Erring Spartans Turn Back Bartlesville 37-21
10.20.17 by Ron Holt
BARTLESVILLE - After a mistake-filled first half, Bixby High found itself in a battle with the fired-up Bartlesville Bruins during a Class 6AII-District 2 clash at Custer Field here Friday night.

Sixth-ranked Bixby led 23-14 at halftime but the Bruins seized the momentum at the break, scoring with 25 seconds remaining in the first half.

Bartlesville opened the second half rolling from its own 25-yard line to the Spartans' 20, thanks to a productive passing game and three Bixby penalties. The Spartans needed a big play to stem the tide. Bixby's defense and offense each contributed big plays during the crucial third quarter to help the Spartans salvage a 37-21 victory to remain unbeaten at 4-0 in district play and raise the overall record to 5-3.

It was a disappointing performance for the Spartans. But, Bixby left town with a win and with its 15 district points intact. The margin for error, however, diminishes in the final two regular season games, beginning with Friday's district showdown with top-ranked Tulsa Washington.

"We messed up about every way you can and Bartlesville played really good. It was just one thing after another it was very frustrating," Bixby head coach Loren Montgomery said afterward. "We have to play clean football, which we haven't done much of this season.

"We got out with a win but we've got a lot of work to do before next week," he added. "They (Washington) are extremely good. They are fast and run all over the field well. We've got a lot of work ahead of us."

Senior defensive back Cameron Stephens provided the first big play, intercepting Bruin quarterback Noah Sunday to halt the Bartlesville threat to open the third quarter. Stephens returned the theft 40 yards. Bixby's ensuing drive ended in a missed 27-yard field goal attempt by Reis Vernon but the first Bruin turnover regained the momentum for the visitors.

"The receiver ran a post but the quarterback threw it early and threw it behind the receiver so I just stopped. The receiver kept running and I was able to get the pick," said Stephens. "It caught me off guard a little since it was in the lights. I bobbled it at first but made sure I got it and then took off.

"I think it changed the momentum but it could have changed it even more if I was a little faster. But, I'm glad it was a big play in the game."

Bixby's defense stiffened and forced a short punt by Bartlesville to the Bruin 46-yard line. On the first play, Spartan quarterback Staton King fired a perfect pass to Eric Calton-Watkins, who split a pair of Bruin defenders and won a foot race to the end zone for a 30-14 Bixby lead with 4:49 left in the third stanza.

"It was a play we had been looking at," said Calton-Watkins, who had been sidelined by injury.

"It just happened they ran the defense just like we thought they would and we made it work. I caught and it saw open space I didn't know where anyone else. I was just running.

"It's been two weeks since I'd played and it was a really good feeling get back out there," he noted. "We had too many mistakes and left too many points out there. We should have played better as a team."

Bartlesville put together another time-consuming drive to Bixby's 28-yard line before junior defensive back Cade Cavender intercepted Sunday and returned the ball 26 yards to the Spartan 32.

Senior running back Tucker Pawley ran 18 yards on first down to midfield before sophomore Brennan Presley took a pitch on a reverse and turned in an impressive, tackle-breaking burst for 24 yards. Bartlesville was guilty of a personal foul on the play, moving the ball to the hosts' 10-yard line where Pawley, who riddled the Bruin defense for 235 yards rushing on 28 attempts, scored on the next play and Vernon kicked the conversion for a 37-14 lead at the 1:05 mark of the quarter.

"I just had a feeling that someone needed to step up and make a play. Eric Calton-Watkins stepped up with the big touchdown catch so I thought I needed to step up on both offense and defense," Presley said.

"We didn't play a good game. I kind of attribute it to things going on this week, like fall break," he added. "We came out here lackadaisical and got hit in the mouth. We had to respond. The next two weeks we need a sense of urgency to go play well. We mostly played off talent today. Our coaches always tell us we're talented but we've just got to put execution with it."
Bixby received an early gift when Bartlesville botched a punt attempt when the snap sailed over the head of the punter, who kicked the ball out of the end zone for a two-point safety at the 8:49 mark of the first quarter.

The Spartans converted the ensuing punt by the Bruins into points when King broke free around left end, racing 12 yards for a touchdown. Vernon's point-after kick gave Bixby a 9-0 lead.

Bartlesville didn't stay down long as Sunday hit the speedy John Cone for a 69-yard touchdown with 5:54 left in the first period.

Bixby also had success through the air on its first possession of the second quarter as Cavender ran a beautiful stop-and-go pattern and King was on target with the pass for a 58-yard touchdown effort and a 16-7 Spartan lead.

A nine-yard touchdown run by Pawley and a one-yard sneak by Bartlesville's Sunday ended the first half scoring.

Trailing 37-14, Bartlesville narrowed the final deficit to 37-21 after a 40-yard touchdown pass from Sunday to Gavin Jones with 5:35 left in the game. Bixby's defense stymied the final Bruin drive and the Spartans ran out the clock.

NEXT GAME - A possible district championship could be up for grabs Friday when Tulsa Washington, 7-1 overall and 4-0 in the district, visits the Spartans in one of the area's top games. Kickoff at Lee Snider Field is set for 7 p.m. Bixby will honor its seniors and their parents during Senior Night activities.

DISTRICT NOTES - This season, Tulsa Washington won at Edmond Santa Fe (35-21), defeated Midwest City (27-24 in overtime), lost at Monroe, La. (30-21), defeated Shawnee (63-0), won at Ponca City (63-21), downed Sapulpa (63-0), won at Muskogee (42-21) and blanked Sand Springs (40-0) last Friday night.
In other district play Friday, Sapulpa defeated Ponca city, 42-14, while Muskogee was idle.

NOTABLES - Boosted by a 323-yard ground attack, Bixby finished with 540 total offensive yards. Bartlesville ended with 330 total offensive yards, 250 passing. Presley ended with 106 total yards, 40 rushing and 66 receiving. Cone had a productive game for the Bruins, finishing with 10 catches for 142 yards and one TD. Bixby ended with three turnovers, six penalties for 75 yards and numerous mental miscues.