It was an interesting morning for Ringling coach Tracy Gandy on the Monday after his Blue Devils played the Marietta Indians earlier this season.

His team was still ranked in the top 10 for Class A, but with what was listed as an 0-2 record. Except that Ringling defeated the Indians 29-8.

It was a simple mistake, common when dealing with scores reported on high school teams, but there was a message to be gotten out of it for Gandy.

Nobody is giving Ringling anything, on or off the field. His boys will have to earn it.

"What we talk to our guys about is controlling the things that are in our control," Gandy said. "Obviously, the polls are out of our control."

Whether the Blue Devils are ranked or not is, of course, irrelevant in the larger picture of high school football, which utilizes a playoff system that is not determined by votes. What remains most important to Gandy is that his team stays focused on the task at hand each week.

"We feel like if we take care of what we need to, we'll get the chance to prove everything on the field," Gandy said. "All we have to do is take care of our business."

That mentality leads into a crucial matchup this week for Ringling (4-1, 2-0 District A-4) who will take on Rush Springs (3-3, 2-1).

Rush Springs, one of the preseason contenders for the A-4 crown, stumbled out of the gates early, dropping three of its first four contests, including a surprising 7-6 defeat at the hands of Empire.

However, Redskins coach Tim Beard has rallied his troops, leading Rush Springs to consecutive district victories over Bray-Doyle and Walters by a combined margin of 87-0.

All of it, according to Gandy, adds up to a contest that could be much more competitive than the records would indicate.

"This game kind of lost some luster to the fans, but not to us," Gandy said. They have a great winning tradition, and (Beard) is one of me and my brother's best friends in this business."

Gandy found parallels between this year's Rush Springs squad and his Ringling team of a year ago, in terms of the youth of the Redskins.

"The problem with youth is inconsistency, and they're a young team, so you can see that in them," Gandy said. "But they're a very talented group of players."

Ringling was in that position just a year ago, relying on a large class of sophomores to take licks and learn lessons during an 8-4 campaign. Now, though, Gandy sees a group of hardened veterans that should prove the difference in this game.

"We're still hanging our hat on our experience, especially our junior class," Gandy said. "We feel like we're playing with a bunch of seniors because they had so much experience playing last year."

Nevertheless, Gandy is taking nothing to chance, and knows that, like his team's reputation, nothing is given. It must be earned on the field.

"They're going to give us their best," Gandy said. "We're expecting a great ball game."

Spencer White