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Richland Springs fends off Strawn for return trip to Class 1A Division II title game

Joey D. Richards
Abilene Reporter-News
Richland Spring's Zane Capps, right, pushes Strawn's Luke Eli out of bounds at the Coyotes' 8-yard line on the final play of the game. Richland Springs beat the Greyhounds 59-56 in the Class 1A Division II semifinal game Friday, Dec. 4, 2020, at Cervetto Field in Dublin.

DUBLIN — Strawn had the ball at the Richland Springs' 19-yard line with time for one last play trailing 59-56.

It was déjå vu all over all over again for Coyotes' coach Jerry Burkhart. He had seen this play out once before, when Strawn scored in the final seconds to beat his Richland Springs team 56-54 in the state semifinals.

Here they were again in the state semifinals. The game coming down to one last play.

“Hey, 2003, it’ll haunt me for a long time," Burkhart said. "We lost in the last two seconds. I know that was something going through my mind. I told our kids, ‘If you want this, you’ve got to fight.’ And they did. I’m proud of them.”

Richland Springs' Zane Capps knocked Luke Eli out of bounds 8 yards shy of the end zone to preserve a 59-56 victory in the Class 1A Division II semifinal game Friday at Cervetto Field.

The defending state champion Coyotes (12-0) will play Balmorhea at 11 a.m. Dec. 16 in the title game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. Balmorhea beat Groom 44-38 on Friday.

Richland Springs will be seeking its 10th state title – and that's after losing all but three players from last year's squad.

“We’re blessed," Burkhart said. "I’m going to enjoy this victory right now. I want to give all the glory to God. My wife, she supports me, and these kids – their work ethic is unbelievable. Nobody believed we’d get here. I mean nobody.

"All year long (I heard), ‘Richland’s down. Richland’s down.’ But one thing about Richland and Strawn, Texas, is we keep on fighting.”

Richland Springs' Landon Burkhart looks for running room against the Strawn defense. The Coyotes beat Strawn 59-56 in the Class 1A Division II state semifinal game Friday, Dec. 4, 2020, in Dublin.

You would expect nothing less than a knock-down, drag-out fight between two programs with a combined 13 state titles. And that’s the kind of show Richland Springs and Strawn put Friday night.

Both school have a mutual respect for the other, and even Eli – a senior playing his final game for the Greyhounds – had kind words for his team and Richland Springs, despite a heartbreaking ending.

“I just want to thank the coaches at Strawn and the players," Eli said. "We kept fighting day in and day out. We wouldn’t have made it this far without the support of our family and the coaches and everyone in the community.

"Congratulations to Richland on an outstanding season. Good luck to them at state. We gave it all we could. I know we fell short, but we kept on fighting.”

Capps had a memorable night for the Coyotes.

Not only did he make the last play on defense, but he ran for three TDs and returned a fumble 48 yards for another to spark Richland Springs. He scored twice in the final quarter, including a 23-yard run that proved to be the game-winner with 2:04 left.

Landon Burkhart also had TD runs of 45, 1 and 41 yards for the Coyotes and finished with 188 yards on 22 carries. He also completed 9 of 17 passes for 88 yards.

Strawn's Lorenzo Garcia stretches for a 3-yard TD run with 1:44 left in the third quarter. The Coyotes beat Strawn 59-56 in the Class 1A Division II state semifinal game Friday, Dec. 4, 2020, in Dublin.

Eli countered with a game-high 250 yards and four TD runs on 23 carries for Strawn (11-3), including scores of a 50 and 60 yards. His fifth TD of the night, a 17-yard pass from Kadin Parsons, made it a 59-56 game with 1:09 to play. He finished with 42 yards on three catches.

Eli also came up with an interception on a fourth-and-10 play from the Strawn 38, giving the Greyhounds the ball with at their own 33 with 45 seconds left. Strawn needed five plays to get down to the Coyotes 19, where they got one last play, and Eli was stopped after gaining 11 yards on a pass from Parsons. 

“Everybody’s holding their breath, I promise you," Burkhart said about that last play. "Fortunately, we stayed with the play. We got a little prevent defense, and we thought, ‘Heck, if we get to him (Parsons), get a little pressure, maybe he’ll make a mistake and we’ll pick one off.’

"I’m just proud of our kids. Proud to come out with a win.”

Parsons completed 10 of 20 passes for 141 yards and two TDs, including a 17-yarder to Eli to make it a three-point game (59-56) with 1:09 left in the game. Richland Springs blocked the PAT, but Eli later came up with the pick to give the Greyhounds one last shot.

Richland Springs' Zane Capps, right, runs 16 yards for a TD with 2:26 left in the third quarter. The Coyotes beat Strawn 59-56 in the Class 1A Division II state semifinal game Friday, Dec. 4, 2020, in Dublin.

Both teams scored eight TDs each. The difference in the game came down to PATs. Chase Gossett kicked five PATs for Richland Springs, which also threw for one – good for 11 points total.

Strawn missed three PAT kicks and had another blocked, and that was the difference for the Greyhounds, who were seeking their sixth state title game appearance and first since winning consecutive state titles the 2017-18 seasons. They won their first state title in 2003, after that last-second victory over the Coyotes.

Richland Springs converted three Strawn turnovers into the 23 points, while the Greyhounds cashed one of three turnovers into eight points.

Richland Springs' Landon Burkhart (22) intercepts a pass intended for Strawn's Luke Eli. Burkhart late in the first half. The Coyotes beat Strawn 59-56 in the Class 1A Division II state semifinal game Friday, Dec. 4, 2020, in Dublin.

CLASS 1A DIV. II STATE SEMIFINALS

Richland Springs 59, Strawn 56

Strawn … 14 … 6 … 14 … 22 – 56

Richland Springs … 21 … 16 … 8 … 14 – 59

FIRST QUARTER

RICH – Zane Capps 7 run (Kaston Lusty pass from Capps), 8:20

STR – Luke Eli 7 run (kick failed), 6:12

RICH – Landon Burkhart 45 run (Chase Gossett kick), 5:05

STR – Eli 50 run (Lorenzo Garcia kick), 4:48

RICH – Gossett 28 pass from Jadeyn Bryant (kick failed), 3:04

SECOND QUARTER

RICH – Burkhart 1 run (Gossett kick), 7:57

STR – Eli 1 run (kick failed), 4:40

RICH – Burkhart 41 run (Gossett kick), 00:34

THIRD QUARTER

STR – Eli 60 run (kick failed), 5:52

RICH – Capps 16 run (Gossett kick), 2:26

STR – Garcia 3 run (Garcia kick), 1:44

FOURTH QUARTER

RICH – Capps 48 fumble return (Gossett kick), 7:54

STR – Garcia 3 run (Garcia kick), 6:31

STR – Kyler Tunnell 18 pass from Kadin Parsons (Garcia kick), 3:04

RICH – Capps 23 run (kick failed), 2:04

STR – Eli 17 pass from Parsons (kick blocked), 1:09

……………… STR … RICH

First downs … 17 … 14

Rushes-Yards … 35-308 … 34-255

Passing … 174 … 133

Comp-Att-Int … 11-21-1 … 11-20-1

Punts … 0 … 0

Fumbles-Lost … 4-3 … 3-2

Penalties-Yards … 2-30 … 6-40

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING: Strawn, Luke Eli 23-250, Lorenzo Garcia 6-40, Kadin Parsons 3-10, Jesse Corona 2-8, Team 1-0; Richland Springs, Landon Burkhart 22-188, Zane Capps 8-54, Jadeyn Bryant 3-7, Nick Nilson 1-6.

PASSING: Strawn, Parsons 10-20-1—141 Garcia 1-2-0--33; Richland Springs, Burkhart 9-17-1—88, Bryant 2-3-0—45.

RECEIVING: Strawn, Jade Barrett 4-77, Eli 3-42, Corona 2-10, Garcia 1-27, Kyler Tunnell 1-18; Richland Springs, Chase Gossett 5-81, Bryant 3-22, Jeremiah Beam 2-13, Capps 1-17.

RECORDS: Strawn 11-3; Richland Springs 12-0.

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