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)

New 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. 8 Putnam City Pirates (7)

The back-to-back defending State Champions (0-2) haven't won a game yet, but only due to their strength of schedule. The Spartans gave 6A-I No. 1 Jenks (3-0) a closer run for their money than 6A-I No. 2 Union (2-1), leading 34-31 with forty seconds left before giving up a touchdown. In week two they traveled to Arkansas to take on Class 7A State Semi-finalist Bentonville (1-1) and lost 44-34. QB Tanner Griffin is 50-82-549-2 with 7 touchdowns.

The Spartans play their home-opener Friday at 7:00 p.m. against Putnam City (2-0).

Putnam makes the drop from 6A-I after a 5-6 season with a 58-28 playoff loss to Union. The Pirates won their in-town rivalry game against 6A-I Putnam North (0-2) 16-7 and trounced 5A El Reno (0-2) 24-6. 

The Pick: Bixby 53-12

No. 2 Booker T Washington Hornets (3) vs Shawnee

The Hornets are 1-2 after starting with the toughest pre-conference schedule in the class. In week one they lost to 6A-I No. 3 Edmond Santa Fe (3-0) by a close 26-23, then followed it up with a 21-14 win over No. 5 Midwest City (0-2). This weekend they traveled to Shreveport, Louisiana to take on the number two team in the nation. Florida's IMG Academy (3-0) features 29 NCAA Division One committed players and had little difficulty in shutting down the Hornets 49-7 in the Battle of the Border high school showcase. 

Booker T travels to 5A Shawnee (1-1) Friday at 7:00 p.m.

The Pick: Booker T 36-13

No. 3 Muskogee Roughers (4) vs Bentonville

Former 5A State Championship-winning coach from Guthrie, Rafe Watkins, has spent the last season rebuilding Muskogee's program, and it looks like the move has paid off. The Roughers are 2-0 to start the season for the first time since 2007 and did so against solid teams. They defeated Midwest City 16-12 in week one and McAlester 51-13 in week two. 

This week they'll travel to Bentonville for a 7:00 p.m. game.

The Pick: Bentonville 41-18

No. 4 Midwest City Bombers (5) vs Del City

Midwest City is two in the hole, but both losses were to top-five teams, and both were by a touchdown or less. 16-12 to Muskogee and 21-14 to Booker T. The Bombers will take on 5A No. 6 Del City (2-0) on the road Friday at 7:00 p.m.

The Pick: Midwest City 33-15

No. 5 Choctaw Yellowjackets (9) vs Putnam North

Choctaw (2-0) has relied entirely on its offense this season, winning its first two games by an average score of 49-42. In week one they were the leading team in a 52-42 shootout with Sapulpa, and in week two they scored a major 45-41 upset over the Sandites, coming from behind with a minute left. The pass-heavy offense will help Choctaw to prevail against many teams in 6A-II, but they'll need to develop their defense before the playoffs if they want to take down Bixby or Booker T. 

The Pick: Choctaw 55-33

No. 6 Sand Springs Sandites (2) vs No. 11 Putnam West Patriots (14)

The Charles Page High School football team (0-2) bit off more than they could chew in week one with a 56-21 loss to Arkansas 5A back-to-back State Champions Pulaski Academy (1-1). Last week they led a shootout with No. 9 Choctaw for the entire game before giving up a last minute touchdown for a 45-41 loss. Sr. QB Hunter Greathouse holds a 27-55-389-2 passing record with 2 touchdowns, and Jr. RB Payton Scott has 57 carries for 343 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Sandites are reloading on defense behind Sr. Delvin Jordan, but retain a powerful O-line lead by Nathan Simonton, Danny Ropp, Michael Carper, and Lincoln Adams. 

The Sandites look to get in the win column with their home-opener Friday at 7:00 p.m. against Putnam City West (2-0).

The Patriots are looking to compete this year after going 4-6 last season for their best record in over a decade. They got off to a great start with a 43-14 win over 5A Duncan (1-2), then defeated in-town rivals from 6A-I Putnam North (0-2) 16-5 in week two. 

The Pick: Sand Springs 46-19

No. 7 Lawton Wolverines (8) vs Lawton Eisenhower

The Wolverines (0-2) are off to a rough start, dropping a 56-41 shootout to No. 3 Carl Albert (2-0) and a 35-28 loss to in-town rivals 5A No. 1 Lawton MacArthur (2-0). They still have strength of schedule in their favor, and are likely to get in the win column against 5A rivals Lawton Ike (0-2).

The Pick: Lawton 37-10

No. 9 Bartlesville Bruins (6) 

The Bruins (1-2) lost a lot of talent in their starting QB, lead RB, and most of their starting defense and is unlikely to pose the threat they did last year. They won their season opener 27-24 over 5A McAlester, but dropped a 59-14 beatdown to 6A-I No. 9 Owasso (1-2) and 27-7 to 4A No. 4 Cascia Hall (2-0). Bartlesville has a bye week this week and will return to action September 23rd against Muskogee.

No. 10 Enid Plainsmen (12) vs Bishop McGuinness

The Plainsmen (2-0) are recovering from a 3-7 season with a pair of wins, 22-19 over 5A No. 10 Guthrie (1-2) and 42-31 over Ponca City (1-2). This week they'll have their toughest opponent yet in 5A No. 7 Bishop McGuinness (1-1). 

The Pick: Enid 20-19

No. 12 Deer Creek Antlers (11) vs Edmond Memorial

Edmond Deer Creek (0-2) went 8-4 last season in 5A before stepping up a division. They lost their season opener 52-13 to No. 6 Southmoore (1-1), then lost the first game of Edlam 47-31 to No. 3 Edmond Santa Fe (3-0). Despite being winless, they have scheduling strength in their favor. This week they'll finish out their in-town rivalry series against Edmond Memorial (2-1) Friday at 7:00 p.m.

The Pick: Deer Creek 24-19

No. 13 Stillwater Pioneers (10) vs Mustang

Stillwater (1-1) slated nothing but 6A-I teams for their pre-conference schedule and fared well against Edmond Memorial (2-1) for a 24-7 win in week one, but fell 16-7 to No. 10 Moore (1-1) last week. This week they'll have an even tougher opponent in No. 7 Mustang (2-0). Mustang will have the home field advantage this Friday at 7:00 p.m.

The Pick: Mustang 39-19

No. 14 Sapulpa Chieftains (13) vs Bishop Kelley

Sapulpa (0-2) looks to new leadership in the former Sand Springs defensive coordinator Robert Borgstadt. Borgstadt is in his first year at the head coaching position, and the Chieftains are already competing. They lost their season opener 24-21 to 5A Duncan (1-2) and got in a shootout with Choctaw (2-0) but fell 52-42. The fast-paced offense benefits from double-threat QB Cameron Elder with a 49-72-522-3 passing record and 3 touchdowns in addition to his 33 carries for 129 yards and 3 touchdowns on the ground. 

The Chieftains will play a home game Friday at 7:00 p.m. against 5A No.8 Bishop Kelley (1-1).

The Pick: Bishop Kelley 

Ponca City Wildcats (15)

The Wilcats (1-2) employ a solid QB in Brice McDougal who's 58-104-729-3 for 5 touchdowns already this season, but are hurting in the run game. Both of their first two opponents hung 42 points on them. Edmond Memorial (2-1) won 42-6 and Enid (2-0) won 42-31, but the Wildcats did manage a 9-0 win against 5A No. 10 Guthrie (1-2). The Wildcats got an early start on the season and will take a bye this week.

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.