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The Daily Ardmoreite
  • Wynnewood stands as Ringling's biggest test

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  • Ringling is certainly a team that has become used to challenges.
    Two weeks ago, the club pieced together a magnificent second half rally to knock off defending champ Wayne. Last week, it asserted a dominant running game by outmuscling previously unbeaten Texhoma in a Class A semifinal in Enid.
    All to face what will be its biggest challenge of the season: a Wynnewood team that won't be impressed by any of those accomplishments.
    Like the Blue Devils, Brad O'Steen's squad has been through the competitive ringer in 2012. The Savages (13-0) have toppled four top 10 squads en route to Saturday's showdown in Stillwater.
    "We've been battle-tested," O'Steen said. "That stage won't be too big for them."
    Indeed, Wynnewood is cut from much of the same cloth as this Ringling squad. Like the Blue Devils (12-1), the Savages are a physical group on both sides of the line of scrimmage and a program rooted in history and success.
    And like Ringling, the team has not brought home hardware in some time; Wynnewood last won a state title in 1992, the program's sixth, while Ringling will look to bring home its fourth gold ball and first since 2003.
    "It's really uncanny that these two teams are playing, because there are a lot of similarities between the two of them," Lone Grove coach Kenny Ridley said.
    Ridley is one of the few area coaches that can claim a strong familiarity with both squads. The Longhorns scrimmaged against Ringling this past year, as is customary, and played a home-and-home series against Wynnewood in the 2010-11 seasons.
    When asked about what stuck out to him about the Savages this season, Ridley made note of the team's offensive balance.
    "This year, more so than last year, they've become more versatile offensively," Ridley said. "They were more of a power team than what they've shown this year."
    Much of that can be credited to Wynnewood's dynamic senior duo in quarterback Jace Brown and running back Trey Knowles.
    Brown, a four year starter, has been a remarkably efficient field general for the Savages, completing 62 percent of his passes for 24 touchdowns and just two interceptions.
    When the team feels like hitting the ground running, it simply tosses it to Knowles, who will likely pass 2,000 yards rushing on the season sometime in the first half of Saturday's game.
    The two are part of an interesting mix of players at Wynnewood: a solid group of senior leaders, mixed in with a sophomore class that O'Steen has been very impressed by this season.
    "I think we have a well-rounded group of young men," O'Steen said. "These sophomores have seen a lot of success, but they also can rely on our seniors to show them the way at times."
    Page 2 of 2 - One group that O'Steen said he expects to rely heavily on Saturday is his very experienced and solid offensive line, which will need to hold its own against a Ringling defense filled with stingy playmakers.
    "Any great football game is going to be about winning the war up front, and I think we're both good up there," O'Steen said. "They're a very, very well-coached and disciplined football team, and it shows in how they play the game defensively."
    Ridley, however, expects Ringling to possess the X-factor of the game in jumbo athlete Jackson Dillon, who has been variously used throughout the postseason at running back, tight end, wideout, linebacker and defensive end.
    "I think that Dillon is the super matchup nightmare," Ridley said. "He can pose problems in the backfield, split out, tight end or anywhere, he's going to pose problems.
    O'Steen pointed to Ringling quarterback Taner Richardson as a player that can be a big difference maker for the Blue Devils. Wynnewood thrives on creating bad days for quarterbacks, having picked off 18 passes to go along with 27 sacks. If Richardson is able to run and throw his way to success, it will be a problem for the Savages.
    "Taner does a great job of running their offense and gets the ball where it needs to be, and he can," O'Steen said.
    As for what will actually happen, Ridley has no idea.
    But he can't wait to find out.
    "They're both just so physical," Ridley said. "It's going to be a great game."
    Spencer White
    221-6527
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