Bixby Passes Claremore Test
9.27.14 by Ron Holt
For a team that appeared to be on cruise control at the start, Bixby High's Spartans put the pedal to the metal offensively in the final five minutes of the first half in the district opener with Claremore Friday night at Lee Snider Stadium.

The Spartans erupted for 24 points in a five minute span prior to halftime in turning a 9-3 lead into a 33-3 cushion at the break en route to an impressive 47-6 victory over Claremore's Zebras.

Third-ranked Bixby, 3-1 on the season, featured a prolific aerial attack as the Spartans finished with 394 yards passing and four touchdowns.

Sophomore quarterback Tanner Griffin had his finest passing performance of the season as he was 21-of-33 passing for 372 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.

Senior wide receiver Kyle Rhine had a career night as he caught 10 passes for 241 yards and three touchdowns. Senior teammate Kale Mulkey caught six balls for 83 yards and a touchdown. Nine Spartans caught passes in the game.

"It was all about rhythm. Everything was just on. I was just throwing it to them and letting them do their thing," Griffin said of his talented stable of receivers.

Bixby struggled at the start and went three-and-out on its first two possessions. Claremore, meanwhile, put together a nine-play, 61-yard drive to score first on Jared Vincent's 30-yard field goal with 7:24 showing in the first quarter. It could have been worse as Zebra quarterback Dustin Basks ran for a 51-yard touchdown but the score was nullified by a holding penalty.

Bixby appeared headed for its third straight three-and-out before Rhine turned the momentum following an impressive 42-yard catch over a Claremore defender for a first down on third-and-14. That play kept a drive alive that ended in Taylor Ruth's game-tying 32-yard field goal with 16 seconds left in the opening stanza.

"Kyle Rhine did a great job. Tanner threw a good ball but Kyle went up to make a great play on third down while being covered. I think that got us going," Spartan head coach Loren Montgomery said. "Kyle had a good week of practice and I knew he would have a good game tonight."

On its next possession, Bixby picked up steam as the Spartans drove 51 yards in six plays as junior running back Nic Roller rambled 17 yards for a touchdown. BHS misfired on a two-point conversion run by Roller but seized a 9-3 lead.

The late first half fireworks began when Griffin connected with Mulkey on a 23-yard touchdown pass to cap off an 85-yard, nine-play drive. Ruth's conversion kick gave BHS a 16-3 lead with 4:54 left in the first half.

A 13-yard punt by Claremore, now 1-3, set up the next Spartan scoring possession, which was capped off by Ruth's 31-yard field goal at the 2:54 mark for a 19-3 lead.

A pass interception by junior defensive back Connor Walker set up Bixby's next score, a 27-yard pass play from Griffin to Rhine with 2:39 showing. Ruth's point-after kick expanded the lead to 26-3.

On Bixby's next possession, Griffin and Mulkey hooked up for pass plays of 24 and 11 yards before the Griffin-to-Rhine combination hit paydirt from 20 yards out with 1:18 left before the intermission. Ruth's kick gave BHS the 33-3 halftime edge. The Spartans scored on long distance touchdowns in the second half as Griffin and Rhine combined for an impressive 93-yard touchdown pass at the 5:06 mark of the third quarter.

"That was the best night I've had receiving," a smiling Rhine said afterward. "The line gave Tanner a whole lot of time and he made great passes. All I had to do was catch it. Whenever he was throwing to me there were plenty of other open receivers too."

Speedy senior wide receiver/defensive back J.J. Cantrell ended the Spartans' scoring barrage as he returned a punt 95 yards for a touchdown with 11:01 left in the game.

Bixby travels to Bartlesville next Friday night for a district battle. The Bruins dropped a 28-27 decision at Sand Springs Friday.

GAME NOTES: Bixby produced in the passing game this season but nothing like the consistent performance against Claremore. "I think the game is starting to slow down for Tanner," Coach Montgomery said of his young quarterback. "A win like tonight where we were able to throw the ball around a little will really help his confidence." BHS played without talented senior receiver Blake Cooper, who has an injured thumb. He could return in two weeks when Bixby hosts Ponca City. Claremore's offense struggled after Basks, a junior quarterback, was injured at the 11:03 mark of the second quarter. He didn't return.