By Ron Holt
After starting the season 3-0 and being idle last week, Bixby’s Spartans enter the most important portion of the 2023 schedule as Class 6A-I-District 1 play begins Friday, Sept 22.
It will be a battle of unbeatens when Bixby, ranked No. 1 in Class 6A-I, hosts third-ranked Norman North (3-0) in the district opener at Lee Snider Field. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
While Bixby rolled past Owasso (42-16), Springdale Har-Ber (75-18) and against Sand Springs (61-7) on the road in non-league play, Norman North defeated Norman (21-0), won at Edmond Santa Fe (31-28) and thumped visiting Yukon (57-28) last week.
Norman North, coached by Justin Jones, was 8-3 last season, including falling to the Spartans 63-7 in a district meeting at Norman’s Harve Collins Field. The Timberwolves were 6-1 in district play in 2022.
“They’re pretty similar to last year,” Bixby head coach Loren Montgomery said of the Timberwolves. “They’ve got a new quarterback and they don’t have the same running back they had last year. They’ve got several familiar faces back on defense.
“The schemes are similar to what they did last year. They like to run the quarterback … they like to do some power read type stuff. It looks like they have two really good outside receivers, one they like to line up at wildcat quarterback,” he added. “Their O-line is good. They have a big left tackle who has scholarship offers,” he said of 6-4, 285-pound senior Harrison Utley.
“Defensively, they base out of a 3-4 defense, not the same as ours but similar. They had a big kid, No. 99 (Isaac Morgan), at defensive end last year and they are playing him at nose this year. I think the strength of their defense is the D-line.”
Bixby coaches watched as Norman North routed Yukon last week as the Timberwolves’ sophomore wide receiver Mason James scored three touchdowns, catching a 30-yard screen pass and 49-yard TD pass from junior quarterback Owen Eshelman. James also scored a four-yard rushing TD from the wildcat formation.
According to reports, Norman North capitalized on four Yukon turnovers – two pass interceptions by senior defensive back Camden Prather and two fumble recoveries. The Millers were held to 19 yards rushing.
The Spartans used the bye week to keep the players fresh while also making improvements and continuing to condition.
“We backed off the kids a little this week to try to keep them fresh,” coach Montgomery said. “We kept our routine as normal as possible … the practice schedules looked the same. We got a head start on Norman North and worked on cleaning up some mistakes we’ve seen on film.
“We also worked on some things we’ve given up in the first three games that we saw on film. We’ve tried correcting those mistakes.”
NOTEBOOK – Bixby is ranked No. 45 in MaxPreps’ national high school rankings. … Bixby has outscored its three opponents 178-41 while Norman North has outscored its three opponents, 109-55. … In last year’s meeting at Norman North, Bixby used a 35-point second quarter in capturing an impressive 63-7 victory. The Timberwolves scored first on a 54-yard pass play before senior Jersey Robb scored on a two-yard run to tie the game with 3:47 left in the opening stanza and Robb’s one-yard TD run early in the second quarter gave the Spartans a lead they never relinquished. Bixby blanked the Timberwolves 21-0 in the second half. Bixby senior quarterback Connor Kirby passed for 107 yards and a TD while rushing 10 times for 136 yards and two TDs. Senior QB Austin Havens passed for 92 yards and two scores. Bixby amassed 539 total offensive yards while limiting North to 170 total yards. The Timberwolves were 0-for-13 on third down conversions and 0-for-1 on fourth down tries. The hosts also punted 11 times. … With the bye week, a trio of Spartan contributors appear closer to returning to varsity action after battling injuries. They include senior lineman Alfonso Villasenor, junior safety-running back Bode Cairl and sophomore receiver Nate Gonzales who was injured in the Owasso game.
SPARTAN LEADERS – Offensively Bixby is led by sophomore quarterback Carson Kirby who is 32-of-46 passing for 397 yards and eight touchdowns. Senior Kordell Gouldsby leads the Spartans in rushing with 10 carries for 234 yards and three TDs while senior quarterback Clay Peters has rushed 19 times for 153 yards and five TDs. Sophomore Cord Nolan has five pass receptions for 114 yards and two TDs while Gouldsby has eight pass receptions for 85 yards and one TD. Senior Garrett Vaughn has three receptions for 75 yards and a pair of scores. Gouldsby leads BHS in all-purpose yardage with 483 yards.
Defensively senior linebacker Hank Puckett leads BHS with 37 total tackles, 21 unassisted. He has four tackles for loss and two sacks. Senior linebacker Jett Turner, who has 12 total tackles, leads the Spartans in tackles for loss with seven and leads in sacks with 4.5. As a unit, Bixby has recorded 11.5 sacks through three games along with four pass interceptions.
SPORTS MEDICINE – With temperature reaching triple digits in August and September, Bixby High’s sports medicine team was busier than normal, especially during preseason practices.
Stephen Moss, who is into his 12th season as Bixby’s certified athletic trainer, third-year certified athletic trainer Christa Montgomery and first-year certified athletic trainer Savannah Kautz – along with the student aides – were instrumental in keeping the Spartans active despite the brutal heat.
“The first week of practice wasn’t bad but once we got into the two weeks before the Owasso game the temperatures were grueling,” coach Montgomery said. “The trainers worked their tails off. They had cooling stations, towels, ice baths afterward for the players and they had Gatorade iced down in the locker room.
“They worked super hard and for the most part the majority of our kids held up pretty well considering the heat. We had to practice in the heat some because against Owasso we were going to kick off at 7:30 p.m. … so if we didn’t get out in it some it would make it worse.
“Moss suggested we could take helmets and shoulder pads off to go through the first part of practice and then when we went to team stuff, we could put the pads on and that would help. Moss gave us suggestions and he monitored everything. He’s been with us so long he knows the schedule and how everything operates,” Montgomery added.
Sports medicine student aides are Bella Mares, Stevie Purdom, Caroline Corley, Abigail Edwards, Brynn Paxton, Addison Stobaugh, Anaya Snow, Vivian Snow, Katelyn McBride, Taylin Hausler, Laila Venema, Kylie Godsey, Ella McLemore, Kaylynn Arsee, Milani Jackson, Autumn Beams, Angelina Kelley, Jaslynn Varner, Ashlynn West, Katie Blaich, Riley Brown, Rowan Purdie, Lilly Thompson and Rose Lawrence.
“It was a very busy summer working with 250-plus kids from eighth through 12th grades,” Moss said.