Late Domination Propels Bixby By Sand Springs
11.4.17 by Ron Holt
SAND SPRINGS - Finesse and flair are descriptions seldom used when Bixby's Spartans and Sand Springs' Sandites annually collide on the gridiron. Dogfight and slugfest are more accurate descriptions.

Such was the case here last Friday night as sixth-ranked Bixby shifted into high gear early in the fourth quarter to distance itsself from ninth-ranked Sand Springs en route to an important 42-21 Class 6AII-District 2 victory that earned the Spartans second place in the district.
Bixby, 6-4 overall and 5-1 in district play, hosts fourth-ranked Stillwater (8-2) in the first round of the Class 6AII state playoffs Friday, Nov. 10, at 7 p.m. at Lee Snider Field.

The Spartans' regular season finale expected to feature two of the area's finest senior running backs - Bixby's Tucker Pawley and Sand Springs' Payton Scott - two proficient offensive lines and two hard-nosed defenses. Those expectations were accurate.

Pawley carried the ball 41 times for 222 yards and five touchdowns. Scott was the Sandites' workhorse, rushing 34 times for 163 yards and three TDs. Those two did their jobs but it was Bixby's defense which took control in the fourth quarter to spark the Spartans' strong finish.
Sand Springs (5-5 and 3-3) was ready to play from the outset as the Sandites' Luke Bratcher returned the opening kickoff 45 yards to the hosts' 48. With Scott carrying the ball on all nine plays, the Sandites took the early lead after Scott's three-yard touchdown run with 7:49 left in the first quarter.

Bixby, the three-time Class 6AII state champion, used its first possession of the game to tie on a 10-yard run by Pawley with 3:48 showing. Reis Vernon's booted the point-after. Pawley's run capped off a 12-play, 70-yard drive. Pawley carried the ball on eight plays in the drive.
Pawley scored from four yards out at the 9:59 mark of the second quarter for a 14-7 BHS lead and his one-yard sneak with 3:06 left gave the Spartans' a 21-7 halftime lead.
Sand Springs was the aggressor in the third quarter, capturing a pooch kickoff near the sideline to start its first drive at Bixby's 26-yard line. Scott highlighted the drive with a four-yard scoring burst to narrow the deficit to 21-14 with 9:18 left in the third period.
Spartan senior quarterback Staton King was intercepted by the Sandites' Hayden Cramer to thwart a Spartan drive and set up Sand Springs' final touchdown, which came on a Scott's 20-yard sprint to tie the game at 21-all at the 2:16 mark of the third quarter.
Bixby turned up the intensity offensively and defensively after the Sandites pulled even to seize control of the game.

"Usually when we get together with these guys it's a battle it gets down and dirty," Spartan head coach Loren Montgomery said. "The third quarter has been an issue for us and we've got to get that figured out. Being able to recoup and finish was really big for us. I think we'll have a little momentum going into the playoffs."

The rally started with an impressive drive that ended in Pawley's one-yard TD run, handing BHS the lead for good at 28-21 with 9:35 remaining in the game. After a defensive stop, Bixby went airborne for the next score - a 47-yard scoring pass from King to a wide-open Cade Cavender for a 35-21 lead with 6:26 left in the third quarter. In a span of 3:09, the Spartans scored twice.

"We came into the game knowing they wanted us to hand the ball off and throw it short. We threw a lot of screens and kept pounding the ball up the middle," said King, who was 19-of-29 passing for 211 yards and one TD. "On the pass to Cade, at first I thought I didn't see a safety since he was so wide open.

"The way we finished means a lot. Our defense stepped up big and the offense ran the ball. It felt good and will give us some momentum for next week," he added.
Pawley, who continues to improve following a knee injury earlier this season, scored from seven yards out with 1:50 left for the 42-21 lead.
"I'm not 100 percent but I'm getting really close I'm feeling better every week," Pawley said. "We knew this was going to be a battle. They have a great running back and I have a great O-line to run behind and that's what made the difference tonight," Pawley said.
"Our momentum is super high right now and that's what we want. We wanted the home playoff game for our fans to be there to cheer us on."

Bixby finished with 435 total offensive yards - 224 rushing and 211 passing - and finished with 6.0 yards per play.

"We definitely were prepared. It's a slugfest every time we play them it's never flashy or pretty," said senior offensive tackle Bryce Bray. "Both offensive lines were like going head-to-head for their running backs.
"We're clicking. It's taken us, obviously, a while to get going but when we took the momentum back in a matter of seconds that's when we knew we were playing like we've wanted to play," he added.

Sand Springs, which completed only 4-of-15 passes for 23 yards, effective ran the ball but the Spartan defense limited the damage late.

"We did great late. We did what our coaches told us to do and we finished strong that's what we do," said defensive end Zeke Upshaw. "Scott is pretty tough. He's strong and has a strong build. But, we got the win. We've just got to keep on finishing games."
Bixby ran 73 plays while Sand Springs ran 61. Offensively, the Sandites averaged 3.3 yards per play and ended with one turnover.

"Hats off to them. That running back (Scott) is special for three years we've tried to tackle that kid," Bixby defensive coordinator Rodney Flowers said. "I thought the kids responded well and once momentum got to our side I think our guys took over and put the game away.
"You've got to be able to stop the run game and we did at times tonight. To win a game like this and stop a running back like that will help us next week," he added.

NEXT GAME - Second-ranked Midwest City went unbeaten in District 1 play after defeating Stillwater, 35-21, at home Friday night. Senior Tyler Disidore rushed for 160 yards and freshman Qwontrel Walker rushed for 111 for SHS against the Bombers. Stillwater's two losses this season were at Lawton (43-29) and at Midwest City.
In other games this season, Stillwater won at Edmond Memorial (23-7), at home against Moore (14-7), at home against Mustang (31-14), at Deer Creek (41-21), at home against Putnam City West (49-7), at home with Choctaw (35-24) and at Enid (53-34).

NOTABLES - Bixby and Stillwater last met in the first round of the Class 6AII state playoffs in 2014 with the Spartans winning at home, 61-28. Spartan QB Staton King attended school in Stillwater for six years before returning to Bixby as a freshman. Offensively against the Sandites, Bixby was led in receiving by Zach Riddle's seven receptions for 64 yards, Brennan Presley with six catches for 33 yards and Cavender with three grabs for 71 yards. Defensively, senior linebacker Coby Tillman had another dominating performance with 14 tackles, 13 solo stops and a pass interception. Tillman intercepted a pass by Sandite quarterback Caden Pennington that was deflected by teammate Presley. Ryan Kerr ended with 4.5 tackles and Noah West ended with four stops, all solos.

WRAPUP - In other District 2 games Friday, Muskogee routed Ponca City (51-19), Booker T. Washington toppled Bartlesville (42-13) and Sapulpa ended its season in a 54-13 non-league loss to Broken Arrow Thursday night.
In other first round Class 6AII playoff games, Lawton hosts Muskogee, Booker T. Washington hosts Putnam City and Midwest City entertains Sand Springs.