– BY MICHAEL KNIGHT
The 2018 football season has come and gone. It feels like just yesterday we were previewing the 2018 campaign. Now it’s time to recap it! Continuing today, and finishing up on December 29th, we’ll have postseason content from season in reviews to all state teams every day. Be sure to check back in with OKPreps every day for a new feature.
For the first time since the 2014 season, the Spartans came into the year not defending a championship. Booker T Washington knocked off Bixby in the title game a year ago and with talented playmakers coming back, the Hornets were at the top of the preseason rankings coming into 2018. Bixby found themselves in a new position coming into this year that was very unfamiliar. They were flying under the radar. It didn’t take very long for that to change.
The Spartans opened up the campaign with their annual rivalry game against Jenks. After beating the Trojans for the first time in four decades a year ago, the Trojans got a bit of revenge this season. Jenks beat up on Bixby 28-14 and the Spartans found themselves in an 0-1 hole to start the year. The following week, they welcomed Mansfield Timberview from Texas and won a 36-33 shootout. After that, the Spartans’ defense reached another level and became one of the best in the state.
Bixby would shut out their next two opponents and then had a late September clash with defending champion Booker T Washington. The Spartans would dominate from start to finish and beat the defending champs 21-7. Bixby would dominate week in and week out to finish off the season. The Spartans would average nearly 50 points per game in their last five regular season games while giving up an average of 8 points per game on defense.
The Spartans would open up the playoffs against a familiar foe as they faced Lawton in the first round. The Spartans have now beaten the Wolverines in the playoffs four out of the last five years. This year was the most dominating chapter in their recent playoff series. The Spartans blew out the Wolverines 70-14 to advance to the semifinals for a rematch with Midwest City. They beat the Bombers by two points in the semifinals a year ago and had another close call this season. Bixby would survive and advance, holding off Bomber quarterback Preston Colbert with a 24-21 victory, punching their ticket to their fifth straight title game.
In a title showdown with Stillwater, the Spartans would run away with a 34-13 win over the young Pioneers. Bixby beat Stillwater in the playoffs for the second straight season and took full advantage of the weather delays throughout the evening. They would use it to gameplan and Cade Cavender would be the hero for the Spartans. He came into the title game as the Spartans’ leading receiver with 12 touchdown catches. He finished the title game with 222 RUSHING yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Before the title game, he had 83 rushing yards and three touchdowns in 12 games.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Dax Hill – DB/WR – Booker T Washington
Booker T Washington came up short on defending their 2017 state championship, but superstar Dax Hill lived up to all the hype and then some this season. Without a doubt the best recruit in Oklahoma’s 2019 class, Hill was a terror on offense and defense for the Hornets. He finished with nearly 100 tackles on the season and had a major impact in their opponent’s passing game. Hill was also a gamechanger on the offensive side of the ball. More than half of his 13 catches went for touchdowns, finishing with 7 touchdowns on the year. Hill made you hold your breath everytime he had the ball because more times than not, something special was about to happen.
BREAKOUT PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Mason Williams – QB – Bixby
Bixby has certainly had their luck at the quarterback position and they have found their next signal caller for a few seasons. Sophomore Mason Williams took the lead of this Bixby offense and ended up having one of the better passing seasons in school history. Williams threw for over 3,200 yards and 36 touchdowns while completing nearly 70% of his passes. Williams had not one, but two games where he tossed at least five touchdowns. He helped lead Bixby to yet another state championship. With Williams under center for the next two seasons, Bixby’s offense will be one of, if not the most explosive in 6A-D2 in the near future.
Hornets Stung By Injury Bug
Injuries happen. Every season, a team is held down by injuries to key positions. It’s unfortunate but it’s part of the game. In a perfect world, we could just see best on best with the most talented players able to showcase their skills. However, that’s not football. And unfortunately for Booker T Washington, 2018 was their year to get bit by the injury bug. It started with star running back Thomas Grayson missing time earlier in the season. It continued when OSU commit DJ Jones had his season end prematurely with a shoulder injury. Several other starters missed significant time and you can make the argument that no team was more snakebit by injuries than the Hornets. They came into 2018 with high expectations with talented players all over the field. But when the injuries started piling up, the Hornets could never get any momentum.
Rise Of The Westside
It started last year with Lawton and Midwest City making it to the semifinals. 2017 was the first year since the split that two westside teams made it to the semifinal round. That trend continued this year as Midwest City would return to the semifinals and Stillwater would end their playoff losing streak by making it all the way to the state championship game. Since the split in 6A, this division has been dominated by east side teams. However, the gap is getting smaller and smaller and we’re starting to see more balance than ever before. Stillwater will be hungry to return to the state title game in 2019 and they have the talent returning to make another run. As we look ahead to next season, the conversation might have to start over on the westside.
The More Things Change…
So the gap is getting smaller. We’re seeing more balance in 6A’s lower division with westside teams being much more competitive. Stillwater looks like a serious championship contender in 2019. However, when you talk about who is the favorite heading into next season, that conversation needs to start with the same usual suspect that makes playing in the title game a part of their regular schedule. The Bixby Spartans captured their fourth gold ball in the last five years. Since the split, the Spartans have made it to the title game every season. The only title loss came last year to Booker T Washington. It is true that the gap between east and west is getting smaller. But Bixby’s grip on the gold ball appears to be getting tighter.
Stillwater 23, Lawton 20
Stillwater came into the Lawton with an undefeated record and eyes on the district crown. However, playing without star sophomore running back Qwontrel Walker, beating the Wolverines on the road became a much tougher task. After Walker was ejected from the Choctaw game the previous week, the Pioneers would be without Walker for the road test against Lawton. With Stillwater missing their star, the Wolverines planned for the Stillwater offense to rely on the passing game to lead them. Instead, the Pioneers used two running backs to pick up the slack and carry the load. However, the Pioneers found themselves down 20-16 with less than a minute to play after Miles Davis put the Wolverines up. Stillwater would march down the field and fire a pass into the end zone with no time remaining. It was incomplete, landing several yards out of the back of the end zone. However, Lawton would be flagged for pass interference. Stillwater would get one more shot on an untimed down from the Lawton 10. Gunnar Gundy would find Anthony Bland for his first catch of the night and the most important catch of the season for the game-winner.