The Richland Springs Coyotes couldn’t overcome the absence of star senior Walker Tippie on Friday night as they fell to the Milford Bulldogs 62-16 in Hamilton.
Bulldogs quarterback Taron Smith showed off his arm and threw for five touchdowns in the contest, while the Coyotes were unable establish a consistent rushing attack. Senior Brandon Tharp led the Coyotes with 94 yards on the ground.
Richland Springs took the football to start the ballgame, but struggled to move past the line of scrimmage on the ground. Senior Jordan Burkhart hit Tharp over the middle on third down, but Tharp tripped yards short of the first-down marker and the Coyotes eventually turned the ball over on downs.
Milford took the ball at the Richland Springs 30 yard line, and Smith promptly took the snap up the middle and dashed into the end zone from there, putting the Bulldogs up 8-0 less than two minutes in after a successful two-point kick.
The Coyotes found their footing and tied the game on the following drive. Tharp managed a long touchdown run of his own, sprinting 66 yards past the goal line to tie the game at 8 after the kick.
The Bulldogs appeared to score on their next possession with a 28-yard completion from Smith to sophomore Jasean Brooks, but the play was called back for illegal procedure. Milford fumbled the ball over to the Coyotes on the subsequent first-and-20 play to give Richland Springs the ball on its own 19.
But the Coyotes’ next mistake put Milford on the board again. A botched pitch after the snap flew over Hutton Lusty’s head and bounced into the end zone. In a heads-up play, Lusty kept the Bulldogs from recovering the ball in the end zone by swatting the ball out of bounds for a Richland Springs safety. Milford led 10-8 and got the ball back for another drive.
Taking the ball at their 38, the Bulldogs drove quickly and capped another scoring drive with a 10-yard completion to Brooks that saw Smith dodging would-be tacklers in the backfield. When Richland Springs took the ball again trailing 18-8, Hutton Lusty appeared to fumble the ball right back to the Bulldogs after a second-and-18 scramble.
But the officials conferred and decided that Lusty’s forward progress had stopped before the fumble, giving the Coyotes new life. They took advantage after a 35-yard Burkhart run set up first and goal, and Lusty punched it in from two yards out to make it 18-16.
But that was Richland Springs’s final score. On the ensuing kickoff, Smith caught the ball near the goal line and returned it 76 yards to put the Bulldogs ahead by 10. When Richland Springs then turned the ball over on a fumble, Milford answered and went ahead by 18 on a 15-yard Smith touchdown pass.
All told, Milford scored 30 unanswered points in the second quarter to pull away from Richland Springs and went into halftime firmly in control at 48-16.
The second half went quickly, as Milford received the kickoff and scored in just two plays. Needing a score to keep the game going, Richland Springs earned a fourth-and-short near midfield for all the marbles. Burkhart dropped back and lobbed a short pass to Tharp a few yards downfield — but the Bulldogs read the play and tackled Tharp immediately, turning the ball over on downs.
Milford scored two plays later and mercy-ruled the Coyotes with 6:58 left in the third quarter.
After the game, Richland Springs head coach Jerry Burkhart commended Milford for a well-played game. “You hate to see us go out like that, but Milford was the better team tonight,” Burkhart said. “They’re an outstanding team. They’ve got a lot of speed, and they use their team well. Number 1, Taron [Smith], he’s all over the place and he knows how to use the rest of his guys.
“Not to make excuses, but when you lose one of your horses [Tippie] and you try to pick up and overcome adversity — we tried. We did all we could.”
He said it’s time for Richland Springs to “reload” this offseason. “You keep that sour taste in your mouth all summer long. It motivates the heck out of you, because we don’t want to feel like that again.”