Spartans Earn Three-Peat, Defeat Lawton 39-31
12.3.16 by Ron Holt
YUKON - Bixby High found little to hang its hat on here Friday night in the first half of the Class 6AII State Championship game against Lawton at Miller Stadium as the Wolverines turned Spartan mistakes into points in taking a 25-14 lead at halftime.
But, after an impressive reversal of fortune in the second half, the Spartans hung their collective hats on another gold ball.
Erupting for 22 third quarter points and turning up the heat defensively, the Spartans overtook the red-hot Wolverines and made critical plays down the stretch for a 39-31 victory in front of a rain-soaked crowd. It was Bixby's third straight Class 6AII state title.

"In the second half I think we just started playing some ball and quit making so many mistakes the way we did in the first half," said seventh-year Bixby head coach Loren Montgomery. "We come out the second half and the defense gets a stop and then we took it down the field and scored. That was big."

Riding an eight-game winning streak, Bixby ends the season 10-3. Lawton ends at 8-5. It was an important finish for a group of seniors who have contributed to each of the state championships.

There's nothing easy about winning a state championship, a fact Bixby understood at halftime.
Lawton capitalized on three Spartan turnovers in the first half as the Wolverines made their intentions known early, scoring on an 11-yard pass play from quarterback Zack Hanna to Jayquan Lincoln and on a 33-yard pass interception return by Lincoln for an early 13-0 lead.

A 30-yard kickoff return by David Brylewski kick-started the Spartan offense, which traveled 45 yards in eight plays for its first score - a seven-yard run by junior tailback Tucker Pawley, who ended with 236 rushing yards on 48 carries and scored four times. Jason Campbell's conversion kick narrowed the gap to 13-7 with 5:33 left in the first quarter.
Lawton added a 30-yard TD pass play from Hanna to Dominick Neal and a two-yard run by Tre Curry for its 25 first half points, despite failing on a pair of two-point conversions. Pawley ran two yards for Bixby's final TD of the first half, giving LHS the 25-14 lead.

In the second quarter, Bixby drove to the Lawton one before Pawley fumbled and the Wolverines recovered. Another Spartan drive advanced to the Lawton five before a pass attempt from Griffin slipped out of his hand and was intercepted by Kejuan Neal at the LHS one.
"We took them too lightly in the first half, in my opinion, and gave them some easy scores," said senior defensive lineman Brendon Evers. "We all sat down at halftime and said, 'we have 24 minutes left and we're not going to end like this. We've trained way too hard to let this get away.'"

Bixby brought a different approach and attitude into the second half and the results were immediately obvious.
The Spartan defense entered the spotlight first. Aided by a jarring hit by senior defensive back Drake Allen to break up a pass play, the Wolverines were forced to punt on their initial possession of the second half.
The offense took 10 plays to score on a two-yard run by Pawley, who also ran for the two-point conversion as the Spartans narrowed the deficit to 25-22 and energized their enthusiastic fans.

Bixby enhanced its momentum on the ensuing kickoff as Campbell's pooch kick was recovered by Brylewski at the Lawton 33. Brylewski sprinted down the middle of the field and went head-first toward the ball to steal it from a pair of Wolverines.
"We actually had put the play in about a week ago. We knew that their middle was going to be pretty open," Brylewski, a 5-9, 140-pound senior, said. "We had me and Colton Tafoya, who is also pretty fast, go after it. We felt like one of us would get it.
"I saw the ball and just dove for it. They were pretty close and I don't think I could have gotten it if I hadn't drove for it. I'd say this was one of my better games," he added.

Three plays later, Griffin passed to senior Nic Swanson for a 34-yard touchdown and Campbell's conversion gave Bixby its first lead at 29-25 with 5:24 showing in the third quarter.

Swanson turned in an incredible play as one Wolverine lunged for a tackle, two others had tackles broken and Dia Vonta Michael was given a ride into the end zone.

"I was not going down," said Swanson, who had eight grabs for 92 yards. "I had to pull through for my team. We didn't play well the first half but in the second half I thought we wanted it more than them. This is a great way to end a career."
The defense again stymied Lawton, led by Allen's hit on Lincoln for an incomplete pass on third down.
Bixby's offense responded with another lengthy drive, which ended in Pawley's seven-yard TD burst. Campbell's conversion made it a 36-25 game near the end of the third quarter.

Lawton re-energized its crowd early in the fourth quarter when Hanna and D. Neal connected for a 75-yard pass play cutting the deficit to 36-31 after a two-point conversion pass failed.
The tense fourth quarter featured a costly fumbled snap by Hanna that was recovered by Spartan junior linebacker Coby Tillman to set up another BHS scoring drive that ended in a 30-yard field goal by Campbell for a 39-31 lead with 3:47 remaining.
"It was my first kick all year. It has been a little frustrating at times but this was clutch and we needed it," Campbell, a junior, said. "It felt great coming off my foot, I knew it would be good. It felt amazing it's probably the best moment I've had in my life. I'll never forget it."

After a pass broken up by sophomore Cade Cavender, Spartan freshman Brennan Presley ended the next Lawton drive with a pass interception. The game wasn't decided until Allen picked off Hanna near the Spartan goal line with 35 seconds left.
"A lot of it was just me doing my job. The line was getting there and making him throw it early," Allen said of his interception. "We just didn't play up to our potential in the first half but in the locker room at halftime no one was hanging their heads. We had faced adversity before and we knew we could come out on top.
"I think that goes back to our coaches. The coaches don't allow you to quit that's not an option with Bixby football. They had a talented group of receivers but we just tried to battle with them the whole game," he added.
Pawley had his usual workmanlike performance. His 236 yards gave him 2,096 yards this season on 322 carries and 30 rushing touchdowns.

"It was rough the first half but we knew it would be because it was different than we were used to up front," Pawley said. "But, we figured it out and got the job done. I give all the credit to my linemen. They are one heck of a line and I thank them for all they've done for me this year and the opportunities they've given me to reach my goals.

"We came out with a different mentality in the second half than we did the first half. We saw that they weren't laying down for us. They wanted to kick our butts like we wanted to kick theirs. I'm just so happy to help these seniors out I knew how important it was to them," Pawley added.

Griffin, who was the signal-caller in each of Bixby's three state championships, ended his career by passing for 105 yards on 10-of-20 completions.

"I think we tried to do too much in the first half instead of what they were giving us," Griffin said. "The second half we just executed better and the O-line did it all. They took us the rest of the way in the second half them and Tucker. The defense stepped up big-time.

"It never gets old I wish I could do it over again. I'm blessed to have been a part of each state championship. This is how we wanted to write the end of the story," he added.

NOTABLES - The rain arrived in the second quarter and remained throughout the game. Bixby's defense, especially Evers, Tillman, Cody Adams, Chandler Price and Ethan Hall, pressured Lawton's Hanna throughout the second half. Hanna threw for 258 yards and three touchdowns but the Wolverines were limited to 20 yards rushing. Both teams were victimized by penalties as Bixby had 13-for-145 yards and Lawton nine-for-100 yards. Each team had three turnovers.
Photos courtesy of Gregg Shipman, Shipman Photography