SAN ANGELO — Simply stated, there was no answer for the Richland Springs Coyotes offense.
For the third time in its final four playoff games, Richland Springs scored on every offensive possession, and for the third time in four years the Coyotes are six-man football state champions.
The Coyotes capped their Six-Man Division I state championship repeat with a 98-54 victory over the Rule Bobcats Saturday night at San Angelo Stadium.
Richland Springs (14-0) scored on all 12 of its offensive possessions to surpass the state championship game record 78 points it tallied in last year’s 20-point title win over Rule at Abilene’s Shotwell Stadium.
The Coyotes finished with 553 yards of total offense, led by senior Tyler Ethridge’s 247 yards passing and four touchdowns and 152 yards rushing and three touchdowns. Ethridge, who also returned a kick 79 yards for a score, played a part in 25 Coyote touchdown in their three state championship victories dating back to 2004. Ethridge also finished with a record 230 touchdown passes in his career.
“It’s really something overwhelming,” Ethridge said. “Going back-to-back is something unbelievable. I didn’t think we’d beat them this bad. I have to give glory to God and glory to the fans, coaches and my teammates. It feels good to go out on top.”
Ethridge and fellow seniors Mark Williams, Shelby Smith, Richie Daniels and Patrick Couch finished their high schools careers with 55-1 record, with the only loss coming to Throckmorton in the state semifinals in 2005.
“It’s going to be hard to replace this senior class,” said Coyotes head coach Jerry Burkhart, who improved to 69-2 in his tenure at Richland Springs. “This is a great bunch of kids that works hard. This game stressed me out so much because I wanted them to go out as champions. I didn’t want them to lose the last game of their senior year. God blessed us and everything worked out great.”
Other offensive standouts for the Coyotes included junior Abraham Ahumada, who chipped in 54 yards rushing and a pair of touchdowns, and sophomore Haustin Burkhart, who caught two passes for 65 yards and a score.
The turning point in the game came early in the second half after Rule (13-1) had trimmed a Richland Springs double-digit advantage down to four points, 50-46.
A 52-yard pass from C.J. Saucedo to Stephen Pace brought Rule within one possession of the lead just 1:03 into the second half.
But the Coyote defense stiffened as the Bobcats scored just once more the rest of the night, that coming on a 9-yard run by Jay T. Spitzer with 5:52 left that trimmed the deficit to 82-54.
Defensively, after the Coyotes’ lead was shaved to four points, Richland Springs forced a punt and turned Rule away on a pair of fourth-down conversion attempts. The Coyote defense also created the game’s only two turnovers.
“Offense wins games, defense wins championships and we came in there and took care of business,” Burkhart said. “We shut them down and our offense executed on every possession.”
Richland Springs reeled off four straight touchdowns and 32 unanswered points to put the game out of reach, 82-46, with 8:32 left.
Ethridge connected with Andrew Fowler — who caught three passes for 43 yards — on a 7-yard scoring toss with 8:03 left in the third quarter to start the run.
Fowler then scored on a 3-yard run to increase the lead to 66-46 following a Daniels kick with 3:20 remaining in third period.
Next, Ethridge found Williams on a 44-yard scoring toss with 9:42 left. Williams finished with four catches for 118 yards and two touchdown receptions.
The run was then capped by a 4-yard center sneak from Mitchell Jacobson with 8:32 left.
“It got kind of scary, but it was just icing on the cake to have them get so close and for us to break away,” Ethridge said. “They’re known as a track team and for us to run with them for four quarters like that is unbelievable.”
Richland Springs’ back-to-back state championships marks the first time that feat has been accomplished since the 1994 and 1995 seasons when Amherst won two straight crowns. The Coyotes’ three state titles in four years is the best run since Fort Hancock won five of six from 1986-1991.
“The No. 1 thing is I want to give glory to God,” Burkhart said. “He is the only reason we’re here.”