Jenks Scores Late To Nudge Spartans, 38-34
9.3.16 by Ron Holt
JENKS - In a battle of defending state champions, Bixby's Spartans had Jenks on the ropes until the final 40 seconds when the Trojans landed the deciding punch in capturing a 38-34 victory in front of an overflow crowd at Hunter-Dwelley Stadium here Friday night.
It was the season opener for Bixby, the two-time Class 6A-II State Champions, while Jenks' four-time Class 6A-I State Champions improved to 2-0 on the season.
No one on the Bixby sideline was happy to have pushed the powerful Trojans to the limit. The general feeling was that the Spartans lost a winnable game.
"We just didn't make the plays when we needed to that was basically the story," a disappointed Spartan head coach Loren Montgomery said afterward. "I felt like it was two evenly matched teams and they made more plays than we did tonight. We should have won that game."
Trailing 31-28, Bixby capitalized on a fumbled punt by Jenks' Isaiah Epps that was recovered by Spartan junior defensive back Cameron Stephens at the Trojans' 32-yard line early in the fourth quarter.
A 20-yard pass play from senior quarterback Tanner Griffin to senior wide receiver Nic Swanson moved the ball to the JHS 12-yard line where Griffin connected with Drake Allen for a TD to give the Spartans a 34-31 lead with 11:06 left in the game.
Neither team was able to move the ball consistently before the Spartans turned the ball over on a punt at the Jenks 17-yard line with 1:52 showing.
Jenks put together an impressive drive, which ended in a six-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ian Cowan to tight end Reese Leitao with 40 seconds left. Austin Neuhauser's conversion kick gave the hosts a 38-34 lead.
With no timeouts, the Trojans picked up a first down before the game ended on a series of laterals by the Spartans before Jenks recovered an errant pitch as time expired.
"I'm proud of the way some of the guys stepped up and made plays when they had to but in the first half I felt we were nervous and uptight. We buckled down a little in the second half," Coach Montgomery said. "We had some kicking game blunders and a couple of turnovers that were critical."
Bixby, which hadn't defeated Jenks since 1977, answered the bell numerous times after a sluggish start allowed Jenks an early 21-7 lead to keep the game from getting out of control.
The Spartans' tied the game at 7-7 after Swanson caught a lateral pass from Griffin and then lofted a 29-yard TD pass to Eric Calton-Watkins. Jason Campbell added the conversion kick.
BHS rallied from a 21-7 deficit with a five-yard TD pass from Griffin to Cody Adams and then rallied from being down 28-14 on a 16-yard touchdown pass from Griffin to junior Staton King, who made an impressive catch in the end zone., and a 53-yard pass play from Griffin to senior running back Tucker Pawley to tie the game at 28-all at intermission.
Jenks used a 41-yard field goal by Neuhauser at the 8:17 mark of the third quarter to take a 31-28 lead and set up the dramatic finish.
Pawley had a productive game as he rushed for 85 yards on 19 carries and caught five passes for 65 yards and one touchdown.
"We had the mentality going into the game that nothing else but a win would do," Pawley said. "It just shows that we can achieve anything we set our mind to achieve. We know we can hang with anybody we play."
Griffin started the season by passing for 222 yards and four touchdowns on 22-of-39 passing. Jenks' Corwin passed for 231 yards and three TDs while being intercepted once.
Bixby's offensive line played respectable, paving the way for a 361-yard total offensive output and not allowing Griffin to be sacked.
"I felt we played pretty good but we made some silly mistakes that we've got to clean up we'll get better," said 5-7, 221-pound senior center Pierce Hibblen, who was matched up against Jenks' 6-1, 300-pound sophomore noseguard Trevion Sier. "We got push on a lot of the plays."
After being torched for 21 first quarter points, Bixby's defense limited JHS, who amassed 499 yards of total offense, to 10 second half points.
"The first half we were just wide eyed and we didn't come out to play. But, the second half we rallied back after getting a little speech from Coach (Rodney) Flowers," said talented junior linebacker Coby Tillman. "This is something we can build on, week by week."

NEXT GAME - Bixby remains on the road Friday, Sept. 9, at Bentonville, Ark. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast over The Buzz, 1430AM. Bentonville suffered a 24-21 overtime loss to powerful Rockhurst High of Kansas City in its opener Friday night. Bentonville had eight penalties for 86 yards in the second half and 12 penalites for 119 yards during the game.
NOTABLES - Jenks was victimized by 13 penalties, including several unsportsmanlike flags, for 125 yards, lost three fumbles and was intercepted once when Spartan senior defensive lineman Josh Neerman picked off an attempted screen pass. He sacked Jenks' Corwin for a six-yard loss to help thwart a late drive. Cade Cavender, a sophomore defensive back, recovered a fumble by Corwin and broke up a pass play near the end zone to help turn back a late Trojan drive. "That was my first game and I was pretty nervous," Cavender said. "As the game kept going I got more focused and it got easier. As a team we'll come together after this loss and we'll learn from our mistakes." Bixby's standout senior defensive lineman Brendon Evers sat out the game with a leg injury. For a variety of reasons, the game featured a lengthy first quarter and took more than one and a hour hours to play the first half. Spartan junior linebacker Colyn Farley recorded a quarterback sack and hurried the QB once.
(Photo by Gregg Shipman)