By Ron Holt

For the third straight game this season, Bixby’s unbeaten Spartans are involved in one of the state’s most attractive non-district football games.

Top-ranked Bixby (2-0), idle last week, returns home to host second-ranked Stillwater (2-0) in a rare regular season confrontation. The two teams annually met in the Class 6AII state playoffs in recent seasons before deciding to schedule regular season games.

Last year’s scheduled game at Stillwater was cancelled by the hosts because of COVID issues.

Stillwater, coached by Tucker Barnard, opened the season with a 30-20 victory at Class 6AI’s Edmond Santa Fe, the defending state runner-up. The Pioneers were extended to the final minute last week before turning back Class 6AI’s Mustang, 32-28, at Pioneer Stadium.

Bixby opened its season at home with a 69-14 victory over Mansfield (Texas) Timberview. The Spartans took an early lead before holding off defending Class 6AI state champion Jenks, 23-15, at JHS’s Allan Trimble Stadium two weeks ago.

With 3:15 remaining in SHS’s game, Mustang scored on a fourth down touchdown pass play to take a 28-25 lead. Stillwater responded with its own clutch fourth down touchdown pass play.

With less than a minute left, Pioneer junior quarterback Gage Gundy, starting for the first time this season, connected with sophomore receiver Heston Thompson for a stunning 60-yard TD pass play, giving Stillwater a 32-28 lead with 49 seconds showing.

The Pioneers have several new faces on both sides of the ball this season. SHS’s record-setting running back Qwontrel Walker, a four-year starter, graduated as did starting quarterback Caleb Allen and receivers Steven Brown and Baylor signee Tevin Williams, who also doubled as a safety.

Despite the graduation losses, Stillwater appears to have talented replacements in the offensive line, backfield, receiving squad and within its unorthodox defensive unit.

“We saw them play Mustang. Their offensive line is really good,” Bixby head coach Loren Montgomery said. “I was also impressed at the composure that Gage Gundy had in the pocket. Their defense is always crazy tough … and they swarm to the ball as well.”

In the win over Mustang, Gundy, the youngest son of Oklahoma State’s head football coach Mike Gundy, was 14-for-19 passing for 188 yards and four touchdowns. In the win over Santa Fe, he connected on 11-of-19 passes for 97 yards and one score.

Noah Roberts, a junior move-in from Pawnee, has produced at running back early this season, rushing for 153 yards on 27 carries and one TD at Santa Fe and gaining 135 yards on 24 carries against Mustang. Sophomore Holden Thompson has also contributed significantly to SHS’s rushing attack.

Bixby also is playing with a couple of new faces at quarterback – senior Christian Burke and junior Connor Kirby. Burke has passed for 433 yards and seven TDs this season.

Senior tailback Braylin Presley, the state’s top player last season, has rushed for 174 yards and one TD this season while catching 11 passes for 134 yards and a TD. He sat out the second half against Timberview. Presley, a kick return threat, has compiled 308 total offensive yards.

Senior linebacker Connor Stacy and junior defensive back Cale Fugate lead the Spartans in tackles with 19 each while senior linebacker Jack Puckett has 18 total tackles.

Bixby has held the upper hand against the Pioneers in recent Class 6AII state playoff meetings.

The Spartans routed SHS, 61-28, in a 2014 quarterfinal game at home; toppled Stillwater, 41-14, in a 2017 quarterfinal home game; downed the Pioneers, 34-13, in the 2018 state championship game at Owasso, and knocked off SHS, 40-36, in the 2019 state championship game at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond.

RANKINGS – Bixby moved from No. 23 to No. 21 in Max Preps national high school football rankings this week. The Spartans, riding a 38-game winning streak, continue ranked No. 1 in the state in Class 6AII.

In the Tulsa World’s Class 6AII football rankings Monday, Stillwater moved up from third to second in the state behind the Spartans while Choctaw (2-1) fell to third. Choctaw dropped a 36-29 decision at Dallas Jesuit last week for its first loss.

NOTES – Offensively, Bixby is averaging 237.5 yards per game passing and 218.0 yards a game rushing. …Bixby’s defense has intercepted five passes this season led by senior linebacker Beau Bertelli with two pass thefts. … Stillwater’s 6-2, 210-pound senior linebacker Gabe Brown, who has committed to Oklahoma State, was credited with 11 tackles against Mustang. … One of Stillwater’s offensive line leaders is 6-3, 280-pound junior Jakobe Sanders. He’s the grandson of former Oklahoma State standout running back Robert Turner, who played for the Cowboys from 1973-1976. … In the disrupted 2020 season, Bixby finished with an 11-0 record and 5-0 Class 6AII-District 2 record. Stillwater was 9-1 overall and 6-0 in 6AII-District 1 play. The Pioneers were ousted from the state playoffs by Choctaw, 38-35, in a semifinal game at Owasso. Choctaw kicked a walk-off field goal to stun SHS. …In the past three seasons (2018-2020), Bixby has a 36-1 record while Stillwater has a 33-3 record.