Bixby Dominates PC West, Reaches Semifinals
11.12.16 by Ron Holt
It wasn't a perfect performance but Bixby High's offense and defense were dominant in propelling the Spartans past Putnam City West, 49-7, Friday night at Lee Snider Stadium in the Class 6AII State Quarterfinals.
The victory earned the two-time defending Class 6AII state champion Spartans a ticket to the state semifinals against a familiar foe - Sand Springs - this weekend. Sand Springs rallied at Midwest City to defeat the Bombers, 23-14, in another quarterfinal battle.
A rash of penalties, nine-for-85 yards, was a negative associated with the Spartans play Friday night. Offensively, Bixby amassed 416 total yards and ran 74 plays to the Patriots' 48. Defensively, the Spartans held the visitors to 154 total yards and forced six turnovers - four pass interceptions and two fumbles lost.
"For the most part we played well," Bixby head coach Loren Montgomery said. "One of the things we talked about all week was penalties and we had some bad ones tonight. But, we'll work to clean those up and get ready for Sand Springs.
"I feel that we've made some improvements, even this week. We're playing with more confidence on defense and coach Flowers (Rodney) is doing a great job. When a team has a player like No. 1 (senior wide receiver Nick Robinson) it's impressive to take him out of the game and make them beat us another way."
Putnam West (7-4) played the first half on its end of the field as the Patriots' only crossed midfield once and that was at the Spartan 48-yard line.
"Our coaches had a great game plan for this opponent. I knew coming into the game that our defense as going to come together as a team and limit them to few rushing yards," said Bixby's hard-nosed junior linebacker Coby Tillman. "I feel like everything is clicking. At the beginning of the season we had some faults but as we started progressing everything started clicking and we started gang tackling."
Second-ranked Bixby (8-3) wasted little time getting on the scoreboard quickly maneuvered 65 yards in four plays with the opening possession of the game to score on a nine-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tanner Griffin to wide receiver Nic Swanson at the 11:07 mark of the first quarter.
Highlighting the drive was a 55-yard pass from Griffin to Swanson on third-and-nine. Swanson made a nifty reverse move after catching the ball and ran to the Patriots' nine before being run out of bounds. Jason Campbell added the point-after kick.
On West's first possession, junior Colton Tafoya intercepted Putnam West quarterback Trey Gooch and returned the theft 31 yards to the West 12-yard line but the Patriot defense stiffened to stop the drive on fourth down. Later in the game, Tafoya intercepted another pass and returned it 29 yards, also in the first half.
"Our defense did phenomenal tonight. I'm proud of all our guys we've been working hard," said Tafoya. "I was ready for the ball on the first one. I knew No. 1 (Robinson) was their go-to receiver and we knew they would try to get him the ball. All I had to do was go play it."
A 16-yard Patriot punt gave Bixby excellent field position at the visitors' 31. Seven plays later, Griffin hit junior Zack Riddle for a 14-yard touchdown pass. Campbell's conversion kick gave BHS a 14-0 lead with 4:55 left in the first stanza.
After driving from its own 28 to its own 44 mid-way through the second quarter, the Spartans faced a fourth-and-eight. Bixby executed a fake punt for a first down as freshman Brennan Presley took the snap and ran 12 yards, giving the Spartans the ball at the West 44.
Bixby gambled again later in the drive as it faced fourth-and-10 at the Putnam West 20-yard-line. The Spartans successfully converted again courtesy of a 20-yard touchdown pass play from Griffin to Swanson. With 8:21 left before intermission, Bixby's lead grew to 21-0.
With 5:17 remaining before halftime Bixby's lead increased to 28-0 when junior running back Tucker Pawley caught a screen pass from Griffin and scored from 16 yards away. Campbell added the conversion kick.
The defense set the table again on Putnam West's next possession as senior Ryan Matthews picked off Gooch and returned it 32 yards to the West 34.
The Spartans converted a fourth-and-five with a 10-yard pass from Griffin to Swanson after the interception before scoring on a two-yard run by Pawley with 2:03 left prior to halftime, giving the hosts a 35-0 lead.
Bixby scored twice in the second half on a 19-yard TD pass from Griffin to Eric Calton-Watkins at the 9:53 mark of the third quarter and reserve quarterback Staton King hit Ryan Kerr with an 11-yard touchdown pass with 4:30 remaining. The drive started after sophomore Cade Cavendor intercepted Gooch.
Against a defense composed mainly of reserves, Putnam West broke the scoring drought as Gooch hit Robinson with a 15-yard touchdown pass with 6:21 left in the game.
Offensively, Bixby finished with 280 passing yards and 136 rushing. Griffin was 15-of-30 passing for 254 yards and five touchdowns. Pawley added 84 yards rushing and scored one touchdown while Swanson caught nine passes for 146 yards and two TDs.
"We played well. There were a couple of plays we messed up on but we'll correct those," said senior center Pierce Hibblen. "We knew what they were because we watched a lot of film. They were going to try to make us mess up and make us play sloppy.
"We did have too many penalties, but we will fix those next week," he added.
Fellow offensive line mate Bryce Bray, a junior tackle, added "We felt great. All week in practice we have been working on the same things over and over and we put it into motion out here tonight," Bray said. "It showed how we can play together even without our starting left guard Josh Neerman
"We never missed a beat and just kept on going. It feels great to get to go to the next round," Bray added.

NEXT GAME - Bixby and Sand Springs meet for the sixth time in the past three years. The Sandites (7-4) have won one of the past five meetings. With one exception, every game has been competitive. "We're pretty familiar with those guys. We know each other well," Coach Montgomery said. "I would expect them to do some different things schematically against us." Sandite running back Payton Scott rushed for 144 yards and two TDs against the Bombers.

NOTABLES - This was the final home game for the Spartan seniors, who posed for a group picture on the field afterward. The Lee Snider Stadium turf will be replaced prior to next season. "It's hasn't hit me yet that I played my last game here," Hibblen said. In other 6AII quarterfinal games, Muskogee kicked a field goal with eight seconds left to trim Stillwater, 24-22, at home. Tulsa Washington traveled to Lawton for its quarterfinal game Saturday afternoon. Muskogee will meet the Washington-Lawton winner in a semifinal game. If Washington wins, District 6AII-2 teams would be in the two semifinal games for the second straight year. Bixby converted nine-of-20 third down situations and converted five-of-eight times on fourth down.
Photos by Gregg Shipman Photography