Richland Springs captures record 8th six-man state title, 96-50 over Balmorhea

ARLINGTON — Behind an eight-touchdown, 414-yard rushing performance from junior Walker Tippie, the Richland Springs Coyotes added to their six-man record with an eighth state championship in front of 4,951 spectators Wednesday at AT&T Stadium.
With a 96-50 triumph over the third-ranked Balmorhea Bears, the top-ranked Coyotes joined Southlake Carroll, Celina and Katy as the only high school football programs in Texas to capture eight state titles.
All eight championships have been earned since 2004 under the guidance of head coach Jerry Burkhart, who improved to 184-8 in his tenure at Richland Springs following the victory — the Coyotes’ first in their debut appearance at the home of the Dallas Cowboys.
“It’s just an indescribable feeling,” said Burkhart, whose team has chalked up 29 consecutive victories, with two coming over Balmorhea. “These kids have worked so hard. We told them all year long that God has given us an opportunity to do something special. One thing we can’t coach is effort and these boys give 100 percent everyday. I’m just so proud of them and proud of the community and the support we get.”
Tippie — who had rushed for more than 600 yards and 13 touchdowns in victories over Calvert and Crowell the previous two outings — needed just 15 carries to amass a career-best 414 yards. Tippie scored on runs of 58, 41, 50, 34, 58, 37, 63 and 33 yards and averaged 28 yards per carry.
Awarded the offensive player of the game honor, Tippie also completed 4 of 6 passes for 62 yards and two more scores, as the junior accounted for 476 of the Coyotes’ 592 yards of total offense.
“Balmorhea played us hard at the beginning, but we made some big plays that led to big momentum swings,” said Tippie, who had a hand in the first 10 of Richland Springs’ 12 touchdowns. “Everybody does a great job rallying around each other. Whoever has the rock, me or any other back, we do a job blocking and helping each other out.”
Burkhart added, “Walker’s a very humble guy, but if you give him the ball he’s going to find the seam and he’s going to go. He’ll tell you there’s some great blocking in front of him. One thing about these guys is they’re a brotherhood so whoever gets the rock, the others make sure they do their best job of blocking to get them in the end zone.”
Hutton Lusty chipped in 109 yards on the ground and two touchdowns, while hauling in an 11-yard scoring reception. Traven Day added a 50-yard touchdown catch as well, while Cameron Parham hauled in two passes for 1 yard.
Defensively, the Coyotes surrendered 471 yards — 294 through the air and 177 on the ground — but intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble. For the season, Richland Springs finished with at +36 in turnover margin — creating 38 while losing only two.
Junior Jordan Burkhart was named defensive player of the game following a 10-tackle effort that included a fumble recovery and a drive-ending sack. Brandon Tharp led the way with 13 tackles followed by Tippie with 10 and an interception, Colt Carlisle with eight tackles, Lusty with seven, Parham with five, Lane Shannon with three and Day and Cody Pardy with one takedown each.
“Balmorhea came out and had a lot of good formations and they schemed us a couple of times and got some big plays at the beginning of the game,” Jordan Burkhart said. “We adjusted at halftime and came back out and made a couple of key stops. They had some dropped snaps and passes that we capitalized on.”
Leading just 40-30 at halftime, the Coyotes seized control of the contest during the third period and first play of the fourth as Richland Springs reeled off 32 consecutive points to push the game to the brink of the 45-point mercy rule, 72-30.
“It’s just a chess match,” Coach Burkhart said. “Coach (Vance) Jones has been to the state championship game numerous times and he knows how to scheme you. We had to see what they were doing with certain kids because they moved some guys around and did some things that we haven’t seen them do before. They showed their cards and we had to make adjustments.
“We went in at halftime and there were three plays that were hurting us and we drew them up on the board and made some adjustments that slowed them down. We were going to make them work for their touchdowns.”
The Coyotes (14-0) received the opening kick of the second half and scored in one play as Tippie galloped for his second 58-yard touchdown of the contest, extending the lead to 48-30 just 18 seconds into the third period.
The Bears (14-1) responded on their first drive of the second half with a fumble at midfield, which Burkhart recovered. Four plays later, Tippie turned a fourth-and-9 into a 37-yard scoring sprint as Richland Springs established some breathing room, opening a 56-30 edge with 6:07 left in the third.
Again Balmorhea failed to produce points on its second possession of the third period as a sack by Burkhart on fourth down ended the Bears’ march at the Coyote 17.
One snap later, Tippie again was off to the races on a 63-yard sprint that increased the advantage to 64-30 with 2:10 to go in the third period.
After a Balmorhea four-and-out, the Coyotes took over the Bear 34 and three plays later — on the first snap of the fourth period — Tippie connected with Lusty on an 11-yard scoring toss to pad the cushion to 72-30.
Balmorhea answered with consecutive touchdowns on a 61-yard pass from Marco Martinez to Marcos Mendoza and a 26-yard toss from Kyle Garcia to Eric Carrasco.
Leading 72-42 with 7:50 left, Richland Springs responded with 24 of the final 32 points to end the game with 2:03 remaining in the fourth. Tippie scored his final touchdown on a 33-yard carry, while Lusty reached the end zone on runs of 23 and 41 yards.
In the first quarter, Balmorhea led 8-0 on a 10-yard pass from Martinez to Danny Vasquez and 16-8 on a 47-yard strike from Martinez to Mendoza. Richland Springs answered with a 50-yard touchdown pass from Tippie to Day and Tippie’s first 58-yard scoring sprint to knot the score at 16.
Balmorhea was forced to punt the ball away from its own 1 on its third possession, which the Coyotes immediately turned into a 24-16 lead with 3:33 left in the first, as Jared Martin tacked on one of his 12 successful two-point kicks.
“Our special teams did a great job,” Coach Burkhart said. “Jared Martin made every kick and our snapper, holder and two guys that block on the ends were great, too. When you make all your kicks and they miss a few you can look up and be another touchdown or two ahead.”
The Bears countered with their third touchdown on a 36-yard Garcia run to end the opening period, but missed the kick as Richland Springs maintained a 24-22 edge that only grew the rest of the contest.
The Coyotes added two more touchdowns in the second period to stretch the lead to 40-22 as Tippie scored on carries of 50 and 34 yards.
Balmorhea closed the gap to 40-30 at halftime on a 4-yard toss from Martinez to Carrasco with 2:59 left before intermission.
With both the offensive and defensive players of the game returning for next season, along with a host of additional Coyotes, a ninth state championship in 2017 is definitely within the realm of possibility. But the Coyotes were perfectly content with No. 8 Wednesday night.
“It feels good to get it done last year and get back here and do it again,” Jordan Burkhart said of the Coyotes’ latest championship repeat. “It’s just an awesome feeling.”