Spartans Fall To Fourth Spot In Playoffs
11.7.15 by Ron Holt
SAND SPRINGS - A rematch of last year's Class 6AII State Championship game between Bixby and Lawton was considered a possibility this season. But, not in the first round of the playoffs.

That's the situation the Spartans find themselves as Sand Springs relied on first half domination in a 20-0 victory over Bixby in the regular season finale here Friday night. The victory assured the Sandites of third place in District 6AII-1 while the Spartans dropped to fourth.

Bixby (6-4 overall and 3-4 in the district) travels to meet District 6AII-2 champion Lawton (8-1, 6-0) at Cameron Stadium with the time and day to be determined. The Spartans defeated Lawton, 35-21, to win the first-ever Class 6AII state title a year ago.

The Spartans have to regroup as they struggled defensively in the first half and struggled offensively throughout in the Sandite loss.

Sand Springs was dominating in both the offensive and defensive lines and capitalized on four lost fumbles by the Spartans. The Sandite defense stiffened each time Bixby mounted a serious offensive threat.

"Their offensive and defensive lines were great, especially tonight. They got after us but we didn't block them very well," Bixby head coach Loren Montgomery said. "I'm proud of our defense because we had seven three-and-outs in the second half and you can't ask any more than that.

"We've got to be able to execute on offense and we didn't tonight with four turnovers. You can't beat a good team like that. The thing about turnovers is they kill your momentum and take the wind out of your sails. Football is a game of momentum and we never grabbed any momentum tonight," Coach Montgomery noted.

Bixby used pass plays of 18 yards from quarterback Tanner Griffin to Breydon Daniel and 20 yards from Griffin to Cade Cabbiness to take the opening possession to the Sandite 30. Cabbiness, however, had the ball knocked loose as he was going to the turf and Sand Springs recovered.

It took Sand Springs seven plays to capitalize on the mistake as Payton Scott broke found a crease and raced for a 29-yard touchdown sprint with 8:28 left in the first quarter. The Sandites led 6-0 after misfiring on the extra point kick.

With 2:39 left in the first quarter, Kasey Bales caught a short pass from quarterback Hunter Greathouse before breaking a tackle attempt and weaving his way across the field for a 63-yard touchdown pass play that increased the hosts lead to 13-0.

Bixby couldn't sustain a drive on its next possession and the Sandites took over at its own 41. Thirteen plays later, Greathouse pushed the ball across from a yard out for the 20-0 Sand Springs lead. In the drive, Sand Springs was sparked by a 20-yard burst by Scott to Bixby's three-yard line.

Bixby's defense turned in an improved second half performance while the offense had productive moments until moving deep into Sandite territory. Each time Bixby neared the Sandites' end zone, the offense seemed to shift into reverse gear.

The Spartans put together an impressive third quarter drive, aided by a 10-yard pass play from Griffin to Jacob Spriggs and a personal foul penalty on the Sandites for a first down at Sand Springs' six yard line.

Bixby lost four yards on first down, was flagged for a holding penalty and had an incomplete pass before Griffin scrambled 16 yards before losing a fumble at the four-yard line.

On its next possession, Bixby used a 40-yard reverse pass from Cabbiness to Connor Walker to reach the Sandites' seven-yard line as the third quarter ended. It was a perfect pass and a determined catch.

"We had worked on it in practice," Cabbiness said. "I was back to my old quarterback days where I played up to my sophomore year. We came out at halftime and we'd drive the ball down the field but then we'd have stops."

After an incompletion, Sand Springs' defense stopped BHS for a one-yard loss and sacked Griffin on back-to-back plays for losses of 10 and five yards as Bixby turned the ball over on downs at the 22-yard line.

That's the way it went most of the evening for Bixby's offense, which compiled 261 yards of total offense, 230 yards passing, but was victimized by four turnovers.

"It was extremely frustrating especially when we started off the game by driving it down the field and then we turn it over," said Cabbiness, who ended with four catches for 60 yards. "More than anything we killed ourselves. We were driving it on them but we had too many self-inflicted plays. We've got to execute better."

Bixby's defense blanked the Sandites in the second half. Sand Springs ended with 250 total offensive yards.

"Our team came together and we just pulled together in the second half," said standout sophomore linebacker Coby Tillman.

"Their line is very good. I give credit to their line but we've just got to do our job, every man has to do his job."

Griffin passed for 188 yards on 18-of-35 passing but was tackled four times for 22 yards in losses. Nic Roller was limited to 44 yards on 20 carries while Walker led the receivers with nine catches for 96 yards.

SPARTAN NOTES - Lawton finished the regular season last Thursday with a 33-25 home turf victory over Choctaw. "They are big, physical and good a typical Lawton team. But, it's the playoffs and anything can happen," said Coach Montgomery. Tillman added of Lawton, "It's like the hammer and the nail, we've got to be the hammer and hit them first." Walker, who hadn't intercepted a pass until picking off three Muskogee passes last week, captured his fourth interception early in the third quarter to give the Spartans good field position. Sand Springs travels to Stillwater next Friday for its playoff opener.
Gregg Shipman Photography