By Ron Holt

After getting in their own way in the first half, Bixby’s unbeaten Spartans turned in an efficient second half performance in romping past No. 10-ranked Ponca City, 59-0, in a Class 6AII-District 2 game at Lee Snider Field last Friday night.

With the Homecoming Game victory, the top-rated Spartans increased to 7-0 overall and to 4-0 in district play. The Spartans end the regular season against fifth-ranked Booker T. Washington Thursday, Nov. 5, in a game which will be televised nationally by ESPNU. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

Offensively, Bixby built a 24-0 first half lead despite fumbling four times, losing three. There were also dropped passes and six penalties for 45 yards in the opening stanza. The Spartans cleaned up their offensive act in the second half, scoring on their first four possessions of the third quarter and first possession in the fourth quarter.

Bixby’s defense dominated from the opening whistle, holding the Wildcats to five total offensive yards in the first half, including minus 17 yards rushing. The visitors ended with 31 total offensive yards and four first downs, while averaging 0.6 yards per play.

“We came in knowing they were going to run, that’s what we worked on all week … we were ready for it,” said linebacker Beau Bertelli, a 5-11, 182-pound junior. “It was a good performance on the defensive side. We’ll need to be better next week, but coach will give us a game plan for next week and we know we’ll have to work even harder.

“I saw mainly end of game playing time last year. I feel like I’ve definitely progressed this season … it’s been awesome,” noted Bertelli, who has been a steady, productive contributor for Bixby’s defense this season.

After going three and out on its first possession and losing a fumble on its next possession, Bixby used a 54-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Mason Williams to sophomore Luke Hasz for an 8-0 lead with 5:23 left in the first stanza. Sophomore Jersey Robb ran for the two-point conversion.

The 6-4, 205-pound Hasz violently stiff-armed Ponca’s 5-9, 140-pound senior defensive back Spencer Ball near the goal line.

Bixby senior linebacker Nick Wedel provided the offense field position early in the second quarter when he blocked a punt by Ball which went out of bounds at the Wildcats’ 29. Robb scored from seven yards out and then ran for the two-point conversion and a 16-0 BHS lead with 10:26 left before halftime.

“It’s awesome getting to play on offense too. I had a great time tonight,” said Robb, a 5-10, 200-pound linebacker/running back. “If the two-point conversion is there we go for it. We just had to bring the effort tonight.

“After a week off it was good to get back out there. It’s going to be awesome next week …it’ll be fun playing on TV,” Robb added.

After being stymied by two lost fumbles on their next two possessions, the Spartans used a 28-yard punt return by senior Braylin Presley to start the final possession of the first half at Ponca City’s 15-yard line. On the second play, Williams ran five yards for the TD and Hasz scored on the two-point conversion for a 24-0 lead at the 1:17 mark.

Bixby’s offense dominated in the third quarter, scoring on a 36-yard TD pass from Williams to Hasz for a 31-0 lead; scored on a shifty 10-yard scoring burst by Presley for a 38-0 lead; went up 45-0 after Robb’s five-yard TD run, and led 52-0 after Williams and Hasz combined for a 73-yard TD pass play with 11 seconds left in the third stanza.

Junior kicker Connor Nolan converted extra point attempts after each third quarter score. Bixby’s backups scored on the Spartans first possession of the fourth quarter as Aidan Hill ran five yards for a TD and Nolan booted the extra point for the final score with 4:16 showing in the fourth quarter.

“First off we’re going to enjoy this win. Secondly, we looked like we hadn’t played in a couple of weeks at the start … we had drops, we had penalties and we were constantly putting ourselves behind the chains,” Spartan head coach Loren Montgomery said.

“Defensively, we were lights out and played physical, they did a nice job. Offensively, it’s like it’s been the last couple of weeks, shooting ourselves in the foot too much. But I was happy with the way they came out in the second half – executing a couple of nice drives and running the ball well.

“We’ll learn and grow from this. We’ve been pretty good protecting the ball that’s why it was frustrating tonight. But we’ll work on it and see if we can get a little better next week … we’ll have to be better next week,” he added.

Williams was 20-for-28 passing for 332 yards and three touchdowns while Hasz had a career-high seven receptions for 216 yards and three scores to pace Bixby’s offense, which ended with 550 total offensive yards. Presley was the Spartans’ top rusher with 76 yards on 12 carries and one TD.

NEXT GAME – Bixby ends the regular season in the nationally-televised Class 6AII-District 2 home showdown with Booker T. Washington Thursday, Nov. 5, at Lee Snider Stadium.

The fifth-ranked Hornets, 6-2 overall and 4-1 in the district, didn’t play last Friday after Muskogee cancelled a scheduled meeting.

This season, the Hornets defeated Southmoore (28-0) at home, won at home against Del City (15-13), lost at Oklahoma City McGuinness (28-17), lost at home to Choctaw (26-22), won at Bartlesville (34-7), won at home against Sand Springs (49-0), won at Putnam City West (49-0) and won at Ponca City (34-7).

“Booker T is really playing well and starting to run the ball well, and they throw the deep ball well,” coach Montgomery said. “On defense, they can cover so well that they can put extra guys in the box and cover man-for-man. They seem to be getting a little better from what we’ve seen on film.

“It’ll be cool to play on TV next week. It’s a nice showcase for our program and our community. It’s something I think these kids will remember forever. When ESPN comes to town it’s a big-time production,” he noted.

LAST MEETING – Bixby captured a 31-0 district win at the Hornets’ S. E. Williams Stadium in 2019. The Spartans limited the speedy Hornets to 185 yards of total offense while Bixby amassed 306 total offensive yards. Spartan senior Trevon Holt had a career high six catches for 137 yards and one touchdown in the game and quarterback Mason Williams was 15-for-17 passing for 236 yards and one TD.

It was the second time Booker T. Washington was shut out in 2019. North Little Rock (Arkansas), the Class 7A Arkansas state-runner-up last season, defeated BTW 19-0.

NOTABLES – Bixby carries a 32-game winning streak into next week’s regular season finale. …. The Spartans were ranked No. 25 in USA Today’s national rankings while ranked No. 44 in MaxPreps national rankings. … The win over Ponca City was Bixby’s second shutout of the season. The Spartans blanked Union, 34-0, in the season opener. … Bixby’s three turnovers were the most this season. … Ponca City won the time of possession statistic – 34:24 to 13:36. … Bixby’s play-by-play announcer Shawn Tiemann hosts the Bixby Spartan Coach’s Show with coach Loren Montgomery and guest at 6 p.m. Tuesdays at Doc’s Country Mart on The Buzz, AM 1430.

DEFENSIVE VIEWPOINT – Bixby’s defense held Ponca City’s ground-oriented offensive attack to minus 24 yards on 35 rushing attempts. In addition to Wedel’s blocked punt, Spartan sophomore Jakeb Snyder intercepted a Ponca City pass which set up Bixby’s third touchdown in the third quarter. It was Snyder’s second pass theft this season.

Senior safety Tanner Doyle led Bixby with 11 total tackles, including five solo stops. On the season, he’s been credited with 64 total tackles, tops on the team. Bertelli ended with seven tackles, six for losses, and one sack while Wedel also had seven total tackles, three unassisted. Snyder ended with six tackles, five unassisted.

“Our kids had a really good week of practice. It was freezing cold with rain on Monday and Tuesday, but you wouldn’t have known it … our kids were dialed in,” Bixby defensive coordinator Rodney Flowers said. “It was rewarding to see how violent they were at the start.

“That’s one thing I preached to them that when a team wants to come in and run the ball down your throat you’ve got to bring the pain to them. We still saw some things tonight we’ve got to fix, but we made some good adjustments along with being physical.”

DISTRICT OUTLOOK – In other District 2 games last Friday, No. 4 Choctaw routed Putnam City West, 55-12, and No. 9 Sand Springs edged Bartlesville, 21-14.

In district play, Bixby is 4-0, Choctaw 5-1, Booker T. Washington 4-1, Sand Springs 3-3, Bartlesville 2-4, Ponca City 2-5, Putnam West 0-4 and Muskogee 0-3. Muskogee cancelled its final three games of the regular season because of the coronavirus.

In other regular season finales Friday, Nov. 6, Bartlesville visits Choctaw and Putnam West visits Sand Springs.