By Ron Holt
BARTLESVILLE – “We knew that nothing we did before this really mattered, we just needed to come out and start off district play strong.”
Speaking was Cale Fugate, Bixby High’s 5-10, 176-pound junior receiver-defensive back following the Spartans’ dominating 71-0 Class 6AII-District 2 victory over Bartlesville here last Friday night at Custer Stadium.
Fugate’s teammates apparently agreed as the unbeaten and top-ranked Spartans (4-0, 1-0) were focused from the outset, essentially settling the issue by halftime as Bixby rolled to a stunning 57-0 lead over the outmanned Bruins (1-3, 0-1).
Offensively Bixby attacked early through the air behind senior quarterback Christian Burke, who connected with Fugate on quick-strike touchdown passes of 38 and 20 yards. An extra point kick by Connor Nolan and a two-point conversion run by junior Connor Kirby handed the Spartans an early 15-0 advantage with 6:02 remaining in the first quarter.
Prior to last Friday, Fugate had three pass receptions for 27 yards this season. He made the most of his opportunities against the Bruins, snaring his first two touchdown passes of his career including a leaping grab in the end zone beside a Bruin defender on the second interception. Fugate had two grabs for 58 yards.
The early success capped off a productive offensive attack by the Spartans, who finished with 657 total offensive yards while running 59 plays and averaging 11.1 yards per play. Bixby, which had 478 total offensive yards by halftime, amassed 349 passing yards and 308 yards on the ground.
Burke recorded his finest numbers as a varsity starter, completing 18-of-23 passes for 315 yards and three touchdowns. This season, Burke has completed 71-of-102 passes for 952 yards and 12 TDs while being intercepted twice. He’s completing 69 percent of his aerial attempts.
“We were just going to air it out while still getting the ball to Braylin (Presley),” said Fugate, who missed playing time a year ago after a broken collarbone. “That’s my first varsity touchdowns. It felt great, I’ve been wanting to get one for a while now.
“It was great just coming out here and taking care of business and shutting them down,” added Fugate who has caught five passes for 85 yards while contributing from a safety spot defensively – logging 30 tackles this season, 17 unassisted.
While finding areas needing improvement, Spartan head coach Loren Montgomery was pleased with the squad’s performance.
“I think it was important to get Christian some throws and we also ran a lot of our run-pass option stuff,” coach Montgomery said of the efficient start. “I was proud of our guys coming out and playing well … our guys were dialed in.
“We had a couple of errors early but other than that I was proud of the guys for coming up here and playing well,” Montgomery added.
Bixby senior Presley, who finished with 133 yards rushing on six carries and two touchdowns while catching six passes for 109 yards, erupted for a 25-yard TD run with 1:22 showing in the first quarter for a 27-0 lead
The Spartans’ 36-point second quarter explosion featured a 23-yard TD pass from Burke to Jakeb Snyder, a safety after the Bruins’ snap on a punt attempt sailed out of the end zone, a one-yard rush by senior Zach Blankenship, a four-yard dasj by Presley and another one-yard rush by Blankenship for the 57-0 first half advantage.
With the clock running continuously in the second half, Bixby wrapped up the scoring with a nine-yard pass from quarterback Camden McCrary to Vin Dyer in the third quarter and a 30-yard sprint by Clay Peters in the fourth quarter.
Except for allowing early first downs, Bixby’s defense frustrated Bartlesville’s offense from the start. The Bruins finished with 117 yards of total offense, averaged 2.0 yards a play on 60 plays, were limited to 38 yards rushing and eight first downs.
“As our coaches say coming up here is a business trip. This was the first game of district … it feels good to start out strong,” said 6-1, 200-pound senior linebacker-tight end Beau Bertelli.
“Obviously, in practice we just try to get better every week and I thought we got better. I feel I’ve played well … I’ve gotten stronger physically and I feel like I’m seeing things easier this year. I have a year’s experience under my belt.
“It’s been tough for me personally because all of the D-linemen are stealing my tackles,” he said with a smile.
Despite being a heavy favorite in the district opener, Bixby’s approach and performance was impressive and expected. It’s part of the Spartan culture.
“Coaches emphasize that we’re 0-0 with the start of district so we needed to come out and play like it’s a state championship game. We’re approaching it like every other game,” said Blankenship, a 5-5, 155-pound senior running back-defensive back who rushed for 45 yards on six carries while scoring three TDs against the Bruins.
“We need everybody on board during practice, the scout team needs to be at its best and the starters need to give their best. It’s important to make sure everyone is focused,” added the always-focused Blankenship, a team co-captain.
“We had a few mistakes and some penalties, but I felt like we went out there like we should have and took care of our business.”
NEXT GAME – Bixby returns home Friday (Oct. 1) to celebrate Homecoming while entertaining Putnam City West in a District 2 encounter at Lee Snider Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Homecoming ceremonies will be held prior to kickoff.
Putnam West (0-4) remained winless on the season after seeing Muskogee (1-3) pull away for a 42-12 victory over the Patriots last Friday night in Putnam City. This season, PC West lost at Guthrie (67-0), against Putnam City (55-12), and against Putnam North (56-6).
Putnam West scored first against the Roughers early in the first quarter and added a second quarter TD to trail 21-12 at halftime.
NOTABLES – Bixby extended its winning streak to 40 games with the sixth straight victory over the Bruins. Bixby was ranked No. 22 nationally last week by MaxPreps. … Bartlesville punted 13 times Friday while Bixby never punted. … Jersey Robb, a 5-10, 205-pound junior two-way performer, made his first appearance of the season after being sidelined with an injury sustained in a scrimmage with Broken Arrow. “He’s not 100 percent yet but he’s close. Since it was his first game back, we wanted to ease him in,” said Coach Montgomery. Robb was active defensively against the Bruins, finishing with seven total tackles, five solo stops and two tackles for loss. … Several Bixby reserves recorded varsity stats Friday. Back-up quarterback Camden McCrary was 4-for-7 passing for 34 yards and one TD, Senior Aidan Hill rushed 11 times for 77 yards and Clay Peters rushed twice for 44 yards and a TD. …Bartlesville quarterback Simian Gilkey was 4-for-12 passing for 25 yards while scrambling seven times for 25 yards. … Bixby had special team issues, fumbling a punt, missing an extra point and unable to try an extra point kick after a bobbled snap. Levi Hoffman, a junior back-up kicker and punter, kicked his first varsity extra points following the final two Spartan touchdowns.
DEFENSIVE LEADERS – Through four games, Bixby senior linebacker and co-captain Jack Puckett leads the Spartans defensively with 35 total tackles, including 16 unassisted. He has six tackles for loss and four sacks. Against Bartlesville, he was credited with 11 total tackles, five solo stops and two tackles for loss in limited playing time.
Against the Bruins, Miles Hill and Brayden Darrell each had six total tackles with Hill recording three tackles for loss; Hank Puckett had five tackles, three solos; Dylan Hasz and Connor Stacy each had four tackles and Beau Bertelli three tackles (two solos).
Other season leaders include Cale Fugate with 30 total tackles (17 solos) and Stacy has 28 total tackles (19 unassisted), seven tackles for loss and three sacks. Hill has 23 total tackles (seven solos), 10 tackles for loss and a team-leading 4.5 sacks.
Senior lineman Darrell and sophomore linebacker H. Puckett each have 15 total tackles with Darrell having five tackles for loss. Dylan Hasz has 13 total tackles (eight unassisted) and one tackle for a loss. Joshua Newkirk has 11 tackles (seven unassisted) and Connor Kirby has 10 tackles (four unassisted) and one tackle for a loss.
DISTRICT SCOREBOARD – In other District 2 openers last Friday, Choctaw (3-1) nudged Tulsa Washington (3-1), 29-20 and Sand Springs (4-0) overcame Ponca City (1-3), 30-13.
In other district games scheduled Friday (Oct. 1), Bartlesville visits Tulsa Washington, Muskogee hosts Sand Springs and Choctaw visits Ponca City.
Four of the top five Class 6AII ranked teams last week are in District two – Bixby is No. 1, Choctaw No. 2, Booker T. Washington No. 3 and Sand Springs No. 5. Stillwater out of District 1 was ranked fourth.
NON-LEAGUE FOES – Mansfield (Texas) Timberview improved to 2-3 on the season after a 56-14 win over Joshua last Thursday (Sept. 23). Jenks (3-1) opened 6A1 district play with a 49-6 home victory over Enid while Stillwater (3-1) went two overtimes to win at Deer Creek-Edmond, 35-28.