Late Bixby Uprising Sinks Claremore, 47-27
9.26.15 by Ron Holt
CLAREMORE - Question marks were plentiful for Bixby High's Spartans in the District 6AII-1 opener with Claremore's Zebras here Friday night.

How would the Spartans respond with three offensive leaders sidelined with injuries? Were the Spartans able to diminish penalties and mistakes encountered at Springdale, Ark.? Who would make key plays for Bixby?

It took three and a half quarters before the top-ranked Spartans, 3-1 on the season, were able to finalize a 47-27 victory over the fired-up Zebras. The fourth quarter, which saw the Spartans outscore the hosts 16-0, produced Bixby's most consistent offensive and defensive efforts in the game.

"I told the guys before the game that we were going to find out a lot about our team, about whether we can fight and grind one out since we were missing three of our very best players. I thought we did," said Bixby head coach Loren Montgomery afterward.

"We cleaned some things up from last week and cut down on a few of the penalties but we still had too many and we turned the ball over too many times. It's probably a different game if we punch it in when we settled for the field goal and if we score on the other end when we turned it over on downs," he added.

"We got our 15 district points. That was something we wanted to do. We'll learn from it and go on."
Bixby played without starting running back Nic Roller, starting wide receiver Cade Cabbiness and starting offensive lineman Oliver Pate.

The Spartans were their own worst enemy at times. BHS turned the ball over five times - four fumbles and one pass interception. And, the Spartans were flagged seven times for 40 yards.

Several players turned in their finest performances of the season on both defense and offense to help offset the missing players.
"We knew going into the game that were going to have to pick up some of the slack because we were without Roller and Cabby and there are two who make the biggest plays for us," said senior Jared Kerr, who had a season high four catches for 74 yards and a touchdown. "It was definitely my best offensive game I've had. I was trying to fly around and make up for what we were missing."

Bixby's Jason Campbell kicked a 22-yard field goal midway through the first quarter for a 3-0 lead. BHS quarterback Tanner Griffin, who had 415 passing yards and three touchdowns, hit Jarrod Neerman for a 10-yard scoring pass, giving the Spartans a 10-7 first quarter lead.

A 23-yard TD pass play from Griffin to Connor Walker gave the visitors a 17-7 lead but Claremore made it a 17-14 game at halftime after Noah Grimett's two-yard touchdown run.

The third quarter was a see-saw affair featuring Griffin's 15-yard touchdown run and Tucker Pawley's nine-yard touchdown run for the Spartans. And, Claremore's 79-yard fumble return by Derek Brasel and 80-yard pass play from Grimett to Keegan Hisey.
Bixby led 31-27 entering the fourth quarter. That's when the Spartans elevated their play on both sides of the ball.

The Spartans were on another impressive drive to open the fourth frame before Pawley, who led the ground attack with 99 yards on 17 attempts and two touchdowns, fumbled and the 2-2 Zebras recovered at their own nine-yard line. Bixby's defense took control, driving Claremore back to its own five on three plays before a center snap sailed over the punter's head for a safety and 33-27 Spartan lead.

"I felt like it really flipped the switch for us and let us know we had to finish this game," hard-nosed senior linebacker Kress Woodward said of the late defensive stand. "We knew we had to come out and play hard because they are a physical team and we knew it wouldn't be easy. They held their own. I'm proud of the way we played."

After Claremore was forced to kickoff after the safety, Bixby took four plays to seal the win on a 22-yard touchdown pass play from Griffin to Jared Kerr with 8:31 left in the game. The Spartans picked up the needed district points when Pawley ran four yards for a touchdown with two minutes left.

SPARTAN NOTEBOOK - Bixby returns to Lee Snider Field Friday to celebrate Football Homecoming when the Bartlesville Bruins visit for a district showdown. Bartlesville knocked off Sand Springs, 24-7. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. In other district games Friday, Tulsa Washington routed Ponca City, 68-7, and Muskogee downed Sapulpa, 41-29. Bixby finished with 561 total offensive yards while Claremore, which had three turnovers, had 225 total yards Nick Swanson had a career performance, catching eight passes for 126 yards. Teammate Connor Walker had five grabs for 78 yards and a touchdown. Senior Breydon Daniel intercepted a Claremore pass. Despite giving up a long distance TD, Bixby's defense limited the Zebras to 99 passing yards, 126 rushing yards, seven first downs and 55 plays as compared to the Spartans' 72 plays.