MAY — The Class A Division I No. 6 May Tigers football team opened the season with a 40-26 victory over Division II No. 3 Richland Springs, their 22nd consecutive during the regular season, but it was not exactly mistake-free football Friday night. 

A victory over eight-time state champion Richland Springs may be a strong indicator for the rest of the season, but May head coach Craig Steele believes his team has a lot of improvement to make before they can start booking rooms for the six-man state championship.

“I’m glad we won the game, but we made a ton of mistakes,” Steele said. “We put the ball on the ground. I bet we put the ball on the ground 15 times and that is not going to be acceptable for us to be the kind of team we want to be. Fortunately, everything that went wrong tonight is fixable.”

After a fourth-down tackle for loss by sophomore lineman Chris Flennikan, the Tigers took over on downs just inside the 40 and capped off a drive with 12-yard touchdown after senior running back Gage Keckler, who found the corner on a toss play. Another turnover on downs by the Tigers’ defense eventually put May on the 2-yard line, but a sack by Richland Springs freshman Griffin Rigdon jarred loose a fumble, then Richland Springs cornerback Jayden Bryant picked it up and returned it 78 yards for a touchdown, or so they thought. As Bryant sprinted for the end zone, one of the referees accidentally blew the play dead, which resulted in a replay of the down. Instead of taking a chance, Steele optioned for senior running back Daniel Salinas, who scored the first of his team-leading three touchdowns.

“It hurt. We took it back for a touchdown, but then they blew the whistle,” said Richland Springs first-year head coach Thomas Tipton. “That really took the wind out of our sails because they ended up scoring on the next play. Instead of it ending up being 6-6 or 8-6, it was 14-0 and from there we had more mistakes. We dropped too many balls. We had too many penalties. You can’t blame everything on the refs. We did a lot of stuff wrong.”

May maintained its 14-point cushion through regulation. Salinas struck again with five minutes left in the second quarter. Richland Springs responded with sophomore quarterback Matthew Rigdon guiding his team on a lengthy drive ending on a 13-yard reception to Josiah Beam in the end zone just before halftime, but by then May had already established a 20-point lead.

May extended its lead in the third quarter on another big run, this time coming on a 28-yarder by Isidro Salinas, then Daniel Salinas scored his final TD of the night on a 59-yard run minutes later.

“[Ridgon] was a pretty big challenge. He’s a tough runner and I feel like he’s been playing in the backfield for quite a while,” Daniel Salinas said. “We overcame that. One guy wraps him up and the rest of the guys follow. There were six on the tackle every time … To us, they were just another team. Last year’s team was last year’s team. This year, it was a new team and we had no idea what was coming so we just played ball.”

Richland Springs attempted to make a second-half comeback on a 60-yard kick return by junior running back KJ Simon and another two Rigdon-Beam TD connections, but it was not enough to overcome the Tigers. 

“It’s just early season football really,” Steele said. “We’re two teams that lost a lot of kids from last year. They lost a lot off their team and we lost a lot off our team. We have a lot of inexperienced kids playing right now on both sides and, to me, that’s what played into it more than anything else. We made a lot of mistakes, but maybe we made a couple fewer.”

May finished with 365 yards of total offense — 294 rushing and 71 passing. 

Daniel Salinas rushed for 120 yards and three scores, Isidro Salinas added 109 yards and a touchdown and Keckler chipped in 65 yards with a trip to the end zone.

Through the air, Seth Johnston completed three passes for 47 yards with a touchdown to Tyler Wheeler, who grabbed three receptions for 45 yards. Ethan Self connected with Lane McGinn on a 15-yard pass play, Keckler threw a 8-yard completion and Daniel Salinas made a 10-yard catch.

Defensively, Daniel Salinas recorded 18 tackles followed by Keckler with 12, Flenniek with 11, Isidro Salinas with nine and Austin McAbee with five. 

Richland Springs generated 235 yards — 136 rushing and 99 passing.

Matthew Rigdon completed 9 of 24 passes for 99 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing for 79 yards and another score. Beam hauled in three receptions for 66 yards and both touchdowns.

Cameron Parham added 53 yards rushing, while Jared Martin caught three passes for 11 yards, Kelton Tippie grabbed two receptions for 3 yards and Wade Appleton made a 19-yard reception.

Defensively, Tippie tallied nine tackles including two for loss with 1.5 sacks. Beam followed with seven takedowns and K.J. Simon and Jayden Bryant added 4.5 apiece. 

Next week May (1-0) visits Cherokee (0-1), which fell to Blanket, 54-12, Friday night, while Richland Springs (0-1) travels to San Marcos Hill Country Christian (0-1), which dropped a 54-8 decision to Calvert Friday.