By Ron Holt
EDMOND – It was another dominating, overpowering, impressive performance by Bixby’s unbeaten Spartans here last Thursday night at University of Central Oklahoma’s Chad Richison Stadium. Unlike other Spartan wins this season, Bixby’s 63-14 Class 6AII State Championship victory over Deer Creek-Edmond in front of 9,000 witnesses was historic for many reasons.
Bixby’s 49th victory in a row established a new 11-man state record, toppling 48 straight by Wagoner. It was the Spartans’ fourth straight Class 6AII state championship, seventh state championship in the past eight seasons and third consecutive undefeated season.
“Forty-nine wins, that’s a big deal for our community, our players and our coaches,” said 12th-year Spartan head coach Loren Montgomery, leader of Bixby’s development into a prep football power since taking over in 2010. “A lot of hard work has gone into those wins and I’m super proud."
“The big deal is the way our kids and our coaches have bought into our system and the continuity we’ve had over the past 12 years ... that pays off. We didn’t know we were close to the record until this summer, but we just stayed with our routine of one game at a time."
“That’s a lot of ball games and a lot of hard work has gone into it by a lot of good players. It was a lot of commitment on the part of our school district,” Montgomery added.
In addition, senior sensation Braylin Presley set the school rushing record while going over the 100- touchdown mark in his career. He victimized Deer Creek, rushing 16 times for 171 yards and three touchdowns, throwing a 76-yard TD pass and catching five passes for 20 yards.
“I knew coming into the game that I was close to the record, but I tried not to think about it ... but getting the rushing record was in the back of my mind. We had a lot of good players returning on offense, we knew we could do a lot of great things this season,” Presley said.
Senior Preston Solomon, who missed much of 2020 with an injury, ended his Spartan career with his most productive performance. He caught four passes for 141 yards and three TDs – including the stunning 76-yarder from Presley on Bixby’s first offensive play - and was credited with five tackles, a sack and tackle for 10-yard loss.
“We’re going to miss Braylin next year. He’s so electric and a great kid. He’s a great leader and a hard worker. When your best player works hard that helps your program. Solomon is one of the fastest guys in the state. He just had a big year this year, big play after big play. Getting him healthy this year on both sides of the ball was huge,” Montgomery noted.
And Bixby’s defense turned in another solid, aggressive, hard-hitting performance resembling the previous 12 games this season.
“Our defense was tenacious tonight. Coach (Rodney) Flowers has done an incredible job with those kids year after year. Those kids just pin their ears back and fly around to the football,” Montgomery added.
After Bixby (13-0) forced a Deer Creek (10-3) punt on the Antlers first possession, the Spartans struck quickly. Presley took a handoff from senior quarterback Christian Burke racing to his right before pulling up and firing a strike to Solomon behind the Antlers’ secondary for a 76-yard TD and 7-0 Spartan lead at the 10:10 mark of the first quarter.
“I knew coming in that would be the first play and, in my mind, I was just saying don’t overthrow it. I just tried to get it to him and that’s what I did,” Presley said. “Preston has improved so much, he’s an outstanding player and an even better person.”
Senior linebacker Beau Bertelli’s interception of Deer Creek senior quarterback Brett Pense and return of 18 yards set up Bixby’s next score, which came on a three-yard run by Presley giving BHS a 14-0 lead. It was Presley’s 100th career TD.
Deer Creek’s defense forced back-and-forth of offensive possessions while remaining in striking distance at 14-0 entering the second quarter. The Antlers had an opportunity to make things interesting starting the second quarter when Pense scrambled away from a Spartan rush before lofting a long pass to Jevion Jones who dropped the ball.
On Bixby’s second possession of the second stanza, the Spartan offense overcame frustrations and penalties to keep a drive alive with big time plays, including a 15-yard pass from Burke to junior Luke Hasz on third-and-15 and a 25-yard burst by Presley, who later finished the drive on a one-yard TD run for a 20-0 lead with 6:06 left until halftime.
Spartan junior defensive back Cale Fugate provided the next offensive opportunity when he jumped in front of a Pense pass, deflected the ball and caught the interception at midfield with 3:42 left before halftime.
“We watched hours of film and I felt like we knew what was coming,” said Fugate. “I was ready for the route, I switched with Dylan (Hasz) and just jumped in front, tipped it and caught it. It was a great feeling in a huge game to make plays for my teammates and the seniors. We want to be great as a defense and as a team.”
Five plays after the pass theft, Burke rifled a 23-yard TD pass to Solomon and junior Connor Kirby ran for a two-point conversion, extending Bixby’s advantage to 28-0 with 2:26 showing.
Late in the first half, Bixby’s Solomon sacked Pense for a 10-yard loss on third-and-two, forcing a punt with Bixby’s coaches quickly calling a time out. Deer Creek punter Grayson Miller boomed the punt 46 yards, rolling to a stop at Bixby’s six with 54 seconds left.
Presley didn’t waste the opportunity as he broke through the Antler defensive interior, ran outside before finding open field near Deer Creek’s sideline and used his blistering speed to complete the 94-yard touchdown sprint with 38 seconds left for a 35-0 halftime lead.
Bixby increased its lead opening the third quarter as Kirby tossed a 35-yard TD pass to Solomon and Connor Noland kicked the extra point for a 42-0 lead with 10:06 left. A 36-yard pass from Burke to D. Hasz highlighted the drive.
Deer Creek ended the scoring drought when Bryson Rouse returned a pass interception 25 yards for a TD and Miller kicked the conversion making it 42-7 with 5:50 left in the third stanza.
Bixby responded with a five-yard TD run by junior Jersey Robb and junior Jakeb Snyder returned a pass interception 39 yards for a TD and 56-7 Spartan lead at the 2:00 mark.
Rouse scored on a six-yard run making it a 56-14 game with 11:40 left in the game but the Spartans ended the scoring onslaught when senior Zach Blankenship scored on a 16-yard run with 8:57 remaining.
Bixby’s offense overcame the pesky Antlers’ defense, finishing with 624 yards of total offense – 322 yards rushing and 302 yards passing. The Spartans averaged 8.4 yards per offensive play and scored 22 points off turnovers.
“Whenever we scored twice in a row that really got us going, we were able to calm down and do our thing,” said senior offensive lineman Cody Paschall. “We just went week-by-week and I think that’s why we had so much success. Winning three state titles in a row as a starter is pretty cool. Never losing a game is something I won’t forget. I’m just ecstatic.”
Burke, in his first season as the Spartans’ starting quarterback, was 18-of-29 passing for 191 yards and one touchdown. Blankenship had 68 yards rushing and Snyder ended with five pass receptions for 54 yards.
Defensively, the Spartans dominated. Deer Creek was limited to 149 offensive yards while being intercepted four times and converting only two of 14 third down attempts. Pense was eight-of-22 passing for 31 yards and was sacked twice, while Deontayue Wilson led the Antlers’ ground attack with 81 yards on 15 carries.
“This is the outcome everyone wanted and worked hard for ... it feels great,” said Spartan senior linebacker Jack Puckett. “It’s a great experience, I’m so happy it ended this way. I think what you saw tonight was what you’ve seen the last 13 weeks, we just played hard, worked our butts off and helped set the tone for this team."
“Winning 49 in a row is insane when you really put it down on paper. I’m glad to have been a part of all that.”
Senior defensive end Miles Hill added, “It’s been a journey and a learning experience. This week we were laser focused and locked in. Everyone was holding each other accountable ... that’s what makes Bixby so good. We held everyone to a higher standard, especially ourselves. I couldn’t be happier.”
This will be the last Class 6AII championship for the Spartans because of a move to Class 6AI in the 2022 season.
“I’m happy the way we went out and I’m excited about the move to 6AI,” Puckett said. “I think the guys returning will pick up where we left off.”
NOTABLES – This was Bixby’s largest margin of victory in the seven state championship games. ... Bixby’s football season will be celebrated during the Bixby Spartan Football Banquet Monday (Dec. 6). ... Bixby’s focus and preparation during this season was remarkable but it’s a part of the Spartan culture. “Our senior class was one of the most focused, we just tried to stay as focused as we could,” Presley said. “I knew we could get it done but it’s emotional to see it end.” ... Solomon caught TD passes from three different passers – Presley, Burke and Kirby. ... Senior Connor Nolan was successful on seven of eight extra-point kicks and punted four times for a 39.2-yard average. ... Snyder and Bertelli recorded their fourth pass interceptions of the season while Tyson Williams had his second interception and Fugate registered his first interception. ... Puckett led the Spartans balanced defensive effort with eight tackles and a sack while Bertelli and Brayden Darrell each were credited with six tackles. Finishing with five tackles were Solomon, Fugate and Caleb Rogers. ... Deer Creek kicked Grayson Miller punted nine times for a 44.3-yard average and boomed three kickoffs into the end zone. ... Remarkably, Bixby ended the season averaging 61 points a game while allowing 11 points an outing. The Spartans scored more than 70 points three times and more than 80 points once.