CPHS Football: Sandites end season 47-12 at No. 2 Midwest City

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The No. 8 ranked Charles Page High School football team (5-6) saw their season come to an end Friday night in Midwest City as the No. 2 Bombers (10-1) secured their first semifinal berth since before the Class 6A split. The home team dominated with a 47-12 win that was nearly a shutout.

MWC 47 CPHS 12

1Q MWC 13-0
2Q MWC 21-0
3Q CPHS 12-6
4Q MWC 7-0

Passing: MWC 14-22-228-0, CPHS 3-8-20-2.
Rushing: CPHS 39-151, MWC 39-148.
Plays-Offense: MWC 61-376, CPHS 47-171.
First Downs: MWC 14, CPHS 9.
Penalties: 9-90.
Fumbles-Lost: CPHS 4-0, MWC 3-1.
 

This was the third quarterfinal meeting in four years between the two teams. The Sandites topped their higher-seeded hosts the first two times, but this time their record of three-straight semifinal appearances came to a close at the hands of the powerful District One Champions. This was also their first losing record since 2011, though it was a break-even regular season. The Sandites are currently on a school-record six-season streak of making the playoffs.

Things started out ugly for the Sandites who committed two false starts before ever running a play. Payton Scott had a nice fifteen yard run, but it wasn’t enough for a first down after the penalties and they punted away the opening possession. The Bombers scored on their first two possessions with a fourteen-yard pass from Preston Colbert to Dajon Sealey and a 42 yard run by Omari Johns. Elliot Janish’s first point-after kick was good, the second was blocked, and the home team held a 13-0 lead after the first quarter.

On the first drive of the second quarter the Bombers scored on a 25-yard pass from Colbert to Juwan Walker. The Sandites were held to a three-and-out, and the Bombers scored on the first play of the corresponding drive with a 44-yard endzone pass to Walker for the 27-0 advantage. Walker hauled in a twelve-yarder on the next drive to make it 34-0.

The Sandites finally got close to the red zone late in the first half thanks to a 31-yard kick return by Scott and an eleven-yard pass from Caden Pennington to Daren Hawkins, but Tramon Jackson beat out a Sandite receiver for an endzone interception on the next play. The Bombers ran the clock and took a knee for the first-half shutout.

The Sandites got their first defensive stand on the opening possession of the second half, forcing a punt from their 36. The offense picked up a pair of first downs from Scott, but a sack, forced fumble, and recovery from Elijah Manuel led to a one-yard touchdown run by Astin Anderson just five plays later. The visitors got a slight moral victory with a blocked point-after kick by Joel Mackey, but the Bombers were still up 40-0 with more than a quarter to play.

The Sandites finally hit paydirt on their next play with a fifty-yard march by Scott, capped by a two-yard run. The two point play fell apart, but at last the visitors were on the board.

Then came the defensive heroics. Senior lineman Gage Fain forced fumbles on back-to-back plays. The Bombers recovered the first and were drilled for a loss of twenty by Jerry Lyons. Kris Edwards recovered the second and two plays later Scott punched in a 26-yard run. The two-point pass play was unsuccessful, but the Sandites were finally threatening.

That would be the end of their good fortune, however. Their next possession was held to a single play as Jackson picked off his second interception of the night and returned it 44 yards for a touchdown. Janish's kick was the final point of the game. The Sandites fumbled their next possession, the teams exchanged punts, and Midwest City marched to the Sandite redzone before letting the clock run out. 

Scott ended the night with 174 yards on 27 carries, bringing his season total to a school-record 341 carries for 2,482 yards and 33 touchdowns. In his career he is 844-5412 rushing with 63 scores, plus 31 receptions for 449 yards and three touchdowns. He also recorded his first pass on a short shovel to Ben Nortey for eight yards. 

Midwest City will advance to the semifinals and will take on the three-time defending State Champions from No. 5 Bixby (7-4) who trounced No. 4 Stillwater (8-3) 41-14. No. 1 Booker T. Washington (10-1) defeated No. 6 Putnam City (7-4) 56-21 and will take on No. 3 Lawton (9-2) who defeated No. 7 Muskogee (5-5) 57-36. 

Week 11 6A-II Rankings and Playoff predictions; a look at this weekend's games

Photo: Scott Emigh.

Photo: Scott Emigh.

By: Sandite Pride Editorial Board

The regular season has come to a close with few surprises. All four of Sandite Pride's pre-season top four picks from District Two have made the playoffs. We only picked two of four post-season qualifiers from District One accurately, but with the circular losses in that district, it's not surprising. Here's our season review for those who have finished play for the year, and our picks for the post-season.

No. 4 Midwest City Bombers (Last week No. 5) vs No. 3 Sand Springs Sandites (2)

While the Sandites (6-4, 4-2) gave up a hard loss to the Spartans, the Bombers (7-3, 6-1) gave up a surprisingly close battle with Stillwater to close the regular season with the District Two Championship. 

This game will likely be a major defensive battle as Midwest City holds the best defense in the State when it comes to points allowed, by a significant margin. They allow only 3.413 yards per play, 2.165 yards per run, and 5.278 yards per pass. Sand Springs is sixth on yards per carry, and managed a surprising 4.71 yards per carry against Bixby, who normally only allows 3.94. They also ran for 3.914 against Muskogee who normally allows only 3.023. Sand Springs is eighth in passing yards per play, so if they're to overcome the two-pronged Bomber defense, they'll definitely need to get creative.

The Bombers will have an equally difficult time against Sand Springs, as they have relied almost entirely on their defense this season. Midwest City is eleventh in offensive scoring and only eighth in yards-per-play. Sand Springs is tenth in points allowed, but third in defensive points scored and wins the turnover battle more often than not. While they give up more yards-per-play than a lot of teams, they're 71% on third-down stops this season. 

The winner of this game will take on the winner of Bixby vs Putnam West.

The pick: CPHS 24, MWC 23.

No. 2 Bixby Spartans (3) vs No. 7 Putnam City West Patriots (8)

The Spartans (7-3, 5-1) upended the Sandites (6-4, 4-2) Friday night 35-19 at Spartan Stadium to secure a home playoff game and will host the Putnam West Patriots (7-3, 5-2). 

The Sandite defense performed well, holding the Spartans to their closest win of the season, giving up only five scores on twelve possessions, forcing two turnovers on downs, and three punts, as well as recovering a fumble and an interception. 

Bixby was one step better, however, giving up only three scores on twelve possessions, forcing two turnovers on downs with four punts, a fumble, and an interception. The Spartans split time between land and air as Tanner Griffin passed 24 of 33 for 254 yards and an interception. All four offensive touchdowns came at the hands of Tucker Pawley who carried 36 times for 248 yards and four scores, while Clayton Barbour added a fifth touchdown on a 95-yard kick return. 

Putnam City West pulled off an impressive 40-37 double-overtime win against Choctaw Friday, sabotaging the Yellowjackets' last ditch effort for a playoff berth. The Patriots ran 38 times for 204 yards and attempted 20 passes for 202 yards. 

The Spartans boast the number-one scoring offense in the division, while the Patriots own the number three defense in points-allowed. Bixby also holds the number-one scoring defense and the number-six defense in points-allowed. Putnam West has relied heavily on its defense this season and is only sixth in offensive scoring.

The pick: Bixby 44, PCW 22.

No. 1 Muskogee Roughers (1) vs No. 8 Stillwater Pioneers (9)

The Roughers (8-1, 5-1) finished the season with the best record in the division and the District Two Championship, thanks to the Spartan's defeat of Sand Springs. They sealed the deal with a powerful 48-0 shutout of Ponca City. 

Stillwater (5-5, 3-4) closed out the regular season with a loss and made the playoffs on head-to-head with Choctaw (5-5, 3-4). The Pioneers fell 26-17 to Midwest City in what was actually an impressive battle in spite of the loss. The Pioneers have been hit-or-miss this season majorly due to the health of starting QB Jace Brownlee. Brownlee has been recovering from a pre-season shoulder surgery, and his once stellar arm has seen little use. In spite of that loss, the Pioneers have ran miles on the turf and won games without even attempting a single pass. 

Muskogee's number-two scoring offense and number-one offense in yards-per-play will take on Stillwater's number-four defense in points allowed. The Pioneers have made it on their defense this season, holding only the number-nine offense in the State, and will have their work cut out for them against Muskogee. The Roughers are number two in the division in points-allowed as well as defensive scoring. 

The winner of this match will face the winner of Lawton vs Booker T.

The pick: Muskogee 45, Stillwater 14.

No. 6 Lawton Wolverines (6) vs No. 5 Booker T. Washington Hornets (4)

Lawton (6-4, 5-2) settled for second in their district this year, but ended the regular season with a powerful 49-0 victory over Deer Creek. The Hornets (6-4, 4-2) barely scraped together a 57-39 win over Bartlesville that wasn't decided till the final few possessions. 

Lawton QB Zach Hanna was nearly perfect against Deer Creek, completing 12 of 14 passes for 226 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions. The run game was also alive and well where the Wolverines rushed 35 times for 201 yards and a pair of scores. 

Booker T. has been scrambling to figure out a success formula that doesn't include injured QB Phillip Wheatley. They were flying through their opponents before losing Wheatley and since then have barely gotten by. They should have lost 12-10 to Sand Springs but got a miraculous fumble recovery on a bad-hike at the Sandite two-yard line late in the fourth quarter to avert the loss. They suffered their first shutout in years 28-0 at the hands of Bixby, then closed the season with Bartlesville 

Booker T.'s defense is fifth in points allowed, fourth in yards-per-play, and tied for fourth in scoring. Lawton's offense is fourth in points scored, and third in yards-per-play, so if Booker T. wants to find a win, they're going to need to come up with something new on offense. Overall the Hornets are only seventh in offensive scoring and twelfth in yards-per-play, and that's including when they still had Wheatley. Without him, they'll have their work cut out for them against Lawton's defense which is eighth in points allowed and sixth in yards-per-play allowed. 

The pick: Lawton 36, BTW 24.

No. 9 Choctaw Yellowjackets (7)

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 (10)

Putnam was just one win short of a winning season, finishing 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 twelfth in offensive scoring and ninth in total offense and were fifth in the air. Their defense was solid at seventh in points allowed and fifth in yards-per-play.

No. 11 Enid Plainsmen (11)

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.

No. 12 Bartlesville Bruins (13)

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 eight offense in points scored, but were actually fourth in yards-per-play with the number two passing record in the division. Defense was their struggle and they finished fourteenth there.

No. 13 Deer Creek Antlers (12)

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 (14)

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 fifteenth on the ground. Defensively they were fifteenth in points allowed, run coverage, and total defense, and thirteenth in pass coverage.

No. 15 Ponca City Wildcats (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 eleventh in points allowed. They were tenth in points allowed, fourteenth in yards per play allowed, fifteenth in pass coverage, and tenth 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.