By: Scott Emigh, Editor-in-Chief
Photo: Austin Evans
It's hard to beat a good team twice.
The Charles Page High School football team saw its first state championship game in 49 years Friday night, but was unable to bring home the gold.
Despite dealing the Bixby Spartans a 20-0 shutout in the regular season finale, the Sandites were unable to overcome their rival this time around and were fended off 38-28.
It was the first quarter that did the Sandites in. Plagued with turnovers, the Sandites were held to negative yardage and threw two interceptions and a fumble as Bixby took a 13-0 lead.
The next two periods belonged to the Sandites as they held the Spartans to a field goal in the second quarter and got on the board with a 16-yard touchdown pass from junior first-year QB Hunter Greathouse to senior receiver Trace Fleischman.
Trailing 16-7 at the half, the Sandites rallied for two touchdowns in the third period and took two brief leads before finally giving up the ghost in the fourth quarter.
"They've overcome a lot and they've competed all the way down to the last minute of the last game," said Charles Page principal Stan Trout. "You can't ask any more from a bunch of kids. They do a great job in the classroom everyday and Coach Kinard and his coaches have built something to be proud of and something that will be lasting in this community for a long time."
Sand Springs got the ball to start the game, but were unable to make anything work early on. Lane Lettich was stopped at the line of scrimmage, Greathouse was sacked, then intercepted, and the Spartans got the ball less than two minutes into the game at the Sandite 38.
The infamous Sandite secondary was prepared, however, and Jaxon Starling exploded through the Bixby O-line for a 13-yard tackle for loss against notorious running back Nic Roller. That play, along with two Nathan Simonton tackles forced the Spartans to punt for a touchback and the Sand Springs offense was back on the field. Once again, however, they came up 4th and long and Kasey Bales was forced to punt into a strong headwind and Bixby was right back at the Sandite 37.
This time the Spartan tide would not be stymied and they quickly scored on an 11-yard Nic Roller run. The PAT was missed, however, and the Spartans settled for a 6-0 lead with 5:26 in the first quarter.
Trace Fleischman had several impressive kickoff returns for the night, but his return to the 31 was the furthest the offense would get that drive and once again Bales had to punt it away.
The ensuing Spartan drive traveled 25 yards before Cade Cabbiness fumbled it away into Sandite hands. Two plays later, however, Sand Springs gave it back as an errant pitch was recovered by Conner Walker at the Sandite 7. Two plays later, Roller found the endzone on a 2 yard run. The extra point was good this time and for the second game in a row, the Sandites found themselves down by two touchdowns in the first quarter.
The Sandite secondary showed up strong on the first drive of the second quarter and held the Spartans to a 30 yard field goal by junior kicker Jason Campbell.
The next two drives for both teams came up flat, then Sand Springs finally found their offense in a 17 yard pass from Greathouse to Bales. Lettich grabbed 3 yards on the ground, then it was back to the air as Bales caught an 11 yard pass to penetrate the Spartan red-zone at the 16.
On the next play, Greathouse was almost sacked, but broke a tackle and was downed at the line of scrimmage. The next time his O-line managed to hold the sturdy Spartan defenders at bay long enough for Greathouse to find Fleischman on a 16 yard touchdown pass. Bales was perfect on PATs for the night and Sand Springs found new life, cutting the deficit to 16-7 going into half time.
Whatever Coach Kinard said to the Sandites at half time brought them out even more fired up for the second half. The Spartans pushed to their 36 when Jacob Taber picked off his second interception of the season and returned it 16 yards before being tackled. He didn't go down with the ball, however. Seconds before he was hit, he pitched it off to Cruz Desjarlais who took it the remaining 20 for a Sandite touchdown.
The next Spartan drive was a dud and Sand Springs took the ball at their 10. An 8-play 76-yard drive came to an end as Greathouse found Fleischman on a 14 yard touchdown screen to take a brief 21-16 lead over the defending state champions.
Nic Roller clearly didn't enjoy trailing. The Spartans drove 81 yards and Roller punched in a 1 yard touchdown, then ran in the conversion to reclaim the lead 24-21 that would carry over into the fourth quarter.
Three minutes into the final period, the Sandites once again took the lead as Payton Scott ran 33 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the drive.
It would, however, be the last score of the game for the Charles Page kids.
Junior QB Tanner Griffin found Cade Cabbiness on a 17 yard touchdown pass, then later in the quarter Roller found a hole for an 18 yard touchdown run.
An onside kick was recovered by the Spartans and it was time for victory formation.