HICO — The Richland Springs Coyotes' football season ended in 2018 at the hands of the Oakwood Panthers. Friday night in the Class A Division II Region IV championship rematch, the Coyotes ensured that didn't happen again thanks to an overwhelming performance as No. 3 Richland Springs dominated from start to finish in a 72-12 triumph over No. 9 Oakwood.
“We're so blessed, we give God all the glory, but these kids played as one team today and it showed and I'm so proud of them,” said Richland Springs head coach Jerry Burkhart, who was not at the helm of the program during last year's 66-56 loss to Oakwood. “The community, the administration, everyone is getting behind us. We're taking it a week a time, week by week. But I'm just so impressed by the way these guys are playing.”
With the victory, the Coyotes (11-0) — seeking their ninth state championship overall — will move on to face Region III champion and two-time reigning state champion Strawn (9-4) in state semifinal action next weekend.
Richland Springs yielded 157 yards of total offense, created a pair of turnovers with one returned for a touchdown, and recorded a safety. Meanwhile, four Coyotes scored touchdowns as Richland Springs tallied 222 yards of total offense — all on the ground — and returned a pair of kicks for touchdowns.
Lane Shannon rushed for a team-high 76 yards and three scores and accounted for the two kick return touchdowns, both covering 45 yards.
“We stressed special teams this week,” Burkhart said. “We had to make sure we got our blocks and created opportunities where we could get them. We still left a lot of points on the field with our extra-points, so we have to go back and get that fixed.”
Landon Burkhart added 62 yards and a touchdown on the ground, Matthew Rigdon rushed for 60 yards and reached the end zone once and Griff Rigdon scored twice while churning out 24 yards.
“Our offense blocked well tonight,” Burkhart said. “They blocked as a unit and hopefully we keep it going. It's nice when you have a lot of people that can do different things. I told the kids we can't have a me attitude, it has to be us. At this level, this time in the playoffs, it takes all of us to win a game.”
On the defensive end, Oakwood's Key'Undre Davis — who rushed for 167 yards with three touchdowns and caught three passes for 55 yards and two more scores against the Coyotes in 2018 — was limited to one catch for 30 yards, one pass completion for 10 yards and -17 yards rushing on five carries before leaving the game with 1:49 left in the first period with a undisclosed injury and never returned.
The Coyotes were in front 24-0 when Davis departed, and Oakwood (8-5) was forced to alter its game plan upon Davis' exit.
“I hate to see any kid get hurt, that bothers me a lot, but we pray for them and hope that he's OK,” Burkhart said. “Our kids, we were just trying to take away what they did well on offense and try and make them beat us some other way besides what they've been used to all year.”
Richland Springs forced a four-and-out to start the game, as Oakwood gained no yards before turning over the ball on downs. Three plays later, the Coyotes capped a three-play, 30-yard drive with a 5-yard touchdown run by Shannon for a 6-0 lead.
Another Oakwood four-and-out resulted in Richland Springs taking over at the Panther 5, and Griff Rigdon scored on the first play for a 14-0 lead after Wade Appleton's kick.
Oakwood's next possession in a safety after Jeremiah Sargent was dropped for a 13-yard loss in the end zone by Jaydeyn Bryant, and Shannon then returned the ensuing kick 45 yards for a touchdown as Richland Springs led 24-0 at the 4:24 mark of the opening stanza.
The Coyotes later increased the advantage to 30-0 on a 27-yard sprint by Landon Burkhart with 52 seconds left in the first period.
Matthew Rigdon scored on a 25-yard carry just 61 seconds into the second quarter as the Coyotes' lead ballooned to 38-0.
Oakwood tallied its first points on a 60-yard Zach Nickerson run at the 8:01 mark, but Shannon followed with a 45-yard touchdown carry as Richland Springs' advantage stood at 44-6 with 7:48 left in the half.
Griff Rigdon added a 19-yard scoring sprint ahead of a 49-yard scoring toss from Sargent to Cooper Edgemon, which trimmed Richland Springs' lead to 52-12 at 4:35 mark of the second quarter.
The Coyotes then reeled off the final 20 points of the game to end the contest at halftime due to the 45-point mercy rule. Shannon contributed his second 45-yard kick return for a touchdown, then rushed for a 26-yard score, coupled with Deklyn Chandler's two-point kick, prior to Appleton's 2-yard interception return for the final touchdown at the 1:42 mark.