Defense Propels Bixby Past Hornets, 28-0
10.29.16 by Ron Holt
It was a productive evening for Bixby High's offense against a pesky Booker T. Washington defense here Friday night in a vital Class 6AII-District 2 game at the Hornets' S.E. Williams Stadium.

The Spartans enjoyed success running and throwing the football but were forced to work for each yard and every point against the athletic Hornet defenders.

Bixby's defense, however, was the superior unit as the Spartans never allowed the Hornets any uncontested space or any offensive success in a dominating performance that paved the way for Bixby's 28-0 victory that spoiled BTW's Homecoming.
Bixby (6-3, 4-1) remains tied with Muskogee (7-1, 4-1) and Sand Springs (6-3, 4-1) atop the district standings going into the regular season finales next Friday (Nov. 4). The key matchup finds Sand Springs visiting the Spartans. The winner earns a first round home game.

Washington (5-4, 3-2) played without quarterback Phillip Wheatley but had enough offensive weapons to present problems for the Spartan defense. The Hornets, however, never got untracked against Bixby's dominating defensive line and attacking approach.
The Hornets, who were blanked for the first time, finished with 123 total yards, including 42 rushing. The hosts averaged 2.3 yards per play on 53 total plays.

In addition, Washington turned the ball over three times, including two lost fumbles. The Hornets moved the ball sporadically in the first half with Bixby's defense answering each challenge.

"We didn't come in here thinking shut out. We just tell our kids to do their jobs every snap and put themselves in the best situation to make plays," said a smiling Rodney Flowers, Bixby's defensive coordinator. "Our guys got in the backfield and made some plays on their quarterback.

"We knew he wouldn't throw it a lot and we stressed all week about getting 11 guys to the football and hitting them hard and often. That put us in position to make plays because they are fast and athletic. Being able to contain them was most pleasing," Flowers added.

Bixby head coach Loren Montgomery was equally proud of the defense and its ability to keep the Hornets from breaking off any long plays.

"For the amount of talent they have but to keep them from breaking a long one I'm real proud of the defense," Coach Montgomery said. "We knew they were a little short-handed with their quarterback being out but we controlled the line of scrimmage and got a ton of pressure on them when they threw."

On its second possession, Bixby went 41 yards in four plays to take the early lead as senior quarterback Tanner Griffin fired a perfect 23-yard touchdown pass to senior receiver Nic Swanson, who made an over-the-shoulder grab with 6:24 left in the first quarter. Jason Campbell's point-after kick gave the visitors a 7-0 lead.

Washington's best scoring opportunity came minutes later as the Hornets' Rylan McQuarters recovered a fumble by Bixby receiver Brennan Presley at the BHS 48-yard line. In six plays, BTW moved to the Bixby five before quarterback Demarco Jones fumbled attempting a handoff and the Spartans' Cody Adams recovered at the seven.
"I feel like every time we step on the field we have a chance to do what we did tonight," said talented senior defensive lineman Brendan Evers, who applied constant pressure. "We have one of the best defenses in the state. I love these guys I play around it's definitely been a blessing.

"I think when we have pressure like that we bow our necks even more. When we have pressure in a close game we love it. We're going to move on from this win and do the best we can to win district," Evers added.

Midway through the second quarter, Bixby went on a 54-yard, 13-play drive before Griffin hit Swanson with a 15-yard touchdown pass with 5:29 showing. Swanson was short of the end zone but battled a pair of defenders before scoring the TD and giving BHS a 14-0 lead.

On its next possession, the Hornets converted on a fourth-and-three during a drive to the Bixby 15-yard-line but on another fourth-and-three, Jones fired an incomplete pass with pressure applied by Spartan junior linebacker Coby Tillman.
Bixby went to the running game to ice the game, driving 70 yards in seven plays with junior Tucker Pawley, who rushed for 198 yards on 34 carries, racing 17 yards for a touchdown. Campbell's point-after gave BHS a 21-0 lead at the 7:23 mark of the third stanza.

"Their defense is good. They've got good cover guys and they get in your face. The ability to be able to run the football the second half was good for us," Coach Montgomery noted.

Bixby ended the scoring with 2:18 left in the third quarter as Pawley ignited the drive with a 53-yard burst before being knocked out of bounds at the Hornet nine. Three plays later, Griffin had to scramble while back to pass and sprinted five yards for the touchdown and 28-0 lead.

The Spartans appeared to score midway through the fourth quarter as senior defensive end Chandler Price stepped in front of a screen pass by backup quarterback Tai Dobbins and returned it 47 yards for a touchdown. A hold was called on the return, bringing the ball back to the Spartan 44.

"That was my first interception ever," an elated Price said afterward. "I'm not too happy about it being called back because of a penalty but I'm happy I got the pick. I saw the screen coming, once the running back bumped into me I figured he was going to get that screen."

Bixby, which ended with 334 total offensive yards, received a 129-yard, two touchdown passing performance by Griffin, while Swanson ended with six catches for 58 yards and a pair of scores. Jones led Washington with 31 yards rushing and 11-of-27 passing for 81 yards.

NEXT GAME: Bixby hosts Sand Springs in the regular season finale Friday (Nov. 4), starting at 7 p.m. at Lee Snider Stadium. Sand Springs, which fell to the Spartans in last year's Class 6AII State Championship, captured a 47-28 win at Bartlesville Friday night.
"That will be a big game for us. Sand Springs is always tough and always plays us well," Coach Montgomery said.

SENIOR NIGHT: Bixby will honor its seniors prior to the start of next Friday's game. The magnitude of the Sand Springs along with Senior Night should make for an emotional evening.
"It's hit me but it won't really hit me until I step on that field next week. It'll be a big night for everybody, we're ready," Evers said. Price added, "It actually hit me today in the locker room that I have less games left to play than I had before it's crazy to think about it because I'm going to miss all these guys."
Swanson added, "We need to keep playing like we are. Sand Springs is a good team but we need to come out and play like we have been it'll be a big night." Senior Drake Allen said, "It has not hit me yet I'm trying to avoid it as much as possible. Motivation won't be a problem against Sand Springs. The opportunity for the seniors to get another home game is something special."

NOTABLES - In other district games Friday, Muskogee (7-1, 4-1) routed Sapulpa, 62-21 while Ponca City went outside the league to pick up a 10-6 home win over Norman. Bixby's third forced turnover came when defensive back Cade Cavender forced the fumble on a Hornet pass reception and Tillman recovered. The 28 points were Bixby's fewest since a season opening 31-28 loss at Jenks.
Photos courtesy of David Stacy