By: Scott Emigh, Editor-in-Chief
The No. 2 ranked Charles Page High School varsity football team (6-3, 4-1) will travel to the No. 3 Bixby Spartans (6-3, 4-1) this Friday in the regular-season finale as they fight for their first District Title in nearly two decades. The two teams each have playoff berths clinched at this point, and are each vying for the right to host. If Sand Springs loses, they take fourth in the district and will play the District One Champion. If Bixby loses, they take third in the district.
Here's how the two teams played against mutual opponents:
No. 3 Spartans (6-3, 4-1)
lost 45-42 to Muskogee
defeated Sapulpa 62-17
defeated Ponca City 60-6
defeated Bartlesville 63-14
defeated Booker T 28-0
Average score: 51-16
First downs: 23
First downs allowed: 13
Fumbles-lost: 8-5 (total)
Fumble recoveries: 6 (total)
No. 2 Sandites (6-3, 4-1)
defeated Muskogee 26-25
defeated Sapulpa 35-7
defeated Ponca City 56-35
defeated Bartlesville 47-28
lost 17-12 to Booker T
Average score: 35-22
First downs: 18
First downs allowed: 14
Fumbles-lost: 6-3 (total)
Fumble recoveries: 6 (total)
The one district loss for Bixby came at the hands of No. 1 Muskogee (8-1, 4-1) in a shootout at the Indian Bowl. The lead changed eleven times in the game that saw a combined 911 yards of total offense. Offensively the Spartans outperformed with six touchdowns, more yards, more first downs, and a higher pass-completion rate. Muskogee's defense won it, however with two interceptions, a fumble recovery for a touchdown, and four punts. Muskogee utilized a high-powered fast-paced offense that averaged 7.26 yards per play, 11.08 yards per pass, and 2.26 yards per carry. As low as that 2.26 is, it's the highest average allowed by Bixby in district play this season. The Spartans were more methodical, averaging only 5.3 yards per play, 4.02 yard per carry, and 6.36 yards per pass.
Sand Springs traveled to Muskogee two weeks after Bixby and stunned the home crowd with a wild last-minute play that attained national coverage. Sand Springs, like Bixby, outperformed in total yardage and first downs, but had to come from behind with a 65-yard drive in only 38 seconds. They scored on an incredible two-point run to take the lead and the victory. Sand Springs averaged 3.97 yards per carry and 6.91 yards per pass, while giving up 5.63 yards per carry and 5.71 yards per pass.
No. 4 Booker T. Washington (6-4, 4-2) played the spoiler for Sand Springs, despite being outmatched offensively by a considerable margin. The Sandite run game was utterly shut down by the Hornets, being held to 0.93 yards per carry, but the Sandites more than adapted with 9.11 yards per pass. The Hornets were without their starting QB, Phillip Wheatley, and managed only 2.48 yards per pass and 0.4 yards per carry. The Sandites should have won 12-10, but midway through the fourth quarter, QB Hunter Greathouse was unable to haul in a high snap, and Booker T. recovered the fumble at the Sandite two-yard line. Till then, the Sandite defense had been practically impenetrable, forcing seven punts and holding one drive to a field goal, but were unable to stave off the Hornets this time. The Hornet defense pulled out all the stops and forced a turnover on downs in their own redzone, then hauled in a Hail Mary interception to seal the victory.
Booker T. hosted Bixby last week and were soundly defeated in their first shutout since 2012, despite putting up the best defense the Spartans have experienced all season. The Hornets held them to 4.65 yards per run and 5.04 yards per pass, while racking up 2.08 yards per run and 3.81 yards per pass. The Spartans scored twice by air in the first half and twice on the ground in the second half. The Hornets split time between two backup QBs, but neither was able to break even passing.
Firstly, when you look at a box of the two teams' averages based on mutual opponents, Bixby should win hands down. That's misleading, however, because the Sandites always play to their opponents, while the Spartans play balls-to-the-wall no matter what. To get a true comparison of the two teams, you have to limit your focus to just Booker T. and Muskogee. When you compare those stats, the teams are a whole lot closer.
Sand Springs prefers to keep the ball on the ground when they can, but have adapted well to the air when necessary. The Sandite O-line is powerful, but Bixby's linemen will likely be their biggest test of the season. The Sandites averaged 2.5 yards per carry against Muskogee and Booker T., and won't be likely to fair any better against Bixby.
The Spartans as a whole have the number six defense in the division when it comes to points per game, but gave up an average 7.74 yards per pass against Muskogee and Booker T., meaning that will be the Sandites' best bet for moving the ball. The Sandites have only been held to double digits running once this season, against Booker T., and easily transitioned to a 13-26-237 aerial barrage. Greathouse is 51% for the year with 1,654 yards, fifteen touchdowns and only seven interceptions. He has no problem stepping up when his team needs him, and his 237 against Booker T. was a career-best.
While the Spartans were more capable of running against Muskogee and Booker T. than the Sandites were, averaging 4.07 yards per carry, they were significantly hampered in the air, averaging only 5.48 yards per pass.
Bixby will come out with all pistons firing and double the Sandites in the first quarter 14-6. Sand Springs will win the second quarter 14-9 and enter the half trailing by a field goal. Both teams will come out of the half fired up, but defense will hold tough and the Spartans will score the lone touchdown, while the Sandites give up a failed fourth-down conversion attempt inside the Spartan redzone on one posession and kick a field goal on another. The Sandites will win it in the fourth quarter, however, with big passes and trick plays for a come-from-behind stunner.
Kickoff is at 7:00 p.m. at Spartan Stadium, located at the intersection of Riverview and Stadium Road.