Defense Sparks Bixby's 14-12 State Semifinal Win
11.18.17 by Ron Holt
EDMOND - If Bixby High reached a fourth consecutive Class 6AII State Championship game,
the Spartans' defense was expected to play a significant role against an explosive opposing
Bixby's defense survived the challenge thanks to numerous big plays and stops as the
Spartans turned back second-ranked Midwest City, 14-12, in a Class 6AII state semifinal
game at wind-swept Central Oklahoma's Wantland Field here last Saturday afternoon.
The three-time defending Class 6AII state champion Spartans (8-4) and district rival Booker T.
Washington (11-1) battle for the gold ball at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 1, at Jenks' Allan Trimble
Stadium. Top-ranked Washington routed Lawton, 50-12, in Saturday's other semifinal game at
Midwest City, which ends its season at 10-2, featured a solid defensive unit but the Bombers'
offense had posed problems for opposing defenses all season, passing and running the ball.
MWC was averaging 40 points a game and scored 60-plus points twice this season.
The 12 points the Bombers scored against Bixby were a season low.
"We were hyped up, but we were controlled and disciplined … we were ready to play," said
talented senior middle linebacker Coby Tillman, who led the impressive defensive effort.
"They're a great offense and they came out hitting but we just gave it back to them. We said
going into the game that we weren't going to get run on. I'm proud of my teammates.
"I feel our defense played as a team. We were doing our job, every guy on the field was
performing," added Tillman, who was credited with eight tackles and consistently pressured
Bomber quarterback Preston Colbert. "We should have been playing like this the whole
season but we do kick it up during the playoffs."
Midwest City was limited to 76 rushing yards on 25 attempts and finished with 172 yards
passing while turning the ball over three times.
After a scoreless first quarter in the defensive battle, Bixby took a 7-0 lead after a two-yard
touchdown run by senior Tucker Pawley, who ran for 148 yards on 36 attempts. Reis Vernon's
kicked the conversion.
Pawley's score capped a nine-play, 60-yard drive that featured a 23-yard pass play from
quarterback Staton King to Eric Calton-Watkins on third-and-nine.
On the ensuing kickoff, Midwest City's Caleb Collins fumbled and Bixby's Cade Cavender
recovered at the Bombers' 33-yard line.
A 17-yard TD pass from King to sophomore Brennan Presley with 9:03 left before halftime
increased the Spartan lead to 14-0. On the third down scoring play, Presley slipped down as
he finished the route, jumped up to catch the ball while being grabbed by Midwest City's
DeClaudio Irvin. Presley slipped out of the tackle and raced into the end zone.
Late in the second quarter, King fumbled while being sacked and the Bombers recovered. But,
on Midwest City's first play after the turnover, Colbert was intercepted by senior Colton Tafoya
to regain the momentum.
Colbert entered the game with 3,057 passing yards and 34 touchdowns while being
intercepted only twice. Tafoya's theft and an interception near the Spartan goal by Ryan Kerr
to thwart the Bombers' first serious scoring attempt matched Colbert's season total.
"I knew they were going to throw something short trying to get the yardage they needed," said
Tafoya. "When they threw it, I saw the receiver go down and I just picked it off. I'm proud of our
defense and our team. We had a lot of adversity through the year and came through it."
The momentum began to shift to Midwest City's sideline early in the fourth quarter when a
Bomber defender pulled the ball loose from King forcing a fumble, which was recovered by
Jordan Jones at the Spartans' 21-yard line.
On the next play, Colbert passed to Juwan Walker, who split the defense en route to a 21-yard
touchdown. An illegal substitution penalty on the Bombers may have contributed to the
missed extra point kick by Elliot Janish, leaving Bixby holding a 14-6 lead.
Midwest City's defense then forced a three-and-out and its offense went on an 11-play, 80-yard
drive to trim the deficit to 14-12 with 5:45 left in the game after a 26-yard TD pass from Colbert
to Irvin. The Bombers' two-point conversion run by Colbert never had a chance as he was
smothered by Spartan defenders.
The Bombers' final chance to win the game came with 1:41 left. But, after failing to move the
ball on the first three attempts, a fourth down pass by Colbert was tipped away by Presley.
The Spartans ran out the clock to secure the win.
"Those guys were great and it was something seeing them coming up on things that we had
worked on like the throw-back screen they tried late," Spartan head coach Loren Montgomery
said of the defense. "I'm really proud of our defense, especially on that last defensive stop.
"We opened up the game running the ball really well but they did a good job holding us down,"
he said. "Our guys have been really good in the playoffs … we have good intensity in practices
and in games.
"Anytime you can go play for a state championship it's special."
NEXT GAME - The Bixby-Booker T. Washington championship game matchup will be a first
since the Class 6A split. The two are familiar with each other since they compete in Class
6AII, District 2. … In an earlier meeting this season, Washington scored 15 first quarter points
and added six early in the second stanza for a 21-0 victory.
The Hornets' dominating defense limited the Spartans to 115 total offensive yards while forcing
NOTABLES - Offensively, Bixby was led by King, who passed for 91 yards on nine-of-16
attempts, Watkins, who had four receptions for 49 yards, and Presley's three pass receptions
for 27 yards and a TD. Midwest City was paced by Colbert's 172-yard, two-touchdown passing
performance while Walker caught nine passes for 129 yards. … Presley and Cavender had
touchdown-saving tackles on lengthy Bomber pass plays. … On Midwest City's final scoring
drive the Bombers converted three third down plays and one fourth-and-11.