By Ron Holt
The dual quarterback system employed by the unbeaten Bixby Spartans this season is reaping benefits as senior signal-callers Connor Kirby and Austin Havens victimize opposing defenses in a variety of ways.
In a 73-6 rout of Class 6AI-District 1 opponent Westmoore here last Thursday night at Lee Snider Stadium, Kirby rushed 12 times for 134 yards and three touchdowns while completing 3-of-4 passes for 72 yards and two scores. Havens’ contribution was 11-of-15 passing for 220 yards and two TDs.
“I trust them both … they’re both really great quarterbacks,” said Spartan senior wide receiver-free safety Cale Fugate.
Top-rated Bixby, which scored 70-plus points for the third straight game, improved to 8-0 on the season and to 5-0 in district play. The Spartans extended their 11-man state record for consecutive wins to 57 games, which is also the most consecutive wins nationally.
Westmoore (2-6, 1-4) won the opening coin toss but deferred. On the second play of the game, Havens passed to Fugate, who eluded one defender and outran the pursuit 62 yards for a Spartan touchdown. Kirby ran the two-point conversion as Bixby quickly led 8-0 at 11:35 of the first quarter.
A recovered fumble by Bixby senior defensive lineman Michael Incremona set up Bixby’s next possession, which ended in a five-yard TD run by Kirby. The conversion pass failed but BHS led 14-0 with 7:26 remaining.
On Bixby’s third possession, the Havens to Fugate combination clicked again as Fugate caught a short pass, made a spin move past the Jaguars’ RJ Jackson and used his outstanding speed to complete the 71-yard touchdown. Levi Hoffman’s conversion kick gave BHS a 21-0 first quarter lead.
“I think I’m faster this year,” said Fugate, who ended with four receptions for 170 yards and three TDs. “Track and the weight room helped me. We put in the work in the offseason. We get better every week but there’s always something we need to improve on … our coaches do a good job correcting those things.”
Bixby’s 13th-year head coach Loren Montgomery added, “Cale has always been fast, but he looked extremely fast tonight. He had a great offseason in track … he’s moving around really well. Every time he touched the ball it seemed he was going to get loose.”
Westmoore, which had several short punts or punts going out of bounds, gave the Spartans good field position after a six-yard punt. Kirby capitalized with a 56-yard TD run with 1:50 left in the first quarter. Hoffman’s kick gave BHS a 28-0 first quarter advantage.
Bixby continued the scoreboard pressure in the second quarter as Kirby passed to Fugate for a 16-yard touchdown and 35-0 lead with 10:42 left. At the 4:46 mark, Kirby hit junior Sam McCormick for a 46-yard TDpass before Kirby found daylight running 42 yards for another touchdown and 49-0 Spartan lead with 2:43 left before halftime.
The Spartans’ first half onslaught ended on a 26-yard field goal by Hoffman for a 52-0 halftime lead. It was Hoffman’s third field goal this season.
With 8:16 left in the third quarter, a punt attempt by Westmoore’s Jacob Webha was blocked with Spartan junior Jett Turner returning the ball 17 yards for a touchdown and 59-0 Bixby lead. “I ended up in the right spot, picked it up and ran it in,” Turner said. “Clay Peters blocked it. It felt great to score a touchdown tonight.”
A two-yard TD run by junior Cody Crull with 40 seconds remaining and a conversion kick by Hoffman gave the Spartans a 66-0 lead entering the fourth frame. Peters threw a three-yard TD strike to Garrett Vaughn for a 73-0 lead with 12:00 left in the game.
Westmoore avoided the shutout when quarterback Brodie Inhoffe passed to Xavier Simpkins, who ran 86 yards for the touchdown with 1:36 remaining in the game.
“We got some mistakes that we keep making that we’ve got to clean up but other than that I was pleased,” coach Montgomery said. “We were playing good defense and it seemed they didn’t want to kick to Tyson (Williams) so they were kicking it out of bounds which gave us good field position most of the night.”
Bixby, which turned the ball over twice, amassed 510 total yards, averaging a staggering 11.1 yards per play, 8.2 yards per rush attempt and 19.4 yards per pass completion.
This season, Havens has completed .712 percent of his passes for 1,125 yards, 14 touchdowns and five interceptions while Kirby is the rushing leader, carrying the ball 59 times for 593 yards and 12 TDs. In addition, he’s passed for 766 yards and 14 TDs while being intercepted once.
Involved in five touchdowns against Westmoore was a season high for Kirby. “We blocked it up well all night,” Kirby said. “The O-line did a great job … we did a great job of game planning all week. The O-line worked very hard this week in practice and got the job done. I had the fumble and I need to clean it up, but I thought we played well tonight.”
Bixby features a rapid-fire, extensive offensive playbook. Is it difficult to master the playbook? “Not really, Coach (Tyler) Schneider does a great job of simplifying it for us,” Kirby noted. “He makes it easy for us to understand … he does a great job.”
Defensively, Bixby limited Westmoore to 174 total yards while forcing 10 Jaguar punts. Leading the Spartans defense was sophomore linebacker Cooper Parker who was credited with nine tackles, three unassisted, and two tackles for loss. Junior linebacker Hank Puckett had seven tackles, four unassisted, and one tackle for loss.
Seniors Jakeb Snyder and Dylan Hasz and junior Colton Kaiser each had four tackles. Hasz had four unassisted stops and two tackles for loss.
This season, Puckett leads the balanced Spartan defense with 72 total tackles, 35 solo, and has nine tackles for loss. Parker is next with 44 total tackles while Kaiser and senior Jersey Robb follow with 35 total tackles.
Bixby had to replace several talented graduating linebackers from last season with players who had some varsity experience along with newcomers to the varsity game. Robb had seen varsity time until an injury sidelined him last season. Puckett also played in varsity games as a reserve.
With veterans in the secondary, finding starters and depth at linebacker was a key this season.
“We really only had one guy who played a lot last year. It all started in the spring when we saw them start developing,” said 14th-year assistant coach Brian Douglas, Bixby’s inside linebackers coach who also is defensive coordinator for the Eighth Grade Spartans.
“Finding depth was huge … we had a lot of depth last year. Hank played almost half of every game last year so that helped. Having Jersey back helped … and Cooper grew a lot in the spring. Then we bring in Cord (Nolan, a freshman) and we had four really good linebackers. Guys like Mack Cairl have been around and knows the system too.
“They are getting better and better. Jersey is a good mentor to these guys. They are expected to play well, that’s the kind of culture we have. They understand you do things right all the time not just some of the time,” coach Douglas noted.
“They call themselves freaks, that’s a name Jack Puckett (graduated linebacker) came up with last year. They take ownership of their position. They take ownership of their group. The younger guys want to be like the older guys. And they understand you play like you practice … they all practice hard every day.”
NEXT GAME – The Spartans travel to Moore for their final regular season road trip on Thursday (Oct. 27). Kickoff for the Class 6AI-District 1 game is set for 7 p.m. at Moore High School Stadium, 300 N. Eastern Ave., Moore.
Moore, coached by Greg Bryant, lost 72-29 at Norman North last Friday to fall to 4-4 overall and to 1-4 in District 1 play.
This season, Moore won at Edmond Memorial (55-35) and Edmond North (49-23), defeated Norman (42-7) at home in non-league games. In district play, the Lions lost at home to Westmoore (27-17), lost at Enid (49-35), defeated Southmoore (70-28) and fell 49-41 at home to Jenks prior to the Norman North game.
“I know they’ve got some big good-looking linemen and some skill guys as well,” coach Montgomery said of Moore, a new Spartan opponent. “They beat Edmond Memorial. It seems that every team we play in our league has some good players.”
Moore, which was 7-3 a year ago, is led offensively by 5-9, 150-pound senior quarterback Denver Wolfe, a three-year starter. Wolfe has thrown for more than 2,000 yards with 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Senior Keandre Pittman is the rushing leader. He’s scored 10 times.
Brayden Clark, a 5-10, 140-pound senior, and sophomore CJ Simons are pass receiving threats for the Lions. Moore’s offensive line is anchored by Jax Rumsey, a 6-4, 300-pound senior. Defensively, Moore is led by a veteran secondary.
NOTES – The Bixby-Westmoore game clock ran continuously in the second half. … Westmoore was penalized 12 times for 105 yards. Late in the first half the Jaguars were flagged for false start three times in a row. … Through eight games, Bixby’s special teams and defense have combined to score 87 points while allowing only 61 points. … Spartan junior quarterback Clay Peters threw his first touchdown of the season against Westmoore. … Spartan senior tight end Luke Hasz was honored last week as an Under Armour All-American. He received his Under Armour jersey at a ceremony at the Home of the Spartans surrounded by family, teammates, coaches and friends. He will play in the ESPN-televised All-America Game Jan. 3, 2023, at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida. … Last week, Bixby was ranked No. 21 nationally by Stadium Talk, No. 38 by High School Football America and No. 49 by MaxPreps.
BHS OPPONENTS – Last week’s Bixby non-league opponents’ results: Edmond Memorial fell 37-14 at Owasso (4-4); Fort Smith Southside won 55-44 at Springdale Har-Ber (1-7), and Sand Springs (5-3) won 36-29 at Bartlesville.
In other District 1 action last week: Enid lost 45-24 at Broken Arrow and Southmoore lost 90-9 at Jenks.
Other District 1 games this week include Norman North (6-2, 4-1) visiting Westmoore (2-6, 1-4), Southmoore (1-7, 0-5) traveling to Enid (4-4, 2-3) and Broken Arrow (3-5, 3-2) visiting Jenks (6-2, 4-1).
BIXBY 73, WESTMOORE 6
BHS – Cale Fugate 62 pass from Austin Havens (Connor Kirby run), 11:35
BHS – Kirby runs 5 yards (pass failed), 7:26
BHS – Fugate 71 pass from Havens (Levi Hoffman kick), 6:15
BHS – Kirby runs 56 yards (Hoffman kick), 1:50
BHS – Fugate 16 pass from Kirby (Hoffman kick), 10:42
BHS – Sam McCormick 46 pass from Kirby (Hoffman kick), 4:46
BHS – Kirby runs 42 yards (Hoffman kick), 2:43
BHS – Hoffman 26 field goal, :47
BHS – Jett Turner 17 punt return (Hoffman kick), 8:16
BHS – Cody Crull 2 run (Hoffman kick), :40
BHS – Garrett Vaughn 3 pass from Clay Peters (Hoffman kick), 12:00
WHS – Xavier Simpkins 86 pass from Brodie Inhoffe (kick blocked), 1:36