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Spartans Finish Another Impressive Season

By MIKE MOGUIN
GTR Sports Writer

BIXBY SPARTANS: PERENNIAL POWER


GREGG SHIPMAN Photography


Bixby did not four-peat as state champion as it hoped. But, still, the 2017 campaign was a memorable one for the Spartans, who finished 8-5 overall, runners-up in District 6AII-2 and Class 6A Division II.

“I think the big deal is, one thing I always talk about with the guys is improving as the season goes on, and I felt like when we entered the playoffs and throughout the playoff run, we continued and played our best football right until the very end,” Bixby coach Loren Montgomery says.

The Spartans were vying for a fourth straight state title when it led Booker T. Washington 21-7 in the third quarter of the Class 6AII state championship on Dec. 1 at Jenks. Coby Tillman had two touchdowns and Cade Cavender caught a 50-yard TD from Staton King in that game. But, it wasn’t meant to be as the Hornets (12-1) rallied with three unanswered touchdowns to win 28-21.

“(BTW) has a lot of playmakers, and they made some really good plays when they had to,” Montgomery says. “We were up 14 points, and we struggled a little bit, making some first downs, running the ball and grinding the clock. Ultimately, that’s what got us beat.”

Bixby opened the year with a convincing win against Jenks, capturing its first win against the Trojans in 40 years. That was one of two of the Spartans’ most memorable moments on the season, Montgomery says. The other came when Bixby edged Midwest City 14-12 in the semifinals and made state.

The Spartans then went on a three-game losing streak. But they turned things around in time when district rolled around, getting big wins against Muskogee and Sand Springs. Their only two losses the rest of the year came against Booker T. Washington.

“The win against Jenks was really big and emotional for our crew. But, at the same time, I’m not sure if we had a little bit of a letdown. Bentonville (Ark.) was a very good team, they ended up playing for a state championship in 7A for Arkansas and just got beat. We had a couple of injuries in weeks three and four, that were kind of critical to us,” Montgomery says.

“Quite honestly, we may have had a little bit of a letdown and let our guard down after we beat a good Jenks team, and it took is awhile to get our mojo back.”

The outcome of the state final was different compared to the regular season meeting against Booker T. Washington, when Bixby was dealt a 21-0 shut out at home on Oct. 27.

“It’s a much larger stage, a much more significant game,” Montgomery says. “There is more finality to it, and I just felt like our guys played a much better game. We had a couple of guys play their very best game of their career. Coby Tillman is one of them, Zach Riddle is another, Staton King, our quarterback, had a really good game.  I just felt like we had some guys who stepped up and really played well.”

In the state final, King threw for 236 yards on 12-of-28 passes while Cavender caught seven passes for 108 yards. Bixby was held to 69 yards on the ground. Tillman led the Spartans in tackles with 13.  

Bixby tried to rally to tie the game but had a pass intercepted near the Hornets’ goal line with 15 seconds left.

Dozens of seniors will graduate, the last of the players who were involved in all three state championships since Class 6A separated into two divisions in 2014.

Among them are quarterback/defensive back King, running back/linebacker Tucker Pawley, running back/linebacker Tillman, offensive linemen Bryce Bray, Josh Owens and Isaiah Lakin, along with defensive back/wide receivers Riddle and Colton Tafoya.

“I’ll tell you what, it’s a really good group,” Montgomery says. “If you look at all four years of their high school career, they’ve had a chance to play in four state championship games and win three gold balls. They’ve just done a lot for our program, taken our program to the next level. This is a very good group.”

Despite the loss of talent, Montgomery is excited about what he has coming back in 2018.

“I think our defense will be really good,” he says. “We played a lot of young guys on our defensive line that really cam e around and played well. Three of our four defensive backs will be back, and two of our four linebackers will be back with experience. So, I think our defense will have a chance to be really good.

“Offensively, we have a couple of real good tailbacks in Braden Roller (sophomore) and Vic Griffin (junior). We have a stable of tight ends that are good football players and then some wide receiver and real playmakers like Clayton Barbour (junior) and Brennan Presley (sophomore).”

Updated 12-19-2017

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