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Nifty 50: Bixby extends record win streak in "Battle of the Burbs"

The Spartans pull away in the second half to defeat the Rams, 49-14.

By Buck Ringgold | Photos by Karen Schwartz 

TULSA — In its debut as a Class 6AI program, four-time defending 6AII champion Bixby uncharacteristically started a tad shaky. 

The Spartans lost three fumbles in the first half of Thursday's season-opening "Battle of the Burbs" against Owasso and missed the extra point after scoring their first touchdown. 

However, as has been the case throughout their current 11-man state record winning streak, the Spartans promptly flipped the switch.

Quarterback Connor Kirby broke off an 85-yard touchdown keeper to put Bixby ahead to stay; then Bixby pulled away starting with a pick-six six seconds into the second half. The Spartans eventually ran their record streak to 50 straight wins after defeating Owasso, 49-14, at H.A. Chapman Stadium on the University of Tulsa campus.

"I'm proud of them; I thought they came out and competed," Bixby coach Loren Montgomery said. "It wasn't pretty, it wasn't where we want to be, but we competed and I thought we played really hard."

Bixby (1-0) was also held scoreless until nearly seven minutes left in the opening half after trailing Owasso, 7-0. But after the Spartans finally got on the board, they missed the extra point, keeping the Rams in front.

The Rams could have easily had a bigger advantage at that point, but they missed two field goals and then turned the ball over on downs at the Bixby 15. On the very next play, the Spartans struck.

Senior quarterback Connor Kirby took a keeper around the right side and found a seam, going in from 85 yards out with more than four minutes left until halftime. Bixby then went for two and got it, as Kirby took in another keeper, making it 14-7, Spartans.

"It was tight at the beginning, but that run, I felt like really sparked us and brought us alive. ... It just really opened up and our guys did a great job blocking all night," Kirby said.

"We finally got our offense going; I feel like we were just off on some throws, could have done some things better, but we really started picking it up in the second half."

The Spartans still held their 14-7 at halftime, with Owasso taking the second-half kickoff. The Rams started at their 20 following a touchback.

On the next play, Bixby struck again, as linebacker Sam McCormick jumped a route on a pass in the right flat and made the interception. He raced in untouched from 20 yards out, and the PAT from Levi Hoffman made it 21-7.

"We were watching film with that little concept they were running," said McCormick, a junior. "They changed it from a hitch last year I think to a whip shorty where it went in and out. So when I saw (the receiver) go in, I knew he was going straight back out, so I just kept sprinting out there and jumped it in time.

"It was amazing seeing all my brothers around me just celebrating. It was a big play, obviously, and having all my teammates and all my coaches get pumped up for me. This is like my first real game starting, so not a better start than I could ask for."

Bixby continued to add on to its lead in the third quarter, as halfback Jersey Robb scored from 2 yards out on their next offensive series. Kirby then had his second TD run, covering 20 yards, as Bixby built a 35-7 lead with 21 seconds left in the third quarter.

Robb and McCormick each found the end zone for the second time in the final quarter. Robb had a 6-yard TD run, and McCormick caught a 35-yard pass from Kirby with more than five minutes left.

After allowing 255 yards of total offense in the first half, the Spartans held the Rams (0-1) to 119 yards after halftime.

"Defensively, we played really good in the first half and we gave them a short field several times and the defense bowed their neck," Montgomery said. "We had a couple of goal-line stops that were, I think, pivotal in the game.

"When you can play defense, and then we were able to run the ball in the second half, I thought that was really big for us."

Kirby actually ended up the game's top rusher, going for 128 yards on 11 carries. Robb had 87 yards on 17 carries.

Montgomery utilized two quarterbacks in Kirby and senior Austin Havens, who transferred from Owasso in the offseason.

Kirby was 5-of-12 passing for 134 yards while Havens went 16-of-21 for 117 yards, including a 13-yard strike to receiver Jakeb Snyder for Bixby's first TD. Snyder caught eight passes for 65 yards.

Owasso's new QB, senior Mason Willingham, was 23-of-39 passing for 297 yards. He had the Rams' opening TD on a 1-yard keeper and threw a 22-yard pass to receiver Anthony Hills early in the fourth quarter, which cut Bixby's lead to 21, 35-14.

The Rams' standout senior receiver Cole Adams, an Alabama commit, caught seven passes for 143 yards, all in the first half. He left the game with an undisclosed injury and didn't play in the second half.

Hills added six catches for 85 yards along with his TD.

Bixby now goes for consecutive win number 51 in its next game, a road tilt at Springdale (Ark.) Har-Ber on Sept. 2.

"I know we all want to improve on our performance and clean some of that stuff up, but when we had to have it and run the ball in the second half, I was pleased with that," Montgomery said.

The schedule doesn't get any easier for the Rams, who have to turn around and play at defending 6AI champion Jenks on Sept. 2.