HICO – The reigning Class A Division II state champion Richland Springs Coyotes are now one victory away from playing for their 10th state title, thanks to Friday night’s 48-34 triumph over the Calvert Trojans in the Region IV championship game.
Richland Springs (11-0), which notched its ninth victory over Calvert (9-3) in 12 postseason meetings, will advance to face Region III champion Strawn (11-2) – a 54-6 winner over Fannindel (11-1) – next weekend for the right to move on to AT&T Stadium in Arlington for the Dec. 16 state championship game.
Having trailed early in each of its previous two playoff games, Richland Springs dominated from the start against Calvert. The Coyotes led 24-0 at the end of the first quarter and tallied the first 32 points overall en route to a 40-14 halftime lead.
Richland Springs scored just once in the second half, but the fast start allowed the Coyotes to stave off a Calvert rally that featured the final three touchdowns of the contest.
The total yardage between the two teams was nearly even, with Richland Springs amassing 315 yards and Calvert gaining 312. But the Coyote defense created five takeaways – three fumbles and two interceptions – while the Richland Springs offense played a turnover-free contest.
Landon Burkhart led the Coyotes with 97 rushing yards and a touchdown while passing for 72 yards; Zane Capps chipped in 62 yards on the ground and two touchdowns along with two catches for 44 yards with a trip to the end zone; Jadeyn Bryant tacked on 42 rushing yards and a touchdown, 42 passing yards, and three grabs for 34 yards; Chase Gossett caught three passes totaling 32 yards; and Nick Nilson hauled in a 4-yard scoring reception.
Defensively for Richland Springs, Bryant netted 8.5 tackles with 2 for loss, Gossett chipped in 5.5 tackles, and Capps recorded 3.5 tackles. Nilson and T.J. Grant intercepted passes while Bryant, Gossett and Burkhart pounced on fumbles.
The Coyotes took the opening drive 43 yards in 10 plays as Burkhart tossed a 4-yard touchdown to Nilson and Gossett added the two-point kick for a 8-0 Coyote lead.
After Calvert went three-and-out on its first drive thanks to a Bryant sack on third-and-17, Richland Springs needed just three snaps to move 41 yards as Bryant scored on a 6-yard carry for a 16-0 lead with 3:48 left in the first quarter.
Three plays into the next drive, Calvert lost a fumble that Bryant recovered, which set up a 24-yard Capps touchdown carry for a 24-0 advantage with 2:44 left in the opening stanza.
Calvert’s very next play was a pass picked off by Grant, which led to a 15-yard Burkhart scoring sprint just 67 seconds into the second period, boosting the Coyote cushion to 32-0.
Richland Springs scored once more before the half ended as a 19-yard sprint from Capps made the score 40-8 with just under six minutes to go in the second quarter.
The Coyotes’ only points of the second half came on their second snap of the third period, a 26-yard touchdown pass from Burkhart to Capps with a two-point kick by Gossett.
Leading 48-14, the Coyotes witnessed their lead dwindle to 14 points thanks to three late Calvert touchdowns, but the Trojans also turned over the ball twice during their charge as well.