By Mike Moguin | Photo by Karen Schwartz
EDMOND - When Bixby and Owasso go to battle in the Class 6AI championship Friday night at the University of Central Oklahoma's Chad Richison Stadium, fans should see a fierce battle between both teams than what they saw when the teams met in the season opener.
The Spartans beat the Rams, 49-14, on Aug. 25 at Chapman Stadium at the University of Tulsa.
“We’re very different,” Owasso coach Bill Blankenship said. “But in fairness, they are as well. They’re running the same offense and the same defense. They’ve taken a lot different personality of who they are now.
"They have a lot of young players that have also not played much, but are now experienced players.
Since then, Bixby went on to score 50 or more points in their games, even as much as 80 in one, before falling, 38-35, in its regular season finale at home to Jenks on Nov. 3 before a national television audience. The Spartans (11-1) rebounded and avenged that loss with a 28-14 win against the Trojans in the state semis last week in Broken Arrow.
Owasso (9-4) started the season 1-4 but is now on an eight-game win streak, including a 50-47 win in a six-overtime marathon against Tulsa Union in last week's semifinal.
“Someone told me the overtimes lasted for almost an hour,” Blankenship said. “We don’t think about those kinds of things. I was enjoying the fact that our kids got be a part of something that special."
Bixby coach Loren Montgomery said that some members of his staff also attended the game and some watched the livestream.
“It was pretty crazy how long it went,” Montgomery said. “A high school game lasting four hours is almost unheard of.”
Regardless of who wins the final, both teams' seasons will be bookended with games against each other.
Bixby looks to continue its streak of winning state titles at the Class 6A Division I level after winning seven in an eight-year period in 6AII, including each of the last four championships.
The Spartans and Rams have shown themselves to be capable with wins against longtime heavyweights Jenks and Union, neither of which are in the final, after 26 straight seasons of having either one or the other, or both, playing for the title in the highest class of Oklahoma high school football.
“Our guys are fired up and we’ve had a good week of practice so far," Montgomery said. “And I think they are anxious to get to game day.”
The Rams’ offense is centered on quarterback Mason Willingham, Anthony Hills and J’Kharri Thomas, who improved as the season progressed
“Mason has become a real true dual threat for us,” Blankenship said. “He is a guy we can design quarterback runs with, but he still throws the ball exceptionally well.
"Part of the development of J’Kharri Thomas has happened because of so many injuries we’ve had at the running back position. Anthony Hills has been a big play receiver for us. He is 6-foot-3 and that is a matchup problem for people, and he is a deep threat, so he gave us the opportunity to throw the ball deep to make plays down the field.”
Montgomery has also noticed how Owasso has changed its identity on offense and that its defense plays extremely hard.
“They got an excellent front five; they just fly around,” he noted.
Spartans such as quarterback Connor Kirby, running back Jersey Robb, tight end Luke Hasz and receiver Cale Fugate will need to work to keep the Owasso defense off-balance.
Both coaches say the keys will be to play sound, avoid turnovers, win the line of scrimmage and to play with incredible intensity.
Kickoff from Chad Richison Stadium is set for 7 p.m.