Final Season rankings and State Championship analysis/prediction

Bixby's Tucker Pawley ran for 202 yards and 3 touchdowns in the Semi-Finals. Photo: Morgan Miller

Bixby's Tucker Pawley ran for 202 yards and 3 touchdowns in the Semi-Finals. Photo: Morgan Miller

By: Scott Emigh, Editor-in-Chief

No. 1 Bixby Spartans (Last week No. 2, preseason No. 1) vs No. 2 Lawton Wolverines (Last week No. 5, preseason No. 8)

The State Championship Semi-final games came to a close Friday with a big upset for Lawton, setting the Wolverines up for a rematch of their 2014 State Finals game. The two-time defending State Champions from Bixby defeated the Sandites for the third-straight year in a nail-bitter and will now take on their toughest offensive opponent since losing to Muskogee in week five. 

Bixby has the more explosive record against mutual opponents, winning by an average score of 44-18, compared to Lawton's 29-22, however, Lawton is 4-0 against mutual opponents while the Spartans are 3-1. Muskogee topped Bixby 45-42 in a week-five shootout after winning the turnover battle, while the Wolverines topped the Roughers 35-28 by winning the turnover battle. 

This season has seen an unprecedented amount of parity and circular losses as the Division-II teams that never had a shot in 6A-I are revitalizing their programs in a highly competitive year with numerous newcomers to contention. Choctaw upset Midwest City and Lawton; Lawton upset Muskogee; Putnam West upset Sand Springs; Stillwater upset Edmond Memorial and Mustang; Deer Creek upset Stillwater; Muskogee upset Bixby; Sand Springs upset Muskogee; Booker T. upset Sand Springs. In a season this wild, anything could happen.

That being said, Bixby is still the clear favorite to win--for many reasons. Bixby doesn't lose without major mistakes and miracle plays. They have three losses this season, and two were to annual powerhouse teams. 6A-I No. 1 Jenks was ranked as high as 23rd in the nation by MaxPreps before they lost in a 45-21 upset to No. 3 Union. The Trojans topped the Spartans in a close 38-34 come-from-behind battle in week two in their closest match of the season. The next Spartan loss was 44-34 to Arkansas 7A No. 4 Bentonville (10-2). Bixby's loss to Muskogee came on the heels of three turnovers in a game that the Spartans dominated offensively. 

Lawton has battled through a slightly weaker schedule with bigger losses and closer wins. They lost 56-41 to 5A No. 3 Carl Albert (11-1), 35-28 to 5A No. 1 MacArthur (12-0), and 20-17 to Midwest City (7-4). Though those were all respectable losses to quality teams, they have several other blights on their schedule. They gave up 37 points to Eisenhower (2-8), only beat Putnam City (4-6) by a close 26-14, and Stillwater (5-6) 21-14. They then gave up a massive 52-26 loss to Choctaw (5-5). Though their four-straight wins since then have been of solid quality, they simply don't match up to Bixby.

Bixby owns the number-two scoring defense, while Lawton comes in at fifth. Bixby is sixth in offensive points allowed, Lawton is seventh. Lawton has a slight edge on Bixby defensively when it comes to yards per play, both rushing and passing, but the Spartans have the most dominant scoring offense in the State, by a significant margin. While the Wolverines are fourth in scoring, the Spartans are first with 41.5 points per game. Lawton has the edge in the air, but Bixby has the top run game in the State.

Their overall records indicate a close game, but when you limit it to their four mutual opponents, Bixby emerges as the clear favorite. Lawton has actually under-performed their foes offensively, while winning on turnovers. Bixby out performs their opponents by nearly 200 yards, while also winning the turnover battle every time.

The Spartans are back-to-back defending State Champions with an 8-0 post-season record over the last three years. Lawton is 0-2 against the Spartans over the last two seasons, falling 35-21 in the 2014 State Title game to end the season 11-2. Last year the Wolverines lost to Bixby in the quarterfinals 36-6 to finish the year 8-2.

Wolverines (8-4, 5-2)

defeated Putnam City 26-14
defeated Booker T. 21-20
defeated Putnam West 35-28
defeated Muskogee 35-28

Average score: 29-23
First downs: 15
Allowed: 17
Fumbles-lost: 7-2 (total)
Recoveries: 3 (total)
Interceptions thrown: 3 (total)
Interceptions caught: 8 (total)
Penalties-Yards: 7-62

C-A-Y: 9-17-146
Average: 8.58
Allowed: 16-28-200
Average: 7.14

Rushes-Yards: 37-166
Average: 4.48
Allowed: 37-115
Average: 3.1

Plays-Yards: 54-312
Average: 5.77
Allowed: 65-315
Average: 4.84

Spartans (9-3, 5-1)

defeated Putnam City 56-20
defeated Booker T. 28-0
defeated Putnam West 49-7
lost 45-42 to Muskogee

Average score: 44-18
First downs: 23
Allowed: 10
Fumbles-lost: 6-3 (total)
Recoveries: 4 (total)
Interceptions thrown: 2 (total)
Interceptions caught: 9 (total)
Penalties-Yards: 10-92

C-A-Y: 24-38-256
Average: 6.73
Allowed: 14-30-220-2
Average: 7.33

Rushes-Yards: 44-196
Average: 4.45
Allowed: 21-40
Average: 1.9

Plays-Yards: 82-452
Average: 5.51
Allowed: 51-260
Average: 5.09

The Pick: Bixby 30, Lawton 24.

No. 3 Sand Springs Sandites (Last week No. 3, preseason No. 2)

The Charles Page High School Sandites (7-5, 4-2) don't have the record or the stats to indicate a top-four team, but they have the kind of Sandite magic that ends up on ESPN Sportscenter and upsets number-one ranked teams. The Sandite Defense is tenth in points allowed and ninth in yards per play allowed, but second in scoring. Offensively they were only eighth in yards per play, but fifth in scoring. The Sandites had several big wins, including a 35-7 rout of Highway 97 rival Sapulpa, a 56-35 shootout with Ponca City, a 26-25 upset of top-ranked Muskogee, and a 23-14 win at Midwest City.

No. 4 Muskogee Roughers (Last week No. 1, preseason No. 4)

Muskogee may not have won their first State Championship in thirty years, but they did finish with a District Title and their first winning record since 2008 at 9-2, 5-1. The Roughers boast the number one yards-per-play offense in the state and won several notable games. They bested District One Champion Midwest City 16-12, upset Bixby 45-42, dominated Booker T. Washington 23-7, and shut out Ponca City 48-0. Their offense was second in scoring, fifth rushing, and first passing. Their defense also played lights-out all season and are first in scoring and second in offensive points allowed with the second-best pass coverage. 

No. 5 Midwest City Bombers (Last week No. 4, preseason No. 5)

Midwest City finished an impressive season with a 7-4, 6-1 record and the District One Title, after being knocked out of playoff contention by the Sandites. High points included a 20-17 win over Lawton, and a 35-0 shutout of Deer Creek. The Bombers can boast one of the most talented defenses in the state with first place in points allowed and yards per play allowed against both passing and running offenses. They also hold the fifth-best passing offense in the division.

No. 6 Booker T. Washington Hornets (Last week No. 6, preseason No. 3)

The Hornets finished the season with a 6-5, 4-2 record that could likely have been much better with a healthy quarterback in the end of the season. High points included a 21-14 win over District One Champion Midwest City, a 47-0 shutout of Ponca City, a 45-0 shutout of Sapulpa, and a 17-12 upset over then-No.1 Sand Springs. Their season came to a close with a close 21-20 loss at Lawton. The Hornets hold the number four scoring defense and were fourth in points allowed. Their run-coverage was second only to Midwest City.

No. 7 Putnam City West Patriots (Last week No. 7, preseason No. 14)

The Patriots may not have made it past the first round of the playoffs, but they had their best season in decades and were unfortunately paired with the top-scoring team in the State. The Pats finished 7-4, 5-2, with the number five defense in the state in points allowed, and second in yards-per-play allowed. Offensively they were seventh in scoring, and sixth in yards-per-play. High points included winning the Putnam rivalry with a 16-5 win over North and a 42-10 win over Putnam City. 

No. 8 Stillwater Pioneers (Last week No. 8, preseason No. 10)

Stillwater finished the season 5-6, 3-4, but were a much better team than their record indicates. Starting QB Jace Brownlee has struggled all season with a shoulder injury and has missed several games. Even when he could play, the team was rarely able to pass. High points included a 24-7 upset of Edmond Memorial and 34-26 upset of Mustang. The defense was third in the division in offensive points allowed, and their offense was second in rushing.

No. 9 Choctaw Yellowjackets (Last week No. 9, preseason No. 9)

The Yellowjackets finished a hit-or-miss season with a 5-5, 3-4 record and just barely missed the playoffs. High points included a 45-41 upset over Sand Springs, a 14-7 upset over Midwest City, and most impressively, a 52-26 upset over Lawton. Choctaw holds the number three offense in the State in scoring, and is fifth in yards-per-play. They struggled defensively, however, and finished ninth in points-allowed with almost every game being a shootout.

No. 10 Putnam City Pirates (Last week No. 10, preseason No. 7)

Putnam finished 4-6, 2-5. High points included a 16-7 win over in-town rival Putnam North and a 52-6 blowout of El Reno. They also upset Choctaw 36-32 and finished the season on a strong note with a 42-21 victory over Enid. They finished eleventh in offensive scoring and ninth in total offense and were sixth in the air. Their defense was solid at eighth in points allowed and fifth in yards-per-play allowed.

No. 11 Enid Plainsmen (Last week No. 11, preseason No. 12)

Enid managed only three wins, but two were quite impressive, upsetting Choctaw 43-39 and dominating Deer Creek 45-17. They finished the season 3-7, 2-5 with a 42-21 loss to Putnam. They finished with the number ten offense and number twelve defense and were sixth in yards per rush.

No. 12 Bartlesville Bruins (Last week No. 12, preseason No. 6)

The Bruins struggled off and on throughout the year, but finished strong despite three-straight losses. They gave it their all against Sand Springs and Booker T. and legitimately challenged both. They finished 3-6, 2-4 with wins of 42-20 over Ponca City and 51-28 over Sapulpa. They held the number six offense in points scored, but were actually fourth in yards-per-play with the number three passing record in the division. Defense was their struggle and they finished fourteenth in points allowed, eleventh in yards per play, but an impressive fifth in yards per pass.

No. 13 Deer Creek Antlers (Last week No. 13, preseason No. 11)

The Antlers had a rough start to their 6A debut season, finishing 2-8, 2-5 with wins of 21-14 over Stillwater and 20-14 over Putnam. They were shutout 49-0 in the finale at Lawton and finish with the number fourteen offense and number thirteen defense.

No. 14 Sapulpa Chieftains (Last week No. 14, preseason No. 13)

Sapulpa has been in a rebuilding year under new head coach Robert Borgstadt, but the Chieftains (1-9, 1-5) have shown promise. They only won a single game, 31-27 over Ponca City, but lost close ones of 24-21 to Duncan, and 52-42 to Choctaw. They finished thirteenth in running, scoring, and total offense, and tenth in the air. Defensively they were fifteenth in points allowed, run coverage, and total defense, and thirteenth in pass coverage.

No. 15 Ponca City Wildcats (Last week No. 15, preseason No. 15)

The Wildcats finished 2-8, 0-6, but had several solid performances. They lost 42-31 to Enid, defeated Guthrie 9-0, and posted 35 points against Sand Springs. They barely lost 31-27 to Sapulpa and defeated Norman 10-6. Ponca finished the season fifteenth in total offense and tenth in offensive scoring. They were eleventh in points allowed, fourteenth in yards per play allowed, fifteenth in pass coverage, and eleventh in ground coverage.

Week Five 6A-II rankings and predictions; a look at this weekend's games

Photo: Morgan Miller

Photo: Morgan Miller

By: Sandite Pride Editorial Board

No. 1 Bixby Spartans (Last week No. 1) vs No. 3 Muskogee Roughers (3)

It's the marquee match-up for week six of High School football as two of the top teams in the State ride dominating performances into a district game of playoff-level intensity. 

The Spartans (2-2, 0-0) have yet to begin district play and just wrapped up the toughest pre-conference schedule of Class 6A-II. In week two they gave 6A-I No. 1 Jenks (5-0) their closest game of the year, losing 38-34. The next week they lost 44-34 to Arkansas 7A State Runners-Up Bentonville (3-1) and finally got in the win column with a dominating 56-20 performance over Putnam City (3-1, 1-0). This week they really proved just how powerful they are as they steamrolled 6A-I No. 4 Westmoore (3-1) 70-28 in an incredible performance that featured two 90+ yard kickoff returns for touchdown. Tanner Griffin's passing was off for the evening, completing only 9 of 22 for 96 yards and 1 touchdown against 2 interceptions. But the run game was dominant as Tucker Pawley carried 19 times for 268 yards and 3 touchdowns. Griffin had two touchdown runs and 46 yards on 5 carries, while Braden Roller added another touchdown and 66 yards on 5 carries.

The Roughers (4-0, 1-0) have had a fairly weak schedule thus far, with the exception of a close 16-12 win over Midwest City (2-2, 1-0), but when they go up against lesser competition, it's a blow-out. They've won their last three games by an average score of 59-11, and they notched their first district win Friday with a 63-6 shutdown of Bartlesville (1-3, 0-1). Running back Molijah Gilbert finished with 16 carries for 184 yards and two touchdowns. QB Jacob Medrano completed 11 of 20 passes for 197 yards and no interceptions.

The pick: Bixby 38 Muskogee 28

No. 2 Booker T Washington Hornets (2) vs No. 15 Sapulpa Chieftains (14)

The Hornets (3-2, 1-0) had an easy start to district play with the Ponca City Wildcats (1-3, 0-1) and rolled to a dominating 47-0 shutout victory. In the past two seasons, the Hornet offense regularly routed their opponents by massive margins, but this year it still remains to be seen just how powerful they'll be against quality opponents. They barely got the 21-14 edge on Midwest City (2-2, 1-0) and lost 26-23 to Edmond Santa Fe (4-1, 1-0). After going down 49-7 to the Nationally ranked No. 2 IMG Academy (5-0) they've since been unstoppable with a 43-6 win over Shawnee and the victory against Ponca. They won't get their first real test till they take on Muskogee next week, but first they have to get past Sapulpa. Rylan McQuarters led the run game against Ponca with 8 carries for 82 yards, followed by Tyler Holmes with 15 carries for 71 yards and a touchdown. Two other running backs scored touchdowns in the rout, and double-threat QB Phillip Wheatley was 15 of 22 in the air for 214 yards and a touchdown, with no interceptions.

Sapulpa (0-4, 0-1) still looks to get in the win column this season after dropping their rivalry game to Sand Springs 35-7. The Chieftains failed to make headway through the air as QB Cameron Elder was only 8 of 13 for 53 yards with no touchdowns and an interception, but the ground game was alive and well. Elder carried 12 times for 59 yards and a touchdown. Dayton Vann also had 59 yards from 11 carries, and Marcus Henderson carried 8 times for 67 yards. 

The pick: Booker T 56 Sapulpa 3

No. 4 Midwest City Bombers (4) vs No. 9 Deer Creek Antlers (12)

The Midwest City Bombers (2-2, 1-0) have won or lost every game this season by a touchdown or less and notched their first district win of the season 20-17 over Lawton (1-3, 0-1) Friday night at home. QB Preston Colbert was 8 of 12 for 139 yards and a touchdown. Astin Anderson was the workhorse for the Bombers and carried 38 times for 133 yards. Earlier this season they fell 16-12 to Muskogee (4-0) and 21-14 to Booker T Washington (3-2), two of the top three teams in the division. They got in the win column two weeks ago with a 28-21 victory over 5A Del City (2-2).

The Antlers (1-3, 1-0) got their first win of the season with a 21-14 upset over Stillwater (2-2, 0-1) Friday night at a game in which they were the 18-point underdogs. QB Hunter Freese passed for 190 yards and the bulk of the Antler offense. The run game only accounted for 87 yards. Deer Creek may only have one win, but their losses were to quality 6A-I programs. 52-13 to Southmoore (3-1), 47-31 to Edmond Santa Fe (4-1), and 48-31 to Edmond Memorial (3-2).

The pick: Midwest City 23 Deer Creek 14

No. 6 Putnam City Pirates (7) vs No. 7 Lawton Wolverines (5)

While Bixby at Muskogee is the biggest game of District 2, Lawton vs. Putnam City is equally huge for District 1. The Wolverines (1-3, 0-1) and Pirates (3-1, 1-0) both have a lot to prove going into week two of districts. While Lawton was edged out 20-17 by Midwest City (2-2, 1-0), the Pirates got the 36-32 edge on Choctaw (2-2, 0-1). Putnam's only loss this season was 56-20 to Bixby (2-2), while Lawton's only win this season was 62-37 over in-town rival Lawton Eisenhower (1-3).

Lawton demonstrated a powerful aerial assault against Midwest City as QB Zach Hannah completed 11 of 18 passes for 228 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. The running game was almost nonexistent, however, as Tre Curry carried 19 times for a mere 60 yards and one touchdown. Curry has proven his abilities in the past with a 201 yard performance against Eisenhower and a 311 yard performance in a 56-41 loss to 5A Carl Albert (4-0). The Wolverines are clearly a double threat team, meaning the Putnam defense will need to be sharp on their toes to keep the scoring in check. Lawton's offense averages 415 yards and 5 touchdowns per game this season. Putnam's defense is stout, however, and averages 3 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries, and 2 interceptions per game this season. 

The Putnam offense has ran up the yards this season, led by QB AJ Newsome in the air and RB Damon Jemison on the ground. Newsome is only 32 of 82 this season with 6 interceptions, exacerbated by a 6 of 24 performance against the killer Bixby defense which picked off four passes. But he holds 871 yards and 9 touchdowns to pad his resume. Jemison has rushed 78 times this year for only 259 yards. The Lawton defense isn't as tight on the run game as Putnam, but if the Pirates rely on the pass as they have for most of the season, they might find trouble in a team that averages 2 interceptions per game. 

The pick: Putnam City 28 Lawton 26

No. 5 Sand Springs Sandites (6) vs Yukon Millers

The Sandites (2-2, 1-0) won their first district game with a 35-7 rout of Highway 97 rival Sapulpa (0-4, 0-1), and will play their final non-district game this weekend against 6A-I Yukon (0-4). Sand Springs started off with a big 56-21 loss to Arkansas powerhouse Pulaski Academy (3-1) and were upset in week two 45-41 by Choctaw (2-2, 0-1), but got in the win column with a close 29-24 victory against Putnam West (3-1, 1-0). RB Payton Scott accounts for the majority of the Sandite offense with 183 carries for 687 yards and 7 touchdowns, while QB Hunter Greathouse is 42 of 90 for 601 yards and 4 touchdowns by air and 4 touchdowns on the ground. 

Yukon has yet to even come close to a win this season, falling 42-20 to Mustang (3-1), 55-7 to Norman North (4-0), 38-7 to Southmoore (38-7), and 33-9 to Broken Arrow (2-2). The Millers held a tough schedule with nothing but ranked 6A-I powerhouses and that experience could give them an edge on the Sandites who have played only one powerhouse team this year. 

The pick: Sand Springs 38 Yukon 13.

No. 8 Putnam City West Patriots (8) vs No. 11 Stillwater Pioneers (10)

The Patriots (3-1, 1-0) haven't had a winning season since 2000 and they're looking to change that in 2016. After beating Duncan (2-2) 43-14 and Putnam North (1-3) 16-5, the Patriots experienced their first loss of the season 29-24 at the Sandites' (2-2) home-opener. They didn't let that hiccup slow them down, and rebounded with a dominating 35-10 district victory over Enid (1-3, 0-1). 

Stillwater (2-2, 0-1) started with one seriously tough pre-district schedule and secured a pair of high quality wins against ranked 6A-I opponents, before giving up a big upset this week. They won their season opener against Edmond Memorial (3-2) 24-7, then lost 16-7 to Moore (2-2) before netting another big win over Mustang (3-1) at 36-24. The Pioneers clearly have what it takes to win big games against big opponents, but after falling 21-14 to Deer Creek at home, they're going to need to buckle down and secure some district wins if they want a shot at their first State Championship since 1967. The Pioneers are led on the ground by Josiah Castleberry who has already ran over 600 yards thus far this season. 

The pick: Putnam West 33 Stillwater 29

No. 10 Choctaw Yellowjackets (9) vs No. 12 Enid Plainsmen (13)

Choctaw (2-2, 0-1) is still struggling to find its place in the rankings, starting strong with 52-42 and 45-41 wins over Sapulpa (0-4) and Sand Springs (2-2), respectively, but falling 17-14 to Putnam City North (1-3) and 36-32 to Putnam City (3-1, 1-0). The Yellowjackets are true to their name when it comes to offense, hammering their opponents from the air, but just can't seem to get their defense rolling. QB Dylan Weaver is 64 of 107 for 864 yards this season.

Enid (1-3, 0-1) was edged out 22-19 in the season opener by Guthrie (2-2) and got in the win column in week two with a 42-31 victory over Ponca City (1-3, 0-1), but hasn't come close since. They were dominated in week three 44-14 by Bishop McGuinness (3-1) and shut down 25-10 last week by Putnam West (3-1, 1-0). 

The pick: Choctaw 40 Enid 10

No. 13 Bartlesville Bruins (11) vs No. 14 Ponca City Wildcats (15)

Bartlesville (1-3, 0-1) and Ponca (1-3, 0-1) are both in precarious spots this season with a single win apiece and one of the two destined to be 0-2 in district play after this Friday's meet. The Bruins' lone win was a close 27-24 over McAlester (2-2) while Ponca blanked Guthrie (2-2) 9-0. 

The Bruins were utterly dominated 63-6 at the hands of Muskogee (4-0) last week, while the Wildcats were shut out 47-0 by Booker T Washington (3-2). Bartlesville has shuffled through three quarterbacks this year after starter Garrett Meidl was out with a knee injury and Will Walton and AJ Archambo both tried out the position. Meidl returned to action against Muskogee but was held to a mere 10 completions on 24 attempts for 59 yards. Ponca QB Brice McDougal has a solid record this season with 58 completions on 104 passes for 729 yards and only 3 interceptions. 

The pick: Bartlesville 21 Ponca 14

6A-II District One Standings

Putnam City West (1-0)
Deer Creek (1-0)
Putnam City (1-0)
Midwest City (1-0)

Lawton (0-1)
Choctaw (0-1)
Stillwater (0-1)
Enid (0-1)

6A-II District Two Standings

Muskogee (1-0)
Booker T (1-0)
Sand Springs (1-0)
Bixby (0-0)

Bartlesville (0-1)
Ponca City (0-1)
Sapulpa (0-1)

Editorial: How the 6A split saved 6A football

By: Scott Emigh, Editor-in-Chief

Oklahoma high school football experienced a dramatic and controversial change in the fall of 2013 when the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association (OSSAA) announced a split in Class 6A. The 16 highest-enrollment schools would be separated from the lower 16 and each division would play for their own State Title.

The reason for the decision was simple. Population. The current enrollment of Broken Arrow High School is 4,872. The enrollment of Booker T Washington? 1,317. The difference between the top of 6A and the bottom of 6A is greater than the top of 5A and the smallest schools in the State. Schools like BA, Union, Jenks, and Owasso have four times the talent pool to draw from. While the majority of the Hornet starters play both sides of the ball and never get a break, the Redskins have a roster larger than some colleges and have backups for their backups.

Class 6A was created in 1992 and the inaugural Championship was won by Norman. Jenks won it in ’93, Midwest City went back-to-back from ’94-95, and nobody but Jenks or Union has won it since. More often than not, the State Championship game has simply been a rematch between the Backyard Bowl rivals. Since the inception of 6A, Jenks leads the series with 14 titles to Union’s 7, and only 2 other teams have ever won.

Clearly population isn’t the only deciding factor, otherwise Broken Arrow would have won it every year. But there’s no denying the significance it plays. 6A teams were judged by their ability to turn a winning record, not by their ability to win State Titles. That was irrelevant. Nobody won State Titles but Jenks and Union.

In the 22 seasons that Sand Springs played the 6A division, they earned a total record of 98-131 and only managed 7 winning seasons with 7 playoff appearances. In five of those years they were eliminated by top-four-enrollment schools. The other years it was by top-ten schools. Since the 6A split, the Sandites have gone 15-11, made the playoffs both years, and actually won playoff games for the first time since 1997. In 2015, the Sandites made their first State Final appearance since 1966.

While the problems with the 6A split were clear—increased travel, “easier” brackets—the solution has proved to be a game-changer for the 16 schools who now feel like they actually have a legitimate chance. The culture around Sand Springs football has changed, and it’s not an isolated event.

The Class 6A-II conversation begins with two-time reigning State Champions, the Bixby Spartans. Bixby was an annual contender in Class 5A without fail. They weren’t part of the inaugural class of 6A. They didn’t move over until 2010. Prior to that, they had six-straight winning seasons with ten-straight playoff appearances. In their first year of 6A they finished the regular season 5-5, their worst record since 2003, and were eliminated in round one by Jenks. For the next two years they posted losing records and didn’t make the playoffs again till the 6A split. In a single year, the 6A powerhouses had killed the football culture at Bixby. They were lucky that they only had to live through it for four years before the split. In 2014, the Spartans were once again playing teams at their size, and they went 12-1 for their first ever State Title. Their only loss? A season-opening non-conference game against Jenks. Jenks won that one 66-20. The Spartans defended their title in 2015 and are currently ranked number one in 2016. After two straight winning seasons and State Titles, the Spartans challenged Jenks in their season opener and nearly won it, 38-34.

Booker T Washington has always had a culture of winning, with eight State Championships including two recently in 2008 and 2010 at the 5A level. The Hornets only had to play two seasons of 6A football, both ending in first round devastating playoff defeats at the hands of the Big Four. As soon as 6A split, they were back in it with a 7-game winning streak and a 10-2 season in 2014. Last year they went undefeated in the regular season and earned the number one rank before Sand Springs defeated them in the semi-finals. This year the Hornets are laying the foundation to take their program to the next level with College Hall of Fame member Brad Calip taking over as Head Coach and former University of Tulsa Head Coach Bill Blankenship volunteering with the quarterbacks and offensive coaching. The Hornets have stepped up their pre-conference scheduling with 6A No. 5 Edmond Santa Fe and Florida-based private school IMG Academy which is currently ranked No. 2 in the nation with an entire roster of division-I commits.

Bartlesville was part of the first class of 6A, and went 0-10 in the first two years. They didn’t post a winning record till 2002, when they were doubled down on by Union 54-27 in the first round of the playoffs. Their next winning record wouldn’t come till 2008, and that was only due to a forfeiture by Jenks due to OSSAA sanctions. In 2009 they gave it a real run and even defeated Owasso, but still couldn’t fend off Jenks, BA, and Southmoore. In 2010 they had another winning record at 7-4. Their losses were to the Big Four. Since the 6A split they’ve made the playoffs both years and finished last season with only two losses. They held the No. 1 rank briefly after defeating Bixby, before falling to BTW two weeks later.

The success stories continue from there. The evidence is undeniable, the 6A split has saved 6A football. While critics of the sixteen-team bracket call it a JV division, the reality is that the top teams in 6A-II never could compete with the Big Four when they were in 6A, but now they could. Bixby nearly defeated 6A No. 1 Jenks in a pre-conference battle. BTW almost defeated 6A No. 5 Edmond Santa Fe. Sand Springs has begun scheduling real opponents like Arkansas State Champion Pulaski Academy, instead of their past habit of lighting up Nathan Hale, who has lost 37-straight games. Muskogee has brought in 5A State Championship coach Rafe Watkins from Guthrie and is now a real contender for the first time in years. Putnam City West is confidently rebuilding their program after a decade of losing seasons. Sapulpa brought on former Sand Springs Defensive Coordinator Robert Borgstadt as head coach to rebuild their ailing program.

Success breeds success. Is the 16-team bracket the best way to go? Who knows? Maybe one day there will be a full 32 schools the size of BA and we can re-institute the 32-team standard. Maybe we should split all the other classes into 16-team divisions as well. Or maybe we should call Bixby and Jenks Division Champions instead of State Champions and have them play each other for the true 6A State Championship. There’s many things we could try; some could work, and some won’t. But the fact is, 6A football is more competitive than it has ever been, and almost every school in the Class is now vying to be the next big deal. The Big Four monopoly hasn’t been broken, but at least 16 teams now feel like they have a real shot.