By: Sandite Pride Editorial Board
It's the final week of the regular season and many teams have make-or-break games that will decide their post-season fate. The parity of the division has left things muddled with no single team going undefeated in their district.
There's a three-way tie for the District-Two title, with the deciding bout to be played Friday night at Bixby against the Sand Springs Sandites. Sand Springs, Bixby, and Muskogee are all 4-1. Sand Springs has a win over Muskogee, Muskogee has a win over Bixby, Bixby has a win over Booker T., and Booker T. has a win over Sand Springs. Muskogee is more-or-less certain to defeat Sapulpa, so if Bixby beats Sand Springs, the Roughers will get the Title. If Sand Springs beats Bixby, the Sandites get the Title.
In District One, Midwest City has the district title on lock, currently holding a 5-1 record with a game at Stillwater left to play. Midwest City has wins over both the number two and three teams, so even if they lose their final game, they'll get the Title on head-to-head.
In District One, Midwest City and Lawton are guaranteed to make the playoffs, while Stillwater, Choctaw, and Putnam City West are all still up in the air. In a scenario where Stillwater beats Midwest City, and Choctaw beats Putnam West, the three teams will all have 3-4 records with circular losses, and the berths will be decided on point-differential. Deer Creek, Enid, and Putnam City are out of contention.
In District Two, Muskogee, Bixby, and Sand Springs are guaranteed to make the playoffs. Sapulpa and Ponca City have been eliminated. The winner of Bartlesville versus Booker T. will get the fourth seed.
No. 1 Muskogee Roughers (Last week No. 1) vs No. 15 Ponca City Wildcats (15)
An undefeated season may not have been in the cards for Muskogee (8-1, 4-1), but they're still well within the running for the District and State Titles. The Roughers are guaranteed to host a playoff game, so long as they defeat the Wildcats, marking their first playoff appearance in six years. They also have a shot at their first district title in more than a quarter-century. Last week they trounced the Sapulpa Chieftains (1-8, 1-5) 62-21 with over 500 yards of offense. Quarterback Jacob Medrano was 14-20-250 for two touchdowns and no interceptions, and Molijah Gilbert led the ground with 104 yards and two touchdowns on only eleven carries. The Roughers are looking for their first State Title since 1986.
Ponca City (2-7, 0-5) snapped their five-straight losing streak with a 10-6 victory over Norman (1-8, 1-4). QB Brice McDougal was 16 of 25 for 154 yards and a touchdown, while Darrell Arita led the ground with eighteen carries for 93 yards.
The pick: Muskogee 63, Ponca 6.
No. 2 Sand Springs Sandites (2) vs No. 3 Bixby Spartans (4)
The Sand Springs-Spartan match-up has become the Jenks-Union-esque rivalry of 6A Division Two with four meetings in two years, and the intensity isn't slowing down this year. In 2014, the Sandites nearly upset the Spartans in the regular season finale before the Spartans trounced them in the playoffs. Last year Sand Springs dealt the Spartans their first shutout in years to end the regular season, then Bixby got payback in the State Title game. The high-stakes battle will be in Bixby this year as the Spartans are all that stand in the way of the Sandites' first District Title since 1997. Whichever team wins will also get to host a playoff game. Sand Springs is looking for its first State Title since 1966, while the Spartans are defending back-to-back Championships.
The Sandites (6-3, 4-1) made national headlines with a wild last second play to defeat the previously undefeated Roughers (7-1, 4-1) and briefly earned the number one ranking before falling to Booker T. Washington (5-4, 3-2). Sand Springs more than doubled the Hornet offense before giving up the win on a fumble inside their own two-yard-line late in the fourth. They rebounded from that game with a 47-28 win at Bartlesville (3-5, 2-3). The Bruins hung tight with the Sandites through the first half, but the visitors scored 22 unanswered points in the third to clinch the win. Running back Payton Scott racked up nearly 300 yards on the ground for five touchdowns to complement the two aerial scores from Hunter Greathouse.
Bixby (6-3, 4-1) picked up their biggest win of the season when they knocked off Booker T. Washington (5-4, 3-2) in a 28-0 shutout. The Hornets were without starting QB Phillip Wheatley, and Bixby made the most of it, dealing Booker T. their first shutout since 2012. It was the defense that carried Bixby, as offensively they were well below their standard performance. Tanner Griffin, who normally completes about 65% of passes and holds over 2100 yards this season with 31 touchdowns, was held to only 13 of 25 for 129 yards and two touchdowns. Tucker Pawley made up for it on the ground, however, with 34 carries for 198 yards and a touchdown. Bixby also won the turnover battle with two fumble recoveries and an interception.
The pick: Sand Springs 32, Bixby 30.
No. 4 Booker T. Washington Hornets (3) vs No. 13 Bartlesville Bruins (13)
When looking at their season records as a whole, the Hornets (5-4, 3-2) should have little difficulty in finishing the season with a district win against Bartlesville (3-5, 2-3). However, looking at the last couple of weeks, the match-up could be fairly close.
The Hornets have been without their starting QB, and that's been a major thorn in their offense. They barely beat the Sandites thanks to a late fumble deep in the Sand Springs redzone, but were actually outperformed drastically in the game overall. Then they gave up a 28-0 shutout loss to Bixby.
Bartlesville, meanwhile, gave an impressive performance against the Sandites and only trailed 25-21 at the half before losing their momentum in the third quarter and ultimately losing 47-28. With a playoff berth on the line and the knowledge that they can run with the best, the Bruins will be bringing everything they have. QB Garrett Meidl brought the rain against Sand Springs and was 19 of 32 for 225 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions.
The pick: BTW 33, Bartlesville 18.
No. 5 Midwest City Bombers (5) vs No. 9 Stillwater Pioneers (10)
Midwest City (6-3, 5-1) has worked hard all season to maintain the edge in the district with the most parity, and having defeated both Putnam West and Lawton, they can afford to lose this game without forfeiting their district title or home playoff berth. Stillwater (5-4, 3-3), however, has to win to clinch a playoff berth. They can still make it in with a loss, so long as Choctaw loses to Putnam West and Lawton beats Putnam City, but they can be counted on to bring their A-game and put fate in their own hands.
The Bombers are coming off a solid 39-10 win over Enid (3-6, 2-4) that saw a 13-3 halftime lead expanded with 26-straight points in the second half. The stout defense racked up five sacks and held Enid QB Mason Skrimager to only 46 yards on 12 completions. One of those completions was for 34 yards in the fourth quarter. The Plainsmen finished the first half with only one passing yard. The Bombers were wild on kick returns, scoring one punt return touchdown and scoring soon after a 75-yard kick return.
The Pioneers won a close one at Putnam City (3-6, 1-3) to stay alive in playoff contention. Two different Pioneers racked up triple digits on the ground and the team finished with 311 rushing yards as a whole after the pass game was fruitless on the first two possessions. QB Jace Brownlee missed the first three district losses while rehabbing from a Spring shoulder surgery, and his presence has been crucial in the three-straight district wins. Though his return makes a win against Midwest City slightly more likely, he's still not at one-hundred percent and the Pioneers have had to get creative in how to play him. They'll have their work cut out for them against the number one defense in the division.
The pick: MWC 35, Stillwater 12.
No. 7 Choctaw Yellowjackets (8) vs No. 8 Putnam City West Patriots (6)
The biggest battle of the Southwest holds major implications for both teams as they seek to clinch playoff berths. Putnam needs a win to guarantee a spot, while Choctaw needs a win just be in consideration. Even if Choctaw wins, they could miss the cut on head-to-head or point-differential depending on how other games shake out around the State.
The Yellowjackets (5-4, 3-3) have been hit or miss most of the season, at times rolling through powerful teams like Sand Springs and Midwest City, and other times dropping losses to teams like Putnam City and Enid. They're on good footing now, however, steamrolling their last two opponents. They scored a major 52-26 upset over Lawton (5-4, 4-2), then brutalized Deer Creek (2-7, 2-4) with 47 unanswered points for a 54-7 victory. They have the number three offense in the State and have a 3-0 record against top-six teams this season.
Putnam West (6-3, 4-2)'s three losses were to top-ten teams only, barely getting edged out by a touchdown or less to Sand Springs, Midwest City, and Lawton. They have the number two defense in the State, giving up only two touchdowns per game, but even Midwest City couldn't stymie Choctaw's air raid. Last week they took on Lawton with the number four offense and fell 35-28 after giving up a 63-yard touchdown return late in the fourth quarter.
The pick: Choctaw 45, PCW 32.
No. 6 Lawton Wolverines (7) vs No. 12 Deer Creek Antlers (12)
The Wolverines (5-4, 4-2) secured a playoff berth with their win over Putnam West, and now hope to clinch a home game if they can beat Deer Creek. The Antlers (2-7, 2-4) have nothing to gain from winning, other than bragging rights.
Lawton went head to head with Putnam West and were neck-and-neck for the duration. Were it not for Miles Davis's interception return, anything could have happened. They were actually outperformed offensively and gave up an interception and fumble. For once it was Lawton's defense that saved the day, whereas it's normally the offense that gets the headlines.
Deer Creek suffered a massive blowout against Choctaw, scoring one touchdown in the first quarter before being rolled to a 54-7 defeat. They racked up less than 200 yards and were devastated on turnovers with two interceptions and four fumbles.
The pick: Lawton 35, DC 13.
No. 10 Putnam City Pirates (9) vs No. 11 Enid Plainsmen (11)
These two teams are playing for bragging rights only with neither capable of making the post-season. Putnam City (3-6, 1-5) just went down 29-22 after a solid effort against Stillwater, while Enid (3-6, 2-4) was muffled 39-10 by the powerful Bomber defense.
The pick: Putnam 21, Enid 14.
No. 14 Sapulpa Chieftains (14) vs 6A-I Broken Arrow Tigers
The Chieftains (1-8, 1-5) won't finish the season without a win, thanks to a 31-27 upset of Ponca City, but that's likely to be their only victory as they finish the season with a non-conference game against 6A-I Broken Arrow (5-4). Last week they went down 62-21 to Muskogee, while Broken Arrow trounced Edmond Memorial (3-5, 1-4) 31-13. BA isn't as powerful this year as they have been in the past, but they should have little difficulty in Sapulpa.
The pick: BA 47, Sapulpa 14.
District Two Standings
4-1 Sand Springs (+41)
4-1 Muskogee (+47)
4-1 Bixby (+57)
3-2 Booker T (+5)
2-3 Bartlesville (-15)
1-5 Sapulpa (-71)
0-5 Ponca City (-64)
District One Standings
5-1 Midwest City (+38)
4-2 Lawton (+23)
4-2 Putnam West (+31)
3-3 Stillwater (+12)
3-3 Choctaw (+22)
2-4 Enid (-41)
2-4 Deer Creek (-47)
1-5 Putnam City (-38)
Scott Emigh, Editor-in-Chief
Record: 37-17, 69%
Virgil Noah, Staff Writer
Record: 32-23, 58%