Big Plays Lift Hornets Past Spartans, 28-21
12.2.17 by Ron Holt
JENKS - Booker T. Washington relied on a big play offense here Friday night at Allan Trimble Stadium in the Class 6A-II State Championship Game.

The Hornets, 12-1, needed every big play to finally subdue short-handed Bixby, 28-21, and capture their first state championship since 2010. The Spartans, 8-5, had their string of three straight 6A-II state titles come to an end in front of a large crowd.

Washington's highly-touted defense was matched play-for-play by Bixby's defense until the Hornets' offense capitalized on a couple of athletic fourth quarter plays to overcome a 21-7 deficit and take the lead for good with 3:21 remaining.

It was a disappointing setback for the Spartans, who were more competitive and more physical Friday night than during a 21-0 home turf loss to the top-ranked Hornets earlier this season.
Despite distractions and injuries this season, Bixby remained committed and determined to reach its fourth straight championship game.

"I'm very blessed with how our team played today. They left it all out on the field," said outstanding senior linebacker Coby Tillman, who again led the Spartans in tackles with 10.
After a scoreless first quarter, Bixby scored first after the Hornets' Rylan McQuarters fumbled a Clayton Barbour punt and the Spartans' Colton Tafoya recovered at the BTW 16-yard line.
BHS senior quarterback Staton King hit Tucker Pawley with a 13-yard pass to the three and Tillman bulled into the end zone for a 7-0 lead with 5:20 left before halftime.

The Hornets tied the game at 7-7 with 3:55 left before intermission after a 49-yard pass play from senior quarterback Phillip Wheatley to 6-4, 180-pound junior wide receiver Javian Hester.
A one-yard TD burst by Tillman with 9:04 left in the third period gave Bixby a 14-7 lead. Highlighting the drive was an impressive, leaping, third down reception for 29 yards by Cade Cavender and a leaping fourth down reception of 26 yards by Zach Riddle.

A 49-yard touchdown pass play from King to Cavender expanded the Spartan lead to 21-7 with 5:54 showing in the third stanza. Washington, however, rallied behind big plays from athletic playmakers to get back into contention and eventually take the lead.

The Hornets, who scored the game's final 21 points, trimmed the deficit to 21-14 with 3:49 left in the third period when Hester used its height advantage to bring down a Wheatley pass between Bixby defenders Barbour and Riddle.

Washington tied the game at 21-all at the 10:54 mark of the fourth quarter when Wheatley found Dewayne Cooks for a 33-yard TD pass play and McQuarters ignited the go-ahead touchdown after taking a snap and finding daylight to this right for a 44-yard run to the Bixby one.

Two plays later, Wheatley found a gap over the right side and coasted into the end zone from a yard out for a 28-21 lead with 3:32 remaining in the game.

Bixby had one final shot at tying the game with a little over a minute left. As they had done the entire game, the Spartans responded in dramatic fashion thanks to a 50-yard pass play from King to Riddle at the Hornet 30. King then scrambled 11 yards with time running out before Booker T.'s Hester jumped in front of a King pass into the end zone for an interception to seal the victory.

"I'm proud of our team we had guys stepping up. I'm real proud of them stepping up and doing what nobody thought we could do," said King, who passed for 231 yards and one touchdown on 16-of-31 passing. "The play calling was really good tonight, they put us in situations to be successful and it helped.

"As bad as losing sucks, we still got here. I'm proud of our guys and proud of our season," King added.

Cavender, a Bixby junior, was productive on both sides of the ball against the Hornets. Offensively, he had a season-high seven pass receptions for 110 yards and one touchdown. Defensively, he was credited with two tackles, one tackle for loss, intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble.

"I thought we played well on defense, both defenses played really well. Our offense was having a hard time figuring out what to do. When we figured some things out, they did too. They played a great game, I have nothing but respect for them," Cavender said. "We just didn't get the better end of it tonight."

Tillman led Bixby, which had 300 yards of total offense, in rushing with 33 yards on a season-high six carries. Six Spartans caught passes in the game.

Wheatley paced the Hornets, champions of Class 6A-II, District 2, by passing for 348 yards on 19-of-31 passing. He tossed three touchdown passes and was intercepted twice. Thomas Grayson's 65 yards on 19 carries topped Washington.

Bixby will have crucial holes to fill next season as numerous players, who contributed to winning three straight gold balls, will be lost to graduation. The Spartans have experience and young talent returning to next season's squad.

"It's been great," Tillman said of his high school career. "It's been a great experience with the good times and the bad times this experience teaches life lessons."