Bixby's Finest Effort Needed In State Title Game
11.27.17 by Ron Holt
While fourth-ranked Bixby High rolled to an 8-4 record this season, the Spartans likely realize they have yet to play their most complete game of the season.

During the season, eighth-year Spartan head coach Loren Montgomery often noted that the Spartans were victimized by penalties, turnovers and missed opportunities. To its credit, Bixby overcame these obstacles in winning seven of its last eight games.

A near flawless performance, however, will be needed Friday, Dec. 1, when the Spartans challenge top-ranked Booker T. Washington in the Class 6A-II State Championship Game at Jenks' Allan Trimble Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

Bixby has dominated Class 6A-II since its formation, winning state championships in 2014, 2015 and 2016. The 2014 championship was the first in Spartan history. Washington has won eight state titles with the last coming in 2010.

Booker T. is 11-1 on the season and reached the state title game after defeating Putnam City (56-21) in the state quarterfinals and routing Lawton (50-12) in last week's state semifinals at the University of Central Oklahoma's Wantland Field in Edmond.

The Hornets' lone loss was a 30-21 setback at Monroe, La., in the third game of the season. Since that loss, the Hornets scored 63 points each in three games and shut out four opponents, including a 21-0 victory at Bixby in a pivotal Class 6A-II, District 2 game in the ninth game of the season.

Booker T. featured a balanced, athletic defensive effort in taking a 15-0 first quarter lead and a 21-0 advantage at intermission in turning back the Spartans and capturing the district crown.
Hornet senior quarterback Phillip Wheatley threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to senior Dewayne Cooks for a 7-0 first quarter lead against the Spartans and the duo combined for a 38-yard TD pass play with 3:03 left in the first quarter for a 15-0 lead. A 59-yard TD sprint by junior Thomas Grayson with 9:20 showing in the second quarter ended the scoring.

That was all the Hornets needed as their defense limited Bixby to 115 yards of total offense - 104 passing - and forced a pair of turnovers.

"They are the best defense we've played, without a doubt. That's one of the better defenses I've seen," Coach Montgomery said after a recent practice. "They have good guys at every position they don't have any weak spots.

"They have the ability to cover in the back end because their defensive backs are really good. They have a nose guard who is a two or three-year starter and the two linebackers are good. As an offense, it's tough to find matchups against them," he added.

After going 1-3 early this season, the Spartans won four straight district battles before falling to the Hornets. Bixby regrouped to win at Sand Springs in the regular season finale and turned in an impressive effort in a 41-14 home win over Stillwater in the state quarterfinals.

BHS outlasted second-ranked Midwest City, 14-12, in the state semifinals two weeks ago at UCO's Wantland Field in Edmond to punch its state championship ticket.
Despite answering both challenges in winning fashion, Coach Montgomery and his staff realize the Spartans could have played better.

"I was pleased with the way we played but we didn't take advantage of some opportunities," he said of the Midwest City game. "We had some third downs that were manageable but we didn't convert because we should have maintained a block or gotten more vertical on a run.
"If we had converted it probably would have been a different ball game. But, it was a game where every first down was critical as was very third down. We left some points out there. If we had gone up 21-0 in the first half when we had some opportunities I felt like it would have been a completely different game.

"But, they're a good team. We knew it was going to be a good game," he added.
In recent years, Bixby has battled injury problems and other distractions during the season but once the playoffs started - at least the past three years - the Spartans' focus, commitment and determination to excel has taken center stage.

That's the characteristics Bixby needs Friday to withstand the Hornet challenge and bring home its fourth straight gold ball.

"I think our best game or our most physical game is ahead of us," Coach Montgomery said. "We've had lapses where we turned the ball over or didn't convert on third downs when we needed to. I would like to see us put it all together."

Bixby Scoreboard (8-4)
W, vs. Jenks, 35-18; L, vs. Bentonville, Ark., 47-28; L, at Putnam City, 37-35; L, at Westmoore, 34-22; W, vs. Muskogee, 38-23; W, at Sapulpa, 48-10; W, vs. Ponca City, 68-7; W, at Bartlesville, 37-21; L, vs. Tulsa Washington, 21-0; W, at Sand Springs, 42-21; W, vs. Stillwater (state quarterfinals), 41-14; W, vs. Midwest City (state semifinals), 14-12.

Booker T. Scoreboard (11-1)
W, at Edmond Santa Fe, 35-21; W, vs. Midwest City, 27-24, OT; L, at Monroe, La., 30-21; W, vs. Shawnee, 63-0; W, at Ponca City, 63-21; W, vs. Sapulpa, 63-0; W, at Muskogee, 42-21; W, vs. Sand Springs, 40-0; W, at Bixby, 21-0; W, at Bartlesville, 42-13; W, vs. Putnam City (state quarterfinals), 56-21; W, vs. Lawton (state semifinals), 50-12.

NOTABLES - The Spartans have a 47-36 all-time state playoff record, while Booker T. has a 61-36 all-time state playoff record. Bixby defeated Lawton (35-21) in the 2014 6A-II state title game at Moore; defeated Sand Springs (38-28) in the 2015 state title game at Union, and downed Lawton (39-31) in the 2016 state championship at Yukon. Bixby head coach Loren Montgomery and BTW head coach Brad Calip coached together as assistants at Jenks. Hornet standout junior defensive back/wide receiver Dax Hill is the younger brother of Oklahoma State's talented running back Justice Hill. In the first meeting, the Hornets held Bixby to 11 yards rushing. Senior Spartan tailback Tucker Pawley had 38 yards on 19 carries. Bixby senior quarterback Staton King was 7-of-21 passing for 104 yards and was picked off twice. BTW's Wheatley passed for two touchdowns but was also intercepted twice. Grayson led the Hornets in rushing with 119 yards on 23 carries and one TD. Cooks caught three passes for 70 yards and two Hornet touchdowns. Bixby junior Clayton Barbour and sophomore Brennan Presley intercepted two Booker T. passes in the first meeting.