RICHLAND SPRINGS – Local fans came to see if the second return of Jerry Burkhart as the Richland Springs head football coach could produce his 200th career win. It did, but only after a three-hour and 15-minute marathon of a six-man game that included 20 penalties and five turnovers.
The Richland Springs Coyotes, ranked No. 2 in Class 1A Division II, built a 40-point lead early in the fourth quarter and eventually held off the 1A Division I May Tigers 68-47 in Friday night’s season opener. The game also marked Burkhart’s second return to Richland Springs after resigning to coach elsewhere.
And if all that wasn’t enough, it turned out to be Burkhart’s 200th career win, including 195 with the Coyotes from 2003-2017, and now, in 2019. He won four games at Lohn in 2002 and one at 11-man Stanton last year. He has lost only 22 games, including just 10 at Richland Springs.
“It’s a blessing, but I can’t take all the credit,” said Burkhart, who was hired for this third stint at Richland Springs just a week before preseason practices began. “This is not about Jerry Burkhart. Our kids put in the time and the work over a lot of years.
“I don’t deserve it, but it’s a blessing to be back home.”
Burkhart’s 200 wins rank 12th all-time among six-man coaches, but fourth among active coaches -- trailing only Vance Jones of Balmorhea, who entered this season with 243 wins; Kevin Ray of O’Donnell (222) and Dewaine Lee of Strawn (207).
At times Friday, Richland Springs looked like a team that had three head coaches since last season. The Coyotes were penalized 14 times for 148 yards, and they fumbled four times, losing two.
“We had a lot of penalties. We’ll overcome that in film study and by working hard,” said spreadback Matthew Rigdon, who finished 9-of-12 passing for 206 yards and three touchdowns. The 210-pound junior also carried 20 times for 191 yards, including touchdowns of 1, 6 and 39 yards.
“We faced a lot of adversity tonight. Some of if we caused ourselves. We will work hard and keep overcoming adversity,” said Matthew Rigdon, whose father, Jamie Rigdon, was the Coyotes’ head coach from March until July before being reassigned to an assistant’s position.
Burkhart, a perfectionist who has won eight state championships at Richland Springs, was most upset with the 14 penalties.
“Golly, we’ve got to go back and watch the film and see what all we were doing,” he said. “It’s our fault, and we’re going to fix it. I told the kids to enjoy it because they beat a team they lost to last year. But we’ve got to get way better than what we played tonight. We’ve got to change the culture, and we’re doing that some every day.”
The Coyotes, who last won state in 2016, lost two players during Friday’s game. Senior Jadeyn suffered a broken arm in the second quarter, and sophomore Griff Rigdon experienced concussionlike symptoms and left the game in the first half.
May, a perennial playoff qualifier and ranked No. 25 in 1A DI, also suffered a major loss Friday when junior Chris Flenniken was ejected after a targeting penalty during the second quarter on the hit that forced Griff Rigdon out of the game.
“When their No. 17 (Flenniken) went out, that gave us an advantage because he’s a man-child,” Burkhart said. “When a team loses a player like that, it throws them into shock. We were able to take advantage of some things after he went out.”
May got 134 yards rushing and a touchdown from junior Isidro Salinas. Versatile May junior Rory Bustamante finished with 94 yards rushing, 52 yards passing and 39 yards receiving.
Richland Springs appeared to be breezing to a 45-point rule win after its defense recorded three stops and forced a turnover during the third quarter. Lane Shannon, who added 126 yards rushing on just seven carries, scored on third-quarter runs of 24 and 7 yards as the Coyotes built a 62-28 lead entering the fourth quarter. Matthew Rigdon’s 39-yard touchdown run made it 68-28 with 8:29 to play.
May, though, didn’t fold. Salinas scored on a 31-yard run and a 2-yard reception as the Tigers pulled within 68-41 with 4:58 left. Bustamante’s 2-yard run made it 68-47 with 1:39 to go.