On Aug. 31, Davis and Ringling met on the football field in Week 1, unsure of what was ahead of them besides a hard-fought game between two of southern Oklahoma's best high school programs.
Ringling lost that game 44-19. It turned out to be the Blue Devils' only setback of the season. The win was start of a 14-0 run for the Wolves.
Each team enters Saturday with a shot at a state championship.
The Ardmoreite's Spencer White and Erik K. Horne spoke to Davis coach Jody Weber and Ringling coach Tracy Gandy two days before their respective title games in Stillwater. They started together, now they'll finish together.
Spencer White, Sports Writer: Why do you two play each other, when you have so much at stake for your seasons?
Tracy Gandy: What I wanted was for our kids to compete at a high level early in the year. The good thing about Davis is that they show you where you're weak, where you have to address your team and where you better get good. Second of all, we always used to play Davis early in the year, and it was a great ballgame, almost an even split and the games were so competitive. I wanted our kids to have to prepare for the best, and Davis is the best. You have teams that have success occasionally, but Davis has been good for my whole life. They are what we all want to be.
Besides that, I really like their coaches. They could write the book on football etiquette. They win with humility, the right way, and they lose the right way. They're just a class act, and I want our kids to see that. I'm a Wolves fan.
Erik K. Horne, Sports Editor: How exciting is it for both Ringling and Davis to be going to the state championship at the same time? Have you and coach Gandy had a lot of conversation about that?
Jody Weber: We talk once every couple of weeks, typically get a good luck text or send one. We like Ringling because, take the Wishbone out of it and the schemes out of it, we're similar. We're small towns where football has been real important for a long time, both our dads coached before us and kinda approached the game in a similar way. We want to ground and pound, play good defense and be sound, and we're probably vanilla by a lot of people's standards on both sides. Those similarities are there, and we respect Ringling and always have.
White: What were some of the things you learned about your team from playing Davis?
Gandy: To everybody there at the stadium, it was obvious that the special teams needed work. We were trailing 12-6 at one point without giving up a first down on defense because of it. We also found some flaws in our techniques, some issues with our schemes and what we're trying to do.
Page 2 of 3 - The thing about playing the option game, especially one that is run as well as what Davis does, really emphasizes your fundamentals. You have to have a guy defending every possible option. And that changes regardless of what option offense you play, which is why playing a team that runs it as well as Davis helps our kids to understand the importance of their role in run defense.
Horne: You've been the Davis head coach since 2001, and are playing in your fourth state championship in that span. You're 0-3 in those games. Is that something that goes through your mind?
Weber: No. Not even a little bit. We used to joke that one more (championship loss) and I'm the (former Buffalo Bills coach) Marv Levy of 2A football. We think about the individual team. High school is different; all those teams in the professional ranks, they're the same guys. We've got a whole bunch of different kids than in any of those championship games. We've got a few kids, but honestly, only a few of these kids played in 2010. This is a first for a lot of them too, and it's important to them individually and as a team. Really, as coaches, if you're worth your mettle, that's what you're thinking about because it's a kids' game. Our job is to get these kids ready to play.
White: It's been almost a decade since Ringling last won a state title. Is that something the team has on its mind heading into Saturday's game?
Gandy: We embrace our tradition here. We talk about it a lot, and we inherited a great program. What we want to do is leave our own mark, and add to that legacy. We're so proud of the teams that came before us, and the neat thing is that some of these kids' daddies were on those teams. They grow up wanting to be Blue Devils. These kids want to be part of that, and add to it in a positive way. We want to honor their hard work and their tradition. These kids have taken ownership of this team and had an outstanding year. They get to write the chapter now.
Horne: Davis and Ringling started the season against each other, and now you're both here. When you played Ringling, did you see the capabilities for them to be a Class A champion?
Weber: I thought I saw that whenever we caught film on them before we played them. I knew they had all the ingredients. They've got everything you need. Fortunately, if you've got enough talent and you play hard, you always got a chance, and they certainly have both. I told coach (Tracy) Gandy right after it, I said 'I think we both have a chance,' and he agreed. I guess we probably say that every year, because you probably think week 1 you have a chance. But I knew they had a team that was probably a little more talented than the year before. I felt like they were in the mix for sure, and here they are.
Page 3 of 3 - White: How much did that game early against Davis contribute to the success the Blue Devils have seen this season?
Gandy: What it did for us emotionally was that our kids saw they could stay on the field and compete with Davis. We felt like, in the first game of the year, we played outstanding and Davis just played that good. We understood that we had the kids to compete with anybody in Class A, because we had competed against Davis. The kids were sad that they got beat, but the next week was the hardest they worked in practice and they haven't missed a beat since.