Bill Haisten: ‘Welcome to the SEC’ — Bixby takes its big reputation and win streak to 6AI (2022)

Bill Haisten: ‘Welcome to the SEC’ — Bixby takes its big reputation and win streak to 6AI (1)

BIXBY — Newspaper headlines typically are written by an editor.

The one that tops this column was written, in effect, by Owasso football coach Bill Blankenship.

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After an Owasso victory last season, during a midnight small-talk session in the Rams’ weight room, Blankenship was asked about Bixby’s move to Class 6AI — the state’s largest classification for football.

In eight years since the smaller 6AII division was created, the Loren Montgomery-coached Bixby program was historically dominant with seven championships, state-player-of-the-year careers for brothers Brennan and Braylin Presley, and jaw-dropping final scores like 57-7 at Jenks, 34-0 over Union and 70-7 at Choctaw (when there were some who actually believed Choctaw had a chance to win).

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    In 29 games since the start of the 2018 season, the Spartans totaled at least 50 points.

    Against Putnam City West last year, Bixby led 39-0 through one period, 67-0 at halftime and won 81-6.

    In 2014-21, the Bixby record was 88-14.

    “So,” Blankenship was asked, “what you do think about Bixby moving up to 6AI?”

    Blankenship took a sip of his Diet Mountain Dew, smiled and replied, “Welcome to the SEC, baby.”

    In college football, 12 of the last 16 national titles were won by a member of the Southeastern Conference. All of the past 26 championships in Oklahoma’s largest high school classification were captured by four Tulsa-area schools: Jenks, Union, Owasso and Broken Arrow. Essentially, they have their own mini-conference within 6AI.

    Bill Haisten: ‘Welcome to the SEC’ — Bixby takes its big reputation and win streak to 6AI (3)

    If the 2022 6AI champion doesn’t emerge from that collection of big dogs plus Bixby, it’ll be a heavy upset. Owasso, Broken Arrow and Jenks are on Bixby’s regular-season schedule. If there is a Bixby-Union collision, it would happen during the playoffs.

    Bixby is in District 6AI-1 with Jenks, Broken Arrow, Moore, Norman North, Westmoore, Southmoore and Enid. In 6AI-2 are Union, Owasso, Edmond Santa Fe, Mustang, Yukon, Norman, Edmond Memorial and Edmond North.

    There seems to be no compromise in the Montgomery approach. Even as the smallest school in 6AI, he says Bixby still expects to win every week and expects to score another championship.

    “If you’re a competitor,” he said, “you go into every game to win and believing you can win. There’s a lot of excitement and, I guess, a little anxiety about some of the unknowns. We’ll have more travel and we’ll face teams we’ve never seen before.”

    A growing community

    The Bixby High School senior class of 2022 had 450 graduates. Montgomery’s son Guy is a seventh-grader in 2022-23. In that class, Montgomery says, there are 640 students.

    In kindergarten through 12th grade, Bixby had 12% more students during the 2021-22 school year than it had in 2020-21.

    The growth will continue for years to come, and eventually Bixby High School’s enrollment will look a lot more like Owasso’s and Union’s than it does Muskogee’s and Bartlesville’s.

    Eventually, also, Bixby will have a new high school and desperately needed football upgrades. As we reported a while back, the locker room for Bixby’s 110 varsity players has one toilet, two urinals and three shower heads. Many Tulsa-area stadiums have a far better press box than Bixby’s.

    Bill Haisten: ‘Welcome to the SEC’ — Bixby takes its big reputation and win streak to 6AI (4)

    All of that might have been sufficient when Bixby was a little ol’ country school, but it doesn’t fit in 6AI. The facilities of Broken Arrow and Union are equal to or better than what you see on most small-college campuses.

    This year, Bixby Public Schools residents passed a $110 million bond. Ground already has been broken on the construction of a new high school, located immediately south of Spartan Stadium. After the 2022 season, construction begins on a new locker room, meeting rooms and coaches’ offices.

    At some point, Bixby gets an indoor practice facility. Ultimately, what happens with Spartan Stadium? Will Bixby opt for a renovation or bulldoze the stadium and build a new one on the same footprint?

    “Either way,” Montgomery says, “it needs to be done right. The press box (and) visitors’ locker room — they’ll need to come down.”

    Bixby athletic director Kate Creekmore says she’s hoping for a completely new stadium, “but it depends on interest rates and if we think we can get (an additional) bond passed. Will we need a new elementary school in a few years? That’s something to consider.

    “I love that we’re growing, but we’re also in that growing-pains position now.”

    A more immediate change at Spartan Stadium is the addition of new bleacher seating on the visitors’ side. Those bleachers will accommodate about 800 spectators, pushing the stadium’s seating capacity to about 7,500.

    Bill Haisten: ‘Welcome to the SEC’ — Bixby takes its big reputation and win streak to 6AI (5)

    “We know we’ll be having larger crowds for our home games,” Creekmore said. “The new seats should be in place in mid-September. Supply-chain delays have affected us on that.

    “Fingers crossed, the new bleachers — in two separate sections — will be in place in time for what should be our two biggest home crowds of the year (the Oct. 14 Broken Arrow game and the Nov. 3 Jenks game).”

    The value of Montgomery

    After having been a 2000-09 Trimble assistant at Jenks, Montgomery became the Bixby head man in 2010. His 2011 Spartans tried to win a playoff game in spite of a thin roster of only 39 players.

    After the 2020 season, it was believed that Broken Arrow contacted Montgomery about its head-coaching job.

    “I was worried about Broken Arrow,” then-Bixby athletic director Jay Bittle said at the time, “but I thought also that Loren has a great situation in Bixby.”

    Today, as Montgomery drives the Spartans to an Aug. 25 opener against Owasso in the QuikTrip-presented Battle of the ’Burbs at H.A. Chapman Stadium, the Sand Springs native remains a relatively young coach at 44. He also is the Allan Trimble of Bixby.

    “Loren Montgomery is a legend in this town,” Bittle said.

    The 2022 Spartans

    Bixby rolls into 6AI with the highest possible goals, but without great players who graduated in May. Among those players: Beau Bertelli, Zach Blankenship, Levi Dunsmore, Miles Hill, Connor Nolan, Braylin Presley, Jack Puckett and Preston Solomon.

    The Spartan seniors of the 2021 season have a remarkable distinction: They not only were the most accomplished senior class in Bixby football history, but in Oklahoma high school football history.

    As Jenks won six consecutive titles in 1996-2001, there were Trojans who were members of four championship teams. Last season’s Bixby seniors, however, combined their fourth straight title with a 49-game win streak — the longest ever by any Oklahoma 11-man football program.

    With a championship-game blowout of Deer Creek in December, the Spartans broke Wagoner’s 2014-17 record of 48 straight wins.

    “I feel like last year’s team was the best we’ve had at Bixby,” Montgomery said. “I also feel good about the guys we have coming back this year. We actually had some question marks at this time last year. You have some of that before every season.”

    Bixby has the talented Hasz twins — Luke and Dylan, both committed to Arkansas — along with ninth-grade wide receiver, running back and cornerback Braeden Presley, the youngest of the Presley kids.

    Bill Haisten: ‘Welcome to the SEC’ — Bixby takes its big reputation and win streak to 6AI (6)

    This August preseason is critically important, though, as the Spartans return only four starters on each side of the ball.

    Most of the new starters got tons of 2021 experience. As 12 of the Spartans’ 13 games were decided by at least 28 points, the Bixby backups always got a nice amount of second-half playing time.

    As was the case a year ago, when Christian Burke was the starter and Connor Kirby a situational star as the second QB, the Spartans are expected to have a two-quarterback system.

    In March, Austin Havens moved from Owasso to Bixby. Now a senior, he had 22 starts at Owasso. With Havens and Kirby, Montgomery seems solidly outfitted at QB.

    Last season, Kirby became for Bixby what Blake Bell was as OU’s “Belldozer” quarterback. When Bixby needed a first down or a touchdown on a short-yardage play, Kirby would get it. As the season advanced, his role was expanded beyond short-yardage snaps.

    Bill Haisten: ‘Welcome to the SEC’ — Bixby takes its big reputation and win streak to 6AI (7)

    Kordell Gouldsby was Holland Hall’s starting quarterback last season, but he also moved to Bixby and with the Spartans is expected to be a slot receiver. If ever Montgomery were pressed into an emergency-quarterback situation, Gouldsby would be a nice option.

    The Oklahoma City-area schools do their best to achieve some semblance of an east-west balance, but the Tulsa-area schools own 6AI.

    As a recently developed but certified superpower, Bixby now is involved in Oklahoma’s heavyweight class. Welcome to the SEC.

    Bill Haisten: ‘Welcome to the SEC’ — Bixby takes its big reputation and win streak to 6AI (8)

    2022 Oklahoma high school football state champion staff picks

    Class 6AI staff picks

    Bill Haisten: ‘Welcome to the SEC’ — Bixby takes its big reputation and win streak to 6AI (9)

    Class 6AII staff picks

    Bill Haisten: ‘Welcome to the SEC’ — Bixby takes its big reputation and win streak to 6AI (10)

    Class 5A staff picks

    Bill Haisten: ‘Welcome to the SEC’ — Bixby takes its big reputation and win streak to 6AI (11)

    Class 4A staff picks

    Bill Haisten: ‘Welcome to the SEC’ — Bixby takes its big reputation and win streak to 6AI (12)

    Class 3A staff picks

    Bill Haisten: ‘Welcome to the SEC’ — Bixby takes its big reputation and win streak to 6AI (13)

    Class 2A staff picks

    Bill Haisten: ‘Welcome to the SEC’ — Bixby takes its big reputation and win streak to 6AI (14)

    Class A, B and C staff picks

    Bill Haisten: ‘Welcome to the SEC’ — Bixby takes its big reputation and win streak to 6AI (15)

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    Bill Haisten: ‘Welcome to the SEC’ — Bixby takes its big reputation and win streak to 6AI (16)

    bill.haisten@tulsaworld.com

    Tags

    • Bixby
    • Jenks
    • Broken Arrow
    • Owasso
    • Sport
    • American Football
    • Football
    • Loren Montgomery
    • High School
    • Austin Havens

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    Bill Haisten

    Sports Columnist

    I joined the Tulsa World in 1990. Prior to becoming a sports columnist in 2016, I was the only sports writer in Tulsa World history to have covered OU, OSU, the University of Tulsa and Oral Roberts sports on an everyday basis. Phone: 918-581-8397

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