Bixby Defense Highlights State Championship

GTR Sport Writer

Courtesy Dean Atchison
CELEBRATION: Bixby senior strong safety Tanner Doyle, center, holds up the Class 6AII gold ball after the Spartans won their sixth state championship in seven seasons.

With its sixth title in seven years, it is no secret that it was the defense that won the Class 6AII state championship game for Bixby on Dec. 5 at UCO stadium in Edmond.
All the scoring came in the first half with the Spartans leading Choctaw 17-14 at halftime. It looked as if there would either be scoring from both offenses, as Bixby could have rolled in the second half as it had done in most games this season, finishing with points as high as the 50s, 60s and 70s.
But both defenses rose to the occasion and the score stood as final. It shouldn’t come as a surprise since Bixby beat Choctaw 24-13 in the regular season on Oct. 9.
Senior strong safety Tanner Doyle was a key factor for the Spartans’ defensive unit. He shared the lead in tackles with eight stops, six that were solo with one for loss of yardage. Sophomore linebacker/running back Jersey Robb also had eight tackles, two solo, three for losses and two sacks.
“It felt good (to win state again),” said Doyle, who was named to the District 6 AII-2 team. “I think our defense played a really good game. It really helped us win in that second half, preventing them (Choctaw) from scoring.”
Bixby scored first in the game as Robb ran in from two yards immediately after the recovery of a fumble by the Yellowjackets on a punt return.
Choctaw would score a tying-touchdown, but the Spartans retook the lead, 14-7, on a 28-yard TD by Braylin Presley. Presley, a junior who is receiving several D-I offers, including one from Oklahoma State, where older brother and former Bixby standout Brennan is attending, was the offensive player of the game. He rolled up 206 yards on 33 carries.
Bixby added a field goal in the second quarter before yielding Choctaw’s second TD.
Because the offense was unable to score in the second half, Doyle admitted that it created a little anxiety for the defense.
“It was a little stressful,” he said. “It’s like we’re winning by three and if they score, then they’ll be up. But I feel like it also made us play better, having that pressure on us to not have them score so we can win”
The Spartan defense gave up touchdown passes of 38 and 85 yards respectively to Yellowjacket quarterback Steele Wasel.
“We just fixed what we messed up in the first half and we just had to stop their passing because they threw for quite a few yards, because we stopped their run,” Doyle added.
Choctaw outdistanced Bixby, 384-292 in total offense, but was limited to 60 yards on the ground.
Doyle said getting to hit and make tackles against opponents is what he likes most about playing strong safety and the game of football.
He enjoys being the competition and getting to do it with his friends. Playing in games like the state championship really gets him excited, he said.
“It feels really great to win that last game, especially my senior year,” Doyle said. “Adding to all those past wins is continuing our streak and it just felt really great. I’m glad we were able to accomplish that goal.”
Sophomore teammate Jakeb Snyder was hailed as the defensive MVP by media sources. He made a game-saving interception and a TD-saving tackle early in the game. He also had three tackles, two sacks and one pass breakup. Junior linebacker Jack Puckett also had two key sacks late in the game.
Doyle considers the last play of the contest to be most memorable.
“Just knowing that we won and getting to celebrate with everybody made it special,” Doyle said.
BIxby finished 2020 at 11-0, going unbeaten for a second straight year. It has now won 36 straight since losing its 2018 season opener. Other highlights consisted of opening the season with back-to-back wins against 6AI powers Union and Jenks and a dominating midseason victory against Carl Albert, who eventually repeated as state champions in Class 5A.
The win against Jenks was another good memory for Doyle.
“It was another close game,” he said. “We normally lose to Jenks and beating them two years in a row is just really a great feeling.”
Doyle also agrees with Jenks going on to win the 6AI title reflects on the strength of the Bixby program.