STILLWATER — Around the end of August, Ringling coach Tracy Gandy said he felt like he had a team worthy of a state championship.
On Saturday in Stillwater, his team rewarded a coach's faith, blasting previously unbeaten Wynnewood 39-12 to claim the 2012 Class A state title.
"It's so rewarding to see our kids have this success," Gandy said. "I've been down here, I've experienced this.
"I wanted our kids to experience it, and they went out and did it."
It is the fourth golden ball in the school's storied history, and the first for the Blue Devils (13-1) since 2003.
"I've dreamed about it since I can't know when," senior Jackson Dillon said. "To actually have achieved it, this is unbelievable."
Dillon, who had become an offensive juggernaut over Ringling's past three games as a tailback, once again had a tremendous afternoon running the football, picking up 130 yards and two touchdowns.
But the biggest plays of the game came from junior quarterback Taner Richardson.
With both teams struggling to run the ball early, Gandy put the gameplan in Richardson's hands, letting the quarterback throw early and often. Richardson earned his coach's trust, completing 11-of-15 passes for 151 yards and two first-half touchdowns, to go along with 41 yards and a rushing touchdown.
"I'd call him one of the best that's ever played at this school," Dillon said. "He's a tremendous quarterback."
With the teams still deadlocked in a scoreless tie after the first quarter, it was Richardson who threw a perfect 14-yard scoring strike to Landon Lyle that gave Ringling an early 7-0 lead.
The junior struck again minutes later, connecting with Slade Stewart on a 9-yard score that extended Ringling's lead to 13-0.
When the Blue Devils needed a third-down conversion, Richardson was almost always the one to get it.
"Taner is a great quarterback, but we haven't used him a whole lot," Gandy said. "I didn't want him to get banged up earlier in the season, but now we finally let him go."
After taking a 13-6 lead into halftime, Ringling came out for the second half with every intention of finally getting its ground game going, which it did to deadly efficiency.
The Blue Devils bullied Wynnewood up front for most of the second half, churning out yardage and first downs while controlling the pace of play, concluding when Dillon hit pay dirt on a 3-yard run with 7:14 left in the third.
Meanwhile, the Ringling defense put together its finest performance of the season, making a formidable Savages offense look rather pedestrian for most of the game.
Wynnewood quarterback Jace Brown, who had thrown just two interceptions all year, was picked off three times by the Blue Devils. Running back Trey Knowles, who came into Saturday's game just shy of 2,000 yards on the year, gained a meager 25 yards on nine carries.
Page 2 of 2 - "They were suffocating," Gandy said. "It was an amazing performance by our defense."
But the play of the game, perhaps, came with 5:14 left in the fourth quarter. Facing a 4th-and-2 from its own 33, Gandy was in favor of punting and playing field position with his 27-12 lead.
His players had other ideas.
"We told him to let us go for it," Richardson said. "We felt like we could get it."
The team went into its full house package and handed the ball off to Dillon, who streaked past the left guard, made one cut and raced down the sideline for a 67-yard touchdown that tore the hearts out of the Savages and ended any slim hopes for a comeback.
"What can you say about that guy," Gandy said of Dillon. "No moment is too big for him."
Neither, it seems, is there a moment too big for Gandy or the Blue Devils, who seemed dead to rights just three weeks ago, trailing Wayne by 19, on the road, with under 4 minutes left in the third quarter.
Since that moment, Ringling has outscored opponents 100-33 and earned three consecutive victories over teams who entered their games against Ringling with a combined record of 36-1.
But more important is that golden football, which will now join the three others that adorn the trophy case of Ringling High School.
"I couldn't be more proud of these boys," Gandy said. "They earned this, and that's what makes me happier than anything."