By MIKE MOGUIN
GTR Sports Writer
GREAT HANDS: Bixby receiver Brennan Presley holds on to the football as if he made a catch. He is expected to be a force in the Spartans’ receiving unit this season.
MIKE MOGUIN for GTR Newspapers
One weapon in the Bixby Spartans’ offense is wide receiver Brennan Presley.
A 5-9, 155-pound junior, Presley caught 67 passes for 852 yards with six touchdowns last season. He also made 38 tackles and two interceptions as a member of the defensive secondary and blocked one punt on special teams.
When the Spartans came up short of winning a fourth straight state championship last year by losing to Booker T. Washington in the Class 6AII final, it hurt.
“It was really painful,” he said. “Knowing most of the people that I did from Booker T. growing up and playing with them, it was like something really personal. I wanted to play against them and beat them. I was happy that they won, but it really took a hit because I thought we could have won with the team that we had.”
Presley’s family moved to Bixby when he was in the ninth grade. Beforehand, he attended school in Tulsa with players on the Booker T. roster.
He is reminded of the loss in the Class 6AII championship game often when he visits his friends.
“All the time,” he said, laughing.
Bixby had a solid lead in the game before losing 28-21 to the Hornets.
“I think we had a great game plan going in,” Presley said. “Just people not being able to play, such as last-second decisions, I think it really affected us. We had a great chance during the game, but, some things just came up short.”
Presley also runs track for Bixby, which shows up on the field.
“I work on my speed a lot,” Presley said. “I’m working on my hands. I have (older sister) Brandee (a track standout who just graduated) out there throwing me balls and I’m helping my little brother out there learn how to catch.
“My coaches have really taught me a lot in helping me grow as a better receiver,” Presley said. “All the coaches have had confidence in me as a sophomore and even put me out there as a freshman in the state championship game (against Lawton in 2016). I think that’s a big confidence boost in me. So, it’s not letting the people who believe in me down that pushes me.”
What does he like about football? The expression you can play with, he said.
“Whether you’re mad, happy, sad, you can always express it on the field and give it your all, and just show out and do what you love to do,” Presley said.
When it comes to receivers, Presley likes Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“He’s probably one of the best receivers in the and he’s not contemporarily big, so that gives me confidence I can make it,” Presley said.
Brown stands 5-10.
“But my favorite receiver is DeSean Jackson (currently with Tampa Bay) because of the way he does everything. He’s probably my favorite receiver and the person I’m most likely to game-plan myself after,” he added.
The Spartans were faced with a challenge early in the last year when started off 1-3. After the campaign began with a big win over Jenks, their first in 40 years against the Trojans, came three straight losses, including one to Putnam City, who is on Bixby’s 2018 schedule.
“It was really tough,” Presley said. “But, it was kind of a learning experience as to them not being district games. They didn’t really have an effect on our season, but of course, you want to win every game. It kind of took a toll on us, but it kind of helped us in a way, making us more hungry for (district) play and helping us down the stretch in the season.”
Bixby would finish runner-up in its district en route back to the state title game and an 8-5 finish.
It also lost to Booker T. and sees the Hornets as their top foe in the Tulsa area.
“They’re probably our biggest rival in terms of talent and everything they do,” Presley said. “I think it will be a great matchup this year. Just with the personnel they have and the people we have coming back and the people we have coming up, I think it will be a great matchup.”
Although Bixby lost key starters from last year’s state runner-up, Presley is convinced new talent rising up will keep the Spartans in contention for a fourth state title in five seasons.
“We have some challenges, but, I think overall, we may be even better than last year,” Presley said.
Bixby opens up 2018 at home against Jenks in zero week (Aug. 24), will remain at home the following week against Mansfield (Texas) Timberview. After a week off, Putnam City (Sept. 14) comes to town. A meeting with Sapulpa (Sept. 21) will involve the Spartans’ first road game of the season as well as their district opener, then return home against the Hornets (Sept. 28). Key road games against Sand Springs (Oct. 18) and Muskogee (Nov. 2) are included down the stretch.
“We can’t count anybody out on our schedule,” Presley said.