound senior, had a night he won’t soon forget. Besides the two TD receptions, he also had a pass interception for a touchdown. Defensively, he was credited with five tackles, two unassisted, and one tackle for a loss. “He’s a great ball player,” coach Montgomery noted.
“It was fun, I haven’t had a game like that in years, probably in the youth leagues. But it wasn’t just me, it was everyone else around me doing their jobs … opening up plays for me and making those things possible,” Bertelli said. “I think this game was like one of the top games around, but we’ve been there before. We knew we just needed to go perform and do our jobs.
“It’s awesome, that’s good going into the playoffs,” he said of winning another district crown.
Defensively, the Spartans played their physical brand of ball and contained the high-powered Hornets most of the evening.
Standout senior linebacker Jack Puckett paced a balanced effort, finishing with a team-high eight tackles, six unassisted, and a sack. Senior linebacker Connor Stacy ended with seven tackles, three solos while Solomon, Miles Hill and Tyson Williams each had four tackles with Hill recording three solo stops.
Hill, a 6-2, 205-pound senior defensive end, creates problems or opposing offensive lineman. He’s often the reason holding flags are throw on offensive opponents, like a couple against BTW.
“It’s part of the game, it happens a lot,” said Hill, who had an arm brace torn off early in the game. “I thought we played well tonight. As a team we know what we’re capable of and it’s our duty to show out every single game, no questions asked.
“No matter how much the game is hyped up we have to execute and play up to the best of our abilities,” added Hill, who leads Bixby’s defenders with 20 tackles for loss this season and has registered 42 total tackles. He is tied with Puckett in sacks, each with nine. Puckett is second in tackles for loss with 14.
NEXT GAME – Bixby hosts Putnam City North, the No. 4 seed in District 1, in a Class 6AII State Quarterfinal playoff game at 7 p.m. Friday (Nov. 12) at Lee Snider Stadium.
Putnam North, coached by Ryan Laverty, fell to 5-5 overall and to 3-4 in District 1 after losing 28-0 at home to Stillwater in the regular season finale. The Panthers were limited to 176 yards of total offense by the Pioneers.
This season, the Panthers, who enter the playoffs winning two of their last three games, lost in double overtime at home to Putnam City (36-35, 2OT), won at Piedmont (26-10) and at Putnam City West (56-6) in non-district games. In league play, the Panthers won at U. S. Grant (69-3), lost 38-13 at home to Deer Creek-Edmond, lost 33-28 at Lawton, lost at home to Del City, 20-14 in overtime, won 24-12 at Midwest City and routed Northwest Classen, 55-6, at home before being blanked by Stillwater.
The Panthers are led offensively by junior quarterback Carson Laverty, who has thrown 15 TD passes while rushing for four scores. Senior running back Amaurion Norment and sophomore Camarion Jones each have rushed for eight TDs while senior receiver Reece Moffatt has five TD receptions.
Senior Haydn Thornton leads the Panthers’ defense with around 100 total tackles.
SOLOMON EFFICIENT – Bixby’s 6-4, 185-pound senior receive/linebacker Preston Solomon, who missed most of the 2020 season because of injury, is making the most of his offensive opportunities this season.
Through 10 games, Solomon has 12 pass receptions, which is sixth among Spartan receivers. Six of those receptions, however, were touchdowns. He’s averaging 35.4 yards per reception – tops on the team – and 42.5 receiving yards a game – second behind Braylin Presley’s 67.1 receiving yards a game.
Solomon, who combines athleticism with sprinter speed, is tied with Presley and senior Beau Bertelli in touchdown receptions with six each. He also recovered a blocked punt in the end zone against Muskogee for his seventh TD this season.
Solomon’s TD receptions this season have been of the long distant variety – 60 yards at Booker T. Washington, 28 yards at Ponca City, 38 yards against Muskogee, 26 yards against Sand Springs, 73 yards at Choctaw and 34 yards against Mansfield (Texas) Timberview.
“I feel like this year Christian (Burke) and I have developed a lot of chemistry. We worked a lot in seven on seven, throwing a lot of long passes … that’s kind of what I’m known for I guess,” said Solomon, the younger brother of former Spartan and Oklahoma State basketballer Mitch Solomon.
“It feels great to win district again, we needed this big win to roll into the playoffs with momentum. We came out pretty strong in the first half … just like the Choctaw game,” he added.
Solomon has contributed defensively with 35 tackles, 15 unassisted, five tackles for loss, one sack and 11 hurries.
NOTABLES – Bixby’s impressive winning streak grew to 46 straight games after the BTW win. … The Spartans have won four consecutive district championships. …Bixby was ranked No. 19 nationally by MaxPreps and No. 20 in USA Today’s national prep poll. … Oklahoma University head coach Lincoln Riley and OU defensive coordinator Alex Grinch attended the Spartan-Hornet game. … Linebacker Beau Bertelli tied teammate Jakeb Snyder for the team lead in pass interceptions with three each. … Senior running back-linebacker Jersey Robb returned to the field for limited action Friday after being sidelined much of the season with an injury. … Burke continues his impressive production. He has thrown for 2,434 yards and 31 TDs while being picked off three times this season. He’s connected on .713 percent of his pass attempts. … Bixby is averaging 60 points per game while allowing 11.7 points a game.
DISTRICT 2 – In other 6AII-District 2 regular season finales Friday, Choctaw (8-2, 6-1) romped 55-21 at Bartlesville (2-8, 1-6); Putnam City West (0-10, 0-7) fell 44-7 at Sand Springs (7-3, 4-3) and Ponca City (4-6, 3-4) squeaked out a 35-28 win at Muskogee (2-8, 2-5).
NON-DISTRICT – Mansfield (Texas) Timberview (6-4) defeated Burleson, 42-14, at home; Jenks (9-1) captured a 49-14 home victory over Westmoore, and Stillwater (8-2) rolled at Putnam City North, 28-0.
PLAYOFFS – In other Class 6AII quarterfinal playoff games Friday, Sand Springs visits Del City, Deer Creek-Edmond goes to Choctaw and Booker T. Washington travels to Stillwater.
Del City (9-1, 7-0) is the top seed in District 1, followed by Stillwater (8-2, 6-1), Deer Creek-Edmond (8-2, 5-2) and Putnam North.
If victorious in the quarterfinal, Bixby advances to the semifinals the following week against the Stillwater-BTW winner.