Surging Spartans To Play For 6A-II Championship
11.30.15 by Ron Holt
Disappointed. Dejected. Frustrated. Embarrassed.

Bixby High's Spartans experienced those emotions and more after being shut out for the first time in seven years in the regular season finale at Sand Springs three weeks ago.

Sand Springs' dominated the Spartans in the trenches and made the most of its offensive opportunities in the first half en route to the 20-0 victory that dropped Bixby to fourth place in District 6AII-1, while the Sandites finished third.

Sand Springs used a 29-yard touchdown run by Payton Scott, a 63-yard pass play from quarterback Hunter Greathouse to Kasey Bales and a one-yard run by Greathouse to take a 20-0 first half lead. Bixby blanked the Sandites in the second half but couldn't get untracked offensively.

The Spartans were limited to 31 rushing yards and 230 passing yards for 261 total offensive yards. Four lost fumbles kept Bixby from sustaining any offensive consistency.

Sand Springs, 7-4, features a hard-nosed defense, a unit considered one of the best in Class 6AII, and are an evenly-balanced offensive squad. The Sandites are also playing with confidence as evidenced by their playoff conquests at Stillwater (49-14) and against Tulsa Washington (30-23) in the semifinals.

That's the challenge facing Bixby, 8-4, when the Spartans and Sandites battle for the Class 6AII State Championship at 7 p.m. Friday at Union-Tuttle Stadium.

Bixby, the defending Class 6AII state champions, is also playing its best football of the season entering the state title game. The Spartans regrouped after being shut out to go on the road and romp past second-ranked Lawton (36-6) and last week whipped Bartlesville (67-21) in the state semifinals at Owasso.

"Being shut out for the first time in something like eight years was embarrassing," said Spartan head coach Loren Montgomery. "Their guys got after our guys up front and we didn't block them and it made for a long night. They definitely have one of the best defenses we've seen and one of the best in the state.

"Statistically, they don't give up many points. They've got a lot of tough guys that just do their job. Last time we played they were a lot tougher than us. That definitely got our attention," he added.

"I think we're starting to develop more continuity," Coach Montgomery said of the playoff successes. "We had so many distractions during the season and were going with different lineups that it was difficult to develop any continuity.

"We were as close to putting three phases together against Bartlesville than we've been. We've still got a lot of work to do but we were closer. We haven't questioned their effort for the most part."

Bixby apparently was determined to prove it was better than the 6-4 regular season record it carried into the playoffs. The Spartans have played tenacious on defense, opportunistic on offense and remained focused despite facing adversity which they experienced at Lawton and against Bartlesville.

"We've been trying to improve on our game and the last two games we have improved," said 6-3, 292-pound senior offensive right guard Jordan Harbin. "This next week is all about being mentally focused and doing the right things.

"We've played a lot of good teams but they are definitely one of the best ones we've faced. Losing to them before helped us see what we have to focus on. We looked at the film and went into the playoffs trying to do the little things right.

"We have a great shot of winning a championship as long as we stay focused and execute on defense and do the right things on offense," he added.

Cody Adams, a 5-11, 241-pound junior defensive end, believes the Spartan defense also learned from the earlier Sandite loss and that setback inspired the defense's improvement in the playoffs.

"That was a big motivator for us, to make us push harder to show people that's not who we are," said
Adams, who played behind all-stater Austin Grotts on last year's state championship team. "They are a lot like us. They are a hard-nosed team it's just a bunch of blue collar guys who like to work.

"We know what we need to do and so far we've been able to get it done. The guys who haven't played much are starting to grow up and do their jobs everyone is doing what they need to do which really helps the defense out."

Bixby led Lawton, 8-6, entering the fourth quarter in a first round playoff game before erupting for 28 points to seal the win. The Spartans' offense was led by senior Nic Roller's 143 yards rushing on 40 carries and two touchdowns and quarterback Tanner Griffin's 181 yards passing and two touchdowns. Senior Cade Cabbiness caught 11 passes for 125 yards and two scores. Defensively, the Spartans limited Lawton to only 49 plays, 20 yards rushing and 121 yards passing.

Bixby jumped out to a 19-0 lead against Bartlesville in the semifinals before the Bruins scored 21 consecutive points for a 21-19 lead. The Spartans battled back to lead 33-21 at halftime and outscored the Bruins, 34-0, in the second half.

Roller, who has overcome injury problems, rushed for 209 yards on 35 carries and scored seven touchdowns. Griffin passed for
271 yards and one TD. Defensively, the Spartans shut down the high-powered Bartlesville offense the second half and forced three Bruin turnovers.

"It's an honor to be playing for a state championship," Coach Montgomery said after a recent practice. "There's not many high school teams getting to practice this week and have this opportunity. Hopefully, our kids enjoy it. It's kind of fun to have a bye week before the game.

"But we told our guys they can't afford to not be mentally dialed in during practice because the game will be here before you know it. It's important for us not to be complacent. Hopefully, we can put our best game together next week and leave there with a happy face," he said.
Gregg Shipman Photography