By Mike Moguin | Photo by Karen Schwartz
EDMOND — When Bixby and Owasso go head-to-head in the Class 6AI championship at the University of Central Oklahoma’s Chad Richison Stadium on Friday night, fans should see a fiercer battle between the two teams than they saw in the teams’ clash at the season opener to have.
The Spartans beat the Rams 49-14 on Aug. 25 at University of Tulsa’s Chapman Stadium.
“We’re very different,” said Owasso coach Bill Blankenship. “But, to be fair, so are they. They run the same offense and the same defense. They have taken on a very different personality than they are now.
“They have a lot of young players who haven’t played much either but are experienced players now.
Since then, Bixby has scored 50 or more points in his games, even going as high as 80 in one, before losing 38-35 at home to Jenks in front of a national TV audience in the regular-season finale on November 3. The Spartans (11-1) rallied and avenged that loss with a 28-14 win over the Trojans in last week’s state semifinals at Broken Arrow.
Owasso (9-4) started the season 1-4 but is now on an eight-game winning streak, including a 50-47 win in a six-overtime marathon against the Tulsa Union in last week’s semifinals.
“Someone told me the overtime was almost an hour,” Blankenship said. “We don’t think about things like that. I enjoyed the fact that our children could be a part of something so special.”
Bixby coach Loren Montgomery said some of his staff also attended the game and some watched the live stream.
“It was pretty crazy how long it took,” Montgomery said. “A high school game that lasts four hours is almost unheard of.”
Regardless of who wins the final, both teams’ seasons will be booked with matches played against each other.
Bixby is looking to continue his streak of state titles at the Class 6A Division I level, having won seven in an eight-year span in 6AII, including each of the last four championships.
The Spartans and Rams have proven capable with victories over longtime heavyweights Jenks and Union, both of whom are not in the Finals, after 26 straight seasons of either one or the other or both playing for the top tier title of the Oklahoma high school footballs.
“Our guys are motivated and we’ve had a good week of practice so far,” said Montgomery. “And I think they’re excited for matchday.”
The Rams’ offense focuses on quarterbacks Mason Willingham, Anthony Hills and J’Kharri Thomas, who improved as the season progressed
“Mason has become a real double threat to us,” Blankenship said. “He’s a guy we can design quarterback runs with, but he still throws the ball exceptionally well.
“Part of the development of J’Kharri Thomas comes from so many injuries that we had at the running back position. Anthony Hills was a big game receiver for us. He’s 6-foot-3 and that’s a matchup problem for people and he’s a big threat so he gave us an opportunity to throw the ball deep to play on the field.
Montgomery has also noted how Owasso has changed his identity on offense and that his defense is playing extremely hard.
“They have an excellent front five; They just fly around,” he remarked.
Spartans like quarterback Connor Kirby, running back Jersey Robb, tight end Luke Hasz and receiver Cale Fugate must work to unbalance the Owasso defense.
Both coaches say the keys will be playing solidly, avoiding turnovers, winning the line of scrimmage and playing with incredible intensity.
Kickoff from Chad Richison Stadium is scheduled for 7pm