Stellar defense not enough as No. 2 Spartans spoil Sandites' playoff hopes

Photo: Morgan Miller.

Photo: Morgan Miller.

By: Scott Emigh, Editor-in-Chief

Scoring Summary:

1Q 6:23 Griffin 40 yard pass to Presley. Campbell PAT. 7-0 Bixby.
2Q 5:27 Pawley 44 yard run. Campbell PAT 14-0 Bixby.
2Q 1:24 Greathouse 6 yard pass to Bales. Hernandez PAT 14-7 Bixby.
2Q 0:12 Greathouse 23 yard pass to Bales. Hernandez PAT 14-14.
3Q 7:56 Griffin 16 yard pass to Barbour. Campbell PAT 21-14 Bixby.
3Q 3:36 Scott 4 yard run. Hernandez PAT 21-21.
4Q 5:50 Pawley 5 yard run. Campbell PAT 28-21 Bixby.
4Q 1:45 Pawley 16 yard run. Campbell PAT 35-21 Bixby.

Note: Coverage of the Sandite-Spartan Semi-final game presented by Morgan's Relax Packs.

For the third-straight year, the No. 3 Charles Page High School varsity football team (7-5) was eliminated from the playoffs by the No. 2 Bixby Spartans (9-3). The Sandites put up a valiant effort, but the two-time defending State Champions progressed to their third-straight State Championship finals appearance with a 35-21 win at Sapulpa's George F. Collins Stadium.

The game was an incredible defensive showdown that saw the two teams punt a total of sixteen times with two interceptions, one fumble recovery, and one turnover on downs. The Spartans won the battle, however, forcing ten punts and racking up 63 yards in tackles for loss. 

Sand Springs failed to find a rhythm offensively, completing only ten first downs and eleven passes on 32 attempts. The team struggled to hold on to the ball, fumbling four times, and dropping numerous passes that should have been completed.

On the Sandites' first possession they quickly picked up 21 yards on a run from junior running back Payton Scott, but then senior quarterback Hunter Greathouse's first pass of the night sailed into the hands of Ethan Hall for an interception. In a strange turn of events, Spartan quarterback Tanner Griffin's first pass was also an interception, caught by sophomore Hayden Cramer, to hold the Spartan possession to a mere ten seconds.

CPHS: Greathouse 10-31-125-1, 2TD. Pennington 1-1-(-2)-0.
Bixby: Griffin 18-29-238-1, 2TD.

CPHS: Scott 24-86, 1 TD. Greathouse 3-(-21). Pennington 1-(-13).
Bixby: Pawley 33-202, 3TD. Griffin 4-25. Presley 1-9. Riddle 1-9.

CPHS: Bales 7-69, 2TD. Thompson 1-42. Taber 1-11. Scott 2-1.
Bixby: Kerr 3-80. Presley 5-74, 1TD. Swanson 5-58. Barbour 2-18, 1TD. Riddle 1-8. Pawley 1-3. Watkins 1-(-3).

Tackles (CPHS Only)
Morgan 9, Tolbert 6, Jordan 4, Taber 4, Motes 4, Fain 4, Freeman 4, Simonton 4, Bratcher 3, Cramer 3, Fleischman 1, Delozier 1, Moyer 1, Thompson 1.

The Sandites were unable to capitalize, however, and Greathouse soon punted the ball away without a first down. Bixby had little difficulty moving the ball this time, driving 84 yards in six plays to score on a 40 yard pass to freshman receiver Brennan Presley. Jason Campbell's kick was good and the Spartans were up 7-0.

Eight possessions later, the Spartans caped an 87-yard drive with a 44-yard touchdown run by junior running back Tucker Pawley to make the score 14-0 with 5:27 left in the half.

Sand Springs came alive from there, finally scoring on their seventh possession of the night, aided by a series of personal fouls by the Spartans. Sand Springs grabbed one first down on a facemask penalty, added another on a roughing-the-passer call, then went to work offensively at the Spartan 32. Between Scott's runs and Kasey Bales's receptions, the Sandites inched down to the six yard line where Greathouse connected with Bales for the score. Alex Hernandez sent in the point-after, and the Sandites were closing the gap with 1:24 in the half.

On the Spartans' second play of the corresponding drive, Griffin found Presley again for a gain of twelve, but the freshman lost control of the ball and senior Treyce Tolbert got the recovery to set up Sand Springs for the game-tying drive. 

Greathouse hit Mack Thompson for 42 yards, and after a series of incomplete passes, he found Bales from 23-out to tie the game at half time.

The Sandites didn't ever take the lead, but they won the third quarter defensively, holding Bixby to only 86 yards and three completions on eight attempts. The Spartans did score on their opening drive of the half with a 16 yard pass to Clayton Barbour, but Sand Springs responded two possessions later. 

After a Sandite drive fell flat at the fifty, Greathouse pinned Bixby in at their own one-yard line. Three plays later the Spartans had to punt into a headwind and gave the Sandites prime real estate at the 19-yard-line.

Sand Springs wasted no time in scoring as Bales hauled in a thirteen yard pass and Scott ran it the final four to tie the game.

Soon after, the Spartans pushed eighty yards in eight plays to score on a six yard run from Pawley. With 5:50 to play, things began to fall apart for the Sandites.

Tight-end Dash Fleischman was injured on a play and had to come out for the game. Greathouse found Josh Taber for a first down, but then had to come out for a play. A direct snap attempt to Scott sailed well over his head and he barely recovered the ball for a loss of fourteen. Bales had to punt into a headwind and the Spartans got possession at the Sandite 49.

Four plays later, Pawley scored his third touchdown of the night to make it 35-21.

Sophomore Caden Pennington came in at quarterback with 1:45 to play. Another errant snap pushed the Sandites back to second and 23 at their 22, then a screen pass to Scott ended in another loss, followed by a delay of game penalty. The final play of the game was a run from Scott for no gain, and the clock ran out for the Spartan victory.

The Spartans will advance to their third-straight State Championship appearance Friday, December 2nd at against the No. 5 Lawton Wolverines (8-4). The Wolverines were the sleeper of this season's playoffs, defeating No. 6 Booker T. Washington 21-20, then upsetting No. 1 Muskogee 34-24. This will be Lawton's first State Championship appearance since 2014 when they fell 35-21 to Bixby.