By Ron Holt

JENKS – A supersized offensive performance by talented junior running back Braylin Presley and a solid second half defensive effort lifted unbeaten Bixby past third-ranked Midwest City, 49-20, in a Class 6AII state semifinal game at Allan Trimble Stadium here last Saturday night.

With the win, the top-ranked Spartans, 10-0 and riding a 35-game winning streak, advanced to their seventh straight Class 6AII state championship game. Bixby meets surprising Choctaw (9-3) in the state title game at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5, at the University of Central Oklahoma’s Wantland Stadium.

Fourth-ranked Choctaw upset second-ranked and previously unbeaten Stillwater, 38-35, on a last second field goal at Owasso earlier last Saturday, denying the Pioneers a third straight state championship appearance.

“It’s something you never take for granted. Winning is hard and getting to the state championship is hard … we’re going to enjoy it,” said Bixby head coach Loren Montgomery.

After being involved in an offensive shootout with athletic Midwest City and clinging to a 21-17 halftime lead, the Spartans were efficient offensively early in the second half while the defense executed halftime adjustments in limiting the Bombers to three second half points as Bixby pulled away.

The defense contributed to the Spartans first score when Bomber quarterback Deangelo Irvin Jr. was intercepted by sophomore defensive back Dylan Hasz, who returned the theft 24 yards for a touchdown with 6:59 showing in the first quarter.

“The guy just took me in, and the quarterback threw out in front of me, so I just jumped it … I happened to be right there. It was awesome,” said Hasz, who has a team-leading four interceptions.

On its second possession, Bixby expanded the lead to 14-0 when sophomore Jersey Robb bulled into the end zone from a yard out and Connor Nolan added the extra point kick with 40 seconds left in the opening stanza.

“It was awesome getting to run the ball,” said Robb, also a starting linebacker. “If they can’t stop it, we’re going to keep doing it. Momentum is everything. That was good for our team to get going early and push forward.” Robb ended with 24 rushing yards on six carries.

Midwest City, stymied trying to run at the outset, spread its offense and found success on short-range passes to playmakers. The Bombers tied the game after a 14-yard TD run by Irvin and a four-yard run by Kristawn Friday with 5:10 left in the first half.

Bixby impressively answered during a drive highlighted by a 19-yard pass on fourth-and-nine from quarterback Mason Williams to sophomore Jakeb Snyder for a first down at the Bomber four. Williams rifled the pass between a pair of Bomber defenders and Snyder made a clutch catch.

Three plays later, Presley covered three yards untouched for his second TD, giving. Bixby a 21-14 lead with 51 seconds left.

The Bombers didn’t go into halftime quietly as a 29-yard pass from Irvin to Oklahoma State bound Makale Smith, a 16-yard one-handed grab by Artez Young and a 13-yard scramble by Irvin moved the ball to Bixby’s 16 where Elijah Escobar kicked a 33-yard field goal with no time left, trimming the halftime deficit to 21-17.

Bixby took control early in the second half as Presley scored on runs of 37 and 35 yards on the Spartans’ opening possessions, sandwiched round a 41-yard field goal by Escobar, giving BHS a 35-20 lead with 5:14 left in the third quarter.

Presley added a 22-yard TD run late in the third quarter and Williams hit sophomore Luke Hasz for a seven-yard TD for the 49-20 lead with 5:35 remaining.

Presley turned in another big game performance, rushing for 286 yards on 33 carries and scoring four TDs while also catching five passes for 56 yards. Unlike past outings when he relied on speed and elusiveness, Presley displayed toughness running into the heart of the talented Bomber defense behind the Spartans’ hard-working offensive line for 190 second half yards.

“That’s probably not what a lot of folks are used to seeing out of Braylin,” said coach Montgomery. “Midwest City had a good defense. I think they are only giving up an average of 13 points a game … they made us earn it. I was proud of Braylin for being able to run inside the tackles and be physical … that’s a tough 286 yards. Give Midwest City credit, they play good defense.”

Presley also shared credit for the ground game success. “It’s not just me it’s the whole team. We practiced well and we had some success running so we came out in the second half and said we were going to execute and win the game,” added Presley, who has compiled 2,242 total yards this season.

Bixby’s defense turned in a solid second half performance, holding the explosive Bombers to three points and 100 yards of total offense.

“They came out and they weren’t able to do what they normally do so their game plan was spread it around to the athletes,” Montgomery added. “I thought our defense did a really good job of mixing up our looks in the second half and tackling some really talented players in space.”

Junior linebacker Jack Puckett was credited with 12 total tackles, five unassisted, and had one tackle for a loss for the Spartans. “We switched up a little of our game plan and we shut the run game down really quick, so they started airing it out,” Puckett said.

“We were solid in our coverages, but it wasn’t effective enough, so we switched some things and did better in the second half. We just knew we had to run to the ball and that’s what we did in the second half.

“We’ve met them in the past. We know how athletic they are and knew they would play hard. We didn’t underestimate them … we just had to focus,” he added. “Playing in the state championship game is super important to me. I feel like I have something to prove to the upperclassmen that have invested their time in me.”

CHAMPIONSHIP FOE – Choctaw, which lost to Stillwater in the 2019 state semifinals, used a 25-yard field goal by sophomore Tommy Yousey with no time left to defeat Stillwater and reach the state championship game for the first time since 1960.

Bixby defeated Choctaw, 24-13, in a regular season district game at home earlier this season. It was Bixby’s closest outing. The teams were tied 7-7 at halftime. Bixby ended with 315 total offensive yards and Choctaw had 312.

“It did surprise me that Choctaw won. I wasn’t anticipating Stillwater to drub them, but I thought they would win,” Montgomery said. “They have improved, and I think they’ve got some guys healthy. They played us tough the last time we played. I think our guys will be ready to go.”

Choctaw 6-3 sophomore quarterback Steele Wasel passed for 297 yards and one touchdown while being intercepted once against Bixby. Senior receiver Terrill Davis had eight catches for 142 yards in that game while sophomore running back La’Trell Ray caught four passes for 101 yards and one TD.

In the semifinal win over Stillwater, which lost to Bixby in the 2018 and 2019 Class 6AII state finals, Wasel passed for 204 yards and two TDs while running for one score. Davis caught two touchdown passes and Ray scored the game-tying TD.

“We really think back on that game a lot because we came out overconfident and probably overlooked them and they punched us in the mouth,” said Bixby senior linebacker Nick Wedel said of the earlier Choctaw game. “It hurt a little to have a game that close … we’re going to have to come out prepared this time.

“They’re a great team, I knew they would have a great game with Stillwater,” added Wedel, who recorded eight tackles, three unassisted, against Midwest City.

YELLOWJACKET SCORES – This season, Choctaw lost at Springdale, Arkansas (46-18), defeated Van Buren, Arkansas (28-10), lost at Greenwood, Arkansas (23-12), won at Tulsa Washington (26-22), defeated Ponca City (20-14), lost at Bixby, defeated Muskogee (26-10) and Sand Springs (34-9), won at Putnam City West (55-12), defeated Bartlesville (61-21) and upended Putnam North (20-7) in the state quarterfinals.

NOTES – Bixby was ranked No. 32 nationally and No. 1 in the state in MaxPreps Sports rankings and ranked No. 23 in USA Today’s national high school football rankings. … The Spartans won five of the past six Class 6AII state championships and have won two in a row. “It’s very important for all of us to play in another state championship.  I’ve been there since I was a freshman and I’m kind of acclimated to the atmosphere. It’s important to me to get a third straight championship,” Braylin Presley said. Senior Nick Wedel added, “It’s a great feeling playing in the state championship … it’s my last year and I want to end it on a good note.” … Spartan senior quarterback Mason Williams enters his final prep game with 9,064 passing yards and a school record 110 touchdowns. … Senior defensive back Tanner Doyle leads Bixby in total tackles with 91, followed by Wedel with 73, Jack Puckett with 72 and Beau Bertelli with 69. … Midwest City ended with minus nine yards rushing while Bixby rushed for 325 yards. … Bixby was 7-of-12 on third down conversions and two-of-three on fourth down conversions last Saturday. … The Spartans defeated Stillwater, 40-36, in the 2019 Class 6AII state championship game to secure a 13-0 season – the school’s first undefeated season.