Bixby Punches Class 6A-II Title Game Ticket
11.22.14 by Ron Holt
A season long goal is within reach for Bixby High's football team.

The determined Spartans relied on a balanced offense and a defense that tossed a second half shutout in a 41-14 Class 6AII state semifinal win over Sand Springs Friday night at Broken Arrow's Memorial Field.

Bixby (11-1) plays the Lawton Wolverines (11-1) in the Class 6AII Championship Game the first weekend in December at a site to be determined. Lawton earned its finals berth after rallying past Tulsa Washington, 42-27.

"It's awesome to be in the state finals. I'm real proud of this group of boys," said Bixby head coach Loren Montgomery. "When we started this journey we had a lot of bumps in the road but they kept believing and kept improving. "I think anytime you play in the state championship game that should be all the motivation you need but we would like to be the team to bring home the first gold ball back to Bixby. That would mean a lot," he added.

The first quarter was a struggle before the Spartans' Austin Grotts deflected a Sandite punt, giving Bixby the ball at the Sand Springs 32-yard line.

Bixby junior Nic Roller, who rushed for 145 yards and four touchdowns on 36 carries, ran five yards for a touchdown to cap off a 32-yard, six-play drive and give BHS a 7-0 first quarter lead.

Sand Springs (8-4) tied the game on quarterback Jacob Taber's four-yard touchdown run with 49 seconds left in the first quarter.
Bixby immediately recaptured the momentum as Spartan quarterback Tanner Griffin hit J. J. Cantrell with a receiver screen. Cantrell sprinted past the Sandite defense to complete a 63-yard touchdown. Taylor Ruth's conversion kick gave BHS a 14-7 lead with 37 seconds left.

Opening the second quarter, Bixby drove 63 yards in 10 plays with Roller accounting for all 63 yards and scoring from a yard out. Ruth's kick gave BHS a 21-7 advantage with 8:43 showing. Capitalizing on a 37-yard burst up the middle by Lane Lettich, Sand Springs scored on a one-yard keeper by Taber to narrow the gap to 21-14 at halftime.

Bixby went on a 72-yard, 11-play scoring drive to start the third quarter, ending in Griffin's eight-yard TD toss to Kale Mulkey with 8:49 left for a 28-14 lead. Griffin and Mulkey combined for a 34-yard play to highlight the drive.

"This was my first game back from the broken collar bone. I got hurt in the Bartlesville game," said Mulkey. "Honestly, it's still cracked right now but it didn't bother me at all. I think it was a great performance for me. I had limited snaps but I still thought it was a great performance.

"We've got one more game and a chance at the gold ball. I wasn't going to miss this," he noted.
Of Mulkey's play, Coach Montgomery said, "He's a tremendous athlete. He's a senior who worked hard to get back where he is. He made two great plays on that drive."

A 16-yard Sand Springs punt gave Bixby field position at the Sandite 28-yard line to end the third quarter. Roller later hit paydirt from three yards out and Ruth kicked the conversion for a 35-14 lead with 9:43 left in the game. On Sand Springs' first play after the score, Taber's screen pass was intercepted by Cody Adams, who gave BHS the ball at the Sandite nine-yard line. Three plays later, Roller scored from two yards out and the Spartans wrapped up the 41-14 win with 8:01 remaining.

"I was looking for a screen on that play. We practiced the screen a lot against Sand Springs since they did it the first game," said Adams, who also had an interception at East Central. "I was ready to score but got knocked down. This game was more about focus for us. We knew we could do it, we just had to stay in the game."

Bixby, which ended with 358 total offensive yards, had 185 passing yards as Griffin connected on 14-of-19 passes and two touchdowns. Mulkey, Cade Cabbiness, Roller and Kyle Rhine each had three pass receptions. Defensively, Bixby was dominating. Grotts, a senior end, was a thorn in the Sandites' side. Besides the deflected punt, he recorded three sacks, including a loss of 14 yards that derailed a Sandite drive.

"Anytime you win a semifinal game against a tough team you just played two weeks ago you have to be pleased," said Coach Montgomery. "I was proud of the effort and the execution."

GAME NOTES: Bixby's defense was so dominating in the second half that Sand Springs didn't get its initial first down of the half until six minutes left in the game. Joining Bixby's five-sack parade was sophomore Brandon Evers, who smacked the Sandites' Taber to the turf as Taber tried to escape Grotts. Sand Springs played without injured quarterback Connor Sitton and receiver Davey Thayer.