RICHLAND SPRINGS - After surviving their toughest regular season test in several seasons, the No. 3 Richland Springs Coyotes are looking to return to form as they visit the Buckholts Badgers in their final tune-up for Six-Man Division I, District 9 action.
The Bulletin’s Six-Man Game of the Week between the two-time defending state champion Coyotes (4-0) and the Division I Badgers (3-2) is set for a 7:30 p.m. Friday kickoff in Buckholts.
Richland Springs enjoyed its bye last week after rallying for its 33rd consecutive win overall and 65th straight regular-season victory, 60-50, over No. 6 Gordon on Sept. 19. The Coyotes trailed 42-28 in the third quarter, but used 32 consecutive points to complete the comeback, which could prove to be the turning point of the season.
“That proved our kids have a lot of heart and they’ll never give up and fight to the end,” said Coyotes head coach Jerry Burkhart, who is 73-2 in his tenure at Richland Springs. “It was kind of a humbling moment because Gordon came in and gave us more than we expected. Our kids had to step up to another level and they did. We’re very proud of them, but they also realized they have a lot of things to fix, and that’s what we worked on last week.”
Among the areas of concern coming out of the Gordon game was a defensive unit that is allowing 25 points per game thus far this season. While that number would be considered good by many teams, Richland Springs is allowing nearly twice as many points per game as it did the past two seasons.
“One of the things we’re really focusing on is the defense,” Burkhart said. “We have to tighten up, make some plays and be a lot more physical than we’ve been. We also need to be quicker at recognizing formations.”
On the offensive side of the ball, the Coyotes committed an uncharacteristic four turnovers against Gordon.
“We have to execute well on offense and limit turnovers,” Burkhart said. “We had four turnovers last game and that can’t happen. That’s been another big focus.”
The Richland Springs offense is led by Haustin Burkhart, who has completed 38-of-58 passes for 737 yards with 14 touchdowns, while rushing for 457 yards and 11 scores on 43 carries.
Abraham Ahumada is a dual threat to both run and receive as he has caught eight passes for 236 yards with four touchdowns, while rushing for 180 yards and five scores on 22 carries.
Nigel Bates leads all Richland Springs receivers with 12 catches for 252 yards and six touchdowns, while Mitchell Jacobson is coming off a nine-catch, 154-yard effort that included a touchdown against Gordon. Randy Couch also has grabbed seven receptions for 171 yards with four touchdowns.
Buckholts carries its own win streak into the game, but its three straight wins after two opening losses isn’t quite in the same ball park with the Coyotes. Still, Burkhart and company realize the Badgers are playing well and this game won’t be a pushover.
“Coach (Shay) Avannts is an old Panther Creek kid and he does a great job over there,” Burkhart said. “They’ve got some speed and they’re doing some good things out of the tight set. They’ve got a pretty decent offense and defensively they’re quick. We expect a pretty good game Friday.”
The Badgers’ win streak consists of victories over San Antonio Town East (52-0), Cedar Park Summit (69-24) and Penelope (38-31), following losses to Sidney (48-13) and Temple Central Texas Academy (32-30).