By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor
Tramal Ivy started the season as a free safety.
Friday night on Muscogee (Creek) Nation Field, this week’s Phoenix Player of the Week did just about everything but that defensively.
It’s been that kind of year for Ivy, who has even moved to a tight end spot on offense, less than a year from a time, as Muskogee head coach Josh Blankenship recalled recently, he was struggling to even catch the football having never been a receiver.
A year of learning and hard work paid off in a special way in the 46-42 victory against Bixby. Ivy had four sacks to break by one the school season record of 18 by current assistant Anthony McNac. He also caught five passes for 272 yards and three touchdowns covering 72, 73 and 93 yards, the final two erasing a 42-32 Spartans lead and the last one coming with 7:31 to play in the contest.
Ironically, his final two sacks, save for a pair of Muskogee kneel-downs, were on Bixby’s final two plays on its end of the field while trying to score their way into the postseason. Instead, Sapulpa, Bixby and Muskogee tied for the final playoff spot in District 6A-2 and Sapulpa advances on the points tiebreaker. He finished with 11 tackles. Muskogee finished at 3-7.
McNac, who set the record in 1998 and directs Ivy as the tight ends coach, both challenged and kidded him all week long about approaching his mark.
“After the 93-yard catch and run I’m like ‘you got to get back in there. Get water, get pickle juice in you so you don’t cramp, but you got to get back in.’ We needed him one way or the other. He looked at me and said ‘I’m not going to break it,’” McNac said.
Muskogee made two stops, the first on an interception by Ty Beasley, then Bixby got the ball back at its own 44 with 2:09 to play. The first sack was a 9-yard loss on a third down.
“I’m over there like clapping, happy, no way he’d break it by doing it again,” McNac said, laughing. “Then he did it again and it was like, wow.
“You know, I’ve seen and been around some great players here and I’ve never seen someone have that kind of heart and play like that in a game like Tramal did and it wasn’t just catching passes and outrunning defenders or the sacks and tackles. He was a force on special teams too with his blocking. Any time he was on the field he held nothing back.”
Ivy was lined up in his original defensive spot at end on the final two sacks. He also played nose and middle linebacker during the night.
“I knew they had no choice but to pass because they’d gotten a 5-yard penalty and were backed up and needed to get downfield,” he said.
It was a memorable night indeed. But he’ll also remember his emergence as a receiver.
“My first touchdown pass this year (a 74-yarder against Broken Arrow) was special. I still kind of like that the best,” he said.
Friday’s totals almost doubled his season output to 14 catches for 546 yards and 6 TDs.
Now on to college ball. Texas A&M and Kansas State are starting to show interest, Ivy said. At 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, Ivy has largely been looked at by colleges as an outside linebacker. But maybe not for long, McNac said.
“I think his catching ability at tight end and his speed as well as his play at linebacker or safety, you know, coaches may start rethinking how they see using him,” McNac said. “He’s very versatile.”
Ivy said he “probably” will take a couple of days to rest up and refocus for basketball season, where he is a standout post player.
But at this point, he sees himself focusing on football in college and “I’ll play whatever position pays for my school,” he said.