SPRINGDALE, Ark. – The weather was perfect Friday night at newly-renovated Jarrell Williams Stadium but Bixby High’s Spartans spent the evening weathering storms.
Bixby, 2-1 on the season, overcame an early 17-15 deficit by scoring on three straight possessions to gain breathing room en route to a 57-38 victory over Springdale in the final non-district game this season.
While Oklahoma prep teams were victimized by storms Friday night, the Spartans weathered a 386-yard, four-touchdown performance by 6-4 Bulldog senior quarterback Jack Lindsey.
Bixby weathered 13 catches for 222 yards and two touchdowns by Bulldog junior Kyler Williams. And, BHS overcame 14 penalties for 125 yards.
“We saw on film that they could throw it around. Their offensive coordinator is good,” said Bixby head coach Loren Montgomery afterward. “Last week against Alma they threw it well so we anticipated them throwing the ball. But, we’re young in the back end. I hope we get some good film out of this game so we can learn from it.”
While Springdale’s 448 total offensive yards was impressive it wasn’t enough. Bixby countered with 660 yards of total offense – 371 rushing and 289 yards passing by quarterback Tanner Griffin, who was 18-of-31 passing with three TDs.
Senior Nic Roller plowed through the Bulldog defense for 333 yards on 38 carries and scored four times. He scored on runs of 79, one, 15 and 20 yards. Those numbers are impressive considering he had another long TD run nullified by a penalty.
It was another dominating performance by Roller in a career featuring dominating performances.
Bixby struggled out of the starting gate and trailed 3-0 after a 45-yard field goal by SHS’s John Bautista. The Spartans scored with 11:56 showing in the second quarter when Griffin passed to Jarrod Neerman for a 13-yard touchdown. It was the start of a busy night for Neerman, a 6-2, 215-pound senior who plays both ways. He finished with 54 yards on four catches.
“Every game this season I’ve played both sides but tonight I just felt like I never left the field,” said Neerman. “I thought I had to step up after we lost Cade (Cabbiness). He’s a great receiver and is our go-to guy. When he went down coaches told me I had to step it up.
“I just tried to do my best and beat the guy in front of me every time. For sure, it was one of the best games I’ve had. Even though I’m tired it was a lot of fun.”
Roller erupted for the 79-yard touchdown run but Springdale countered each of those Spartan scores with touchdown drives.
Bixby began clicking on offense as Griffin connected with speedy sophomore Tucker Pawley for an 85-yard touchdown pass to give Bixby a 22-17 halftime lead.
“I felt like we shot ourselves in the foot in the first half and left a lot of stuff out there that we didn’t take advantage of because we got behind the chains. We had some penalties and missed an assignment here and there,” Coach Montgomery added. “It was a war out there.”
BHS began pulling away in the third frame as Roller scored on a one-yard run and scored from 14 yards out to cap off a 33-yard drive that was set up by teammate Brendon Evers’ fumble recovery. Roller’s second TD of the third quarter gave BHS a 36-17 lead with 7:29 left.
Bixby wasn’t able to scale back offensively as the Bulldogs produced long distance touchdowns to chip away at the visitors’ lead.
In the fourth quarter, Bixby maintained control as Griffin scored from one yard out and hit Nick Swanson for a 12-yard touchdown. Roller came off the bench to score from 20 yards out to end the scoring.
Bixby’s offensive line which returned only one starter from a year ago had some mistakes but played a key role in the Spartans’ offensive success which included averaging eight yards per play.
“We started pretty slow. We need to work on that in practice, we need to start a lot faster,” said Pryce Stickney, a 6-3, 240-pound senior lineman. “The first half was pretty bad but everyone picked it up really well after halftime.
“We have a chance to be one of the best ‘O’ lines in the state, we’ve just got to keep acting like it. We’ve got to start faster and we’ll be fine. We’re starting to bond more as a unit. We’ll be fine, we’ll be good.”
SPARTAN NOTEBOOK – Bixby opens District 6AII-I play Friday, Sept. 25, when the Spartans visit Claremore. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Claremore, 2-1, lost to Siloam Springs, Ark., last Friday, 22-12. … Bixby had injury problems here Friday. Senior wide receiver Cade Cabbiness was sidelined with a high ankle sprain and could miss a couple of games. Senior lineman Oliver Pate suffered a knee injury and Roller was hobbling around late. … Springdale, which didn’t win a game last year, is 0-3 in 2015.