ARLINGTON, TX — Looking at just the first half stats, you would have thought the 1A Division I State Championship game between 12-0 Richland Springs and 11-3 Motley County was a lot closer than it was.
Richland Springs outgained the Matadors by only 14 yards, 243 to 229, and had only three more first downs. The time of possession was the only lopsided number, and it favored Motley County. They had the ball for 15 of the 20 possible minutes.
Once you looked at the scoreboard, though, it was clear the eight time state champions were utterly dominating.
Richland Springs ran 21 plays in the first half and scored on five of them. They jumped out to a 24-0 lead early in the second quarter, and it only took that long because even Motley County's three and outs took a while.
Three different plays scored the Coyotes first three touchdowns. Landon Burkhart, Head Coach Jerry Burkhart's son, punched it in from two yards out with 6:38 in the first. Junior Matthew Rigdon had a five yarder with 38 seconds left in the first, and then Lane Shannon added to the lead with a 17 yard scamper with 7:35 to play in the second quarter.
Burkhart ended the half with 140 yards and two touchdowns on just 8 carries. He averaged 17.5 yards per carry, while the whole Coyote offense averaged 11.5 per snap.
Defensively, Richland Springs would not let sophomore quarterback Demetric Sims think in the pocket. Whether it was Rigdon, Burkhart, Wade Appleton, or Jadeyn Bryant, someone was getting in the backfield. Sims finished the game 3 for 13 with 96 yards.
Their first touchdown came 50 seconds after Richland Springs' third. Star running back Jake Richards took a handoff 62 yards to paydirt to make it a two possession game. The run not only cut the lead, but it also put Richards over 4,000 rushing yards for the season.
The confidence they gained from that score was shortlived, and Richland Springs tacked on two more scores before the half. Burkhart and Shannon each got their second of the day. Burkhart's 36 yarder capped a 4 play, 44 yard drive. Shannon ran it in from 7 yards following a 3 play, 49 yard, and 30 second long drive with 30 seconds left in the second quarter.
The halftime score was 40-8, and Richland Springs was just 13 points away from ending the game due to the mercy rule.
It took them 4 minutes and 29 seconds to do so.
Motley County tried an onside kick, but the ball rolled out of bounds before going 10 yards, and Richland Springs started in great field position at the MC 34. Shannon moved them to the 14, Burkhart moved them to the 1, and then Matthew Rigdon punched it in.
Motley County delayed the inevitable by scoring a touchdown on the next possession. Sims finally had some time in the pocket, and he bounced around before lofting it up to his big receiver in the end zone. Kade Wampler waited for the ball towards the back of the end zone, jumped up, caught it, and tapped one toe in bounds before falling out.
On Richland Springs' next offensive play, Matt Rigdon took a run down the left sideline 60 yards for his third touchdown.
Motley County went three and out, and Shannon took that drive's first play 31 yards to end the game.
The Championship is Richland Springs' 9th in school history. All of them have come since 2004, and all of them have come with Jerry Burkhart at the helm.
Senior Wade Appleton was named the Defensive Player of the Game. He finished with 9 tackles (4 assists) and 1.5 tackles for loss.
Landon Burkhart was named the Offensive Player of the Game. He produced 156 yards and 2 touchdowns on 9 rushes.