RINGLING — On one side, you had a team coming off the apex of Oklahoma high school football. On the other side, a squad familiar with the lowest of lows.
But that was 2012. Friday was a fresh start.
Ringling and Tishomingo were just two teams playing out their final scrimmage of the preseason. Ringling, the defending Class A state champions, looked the part at times, wearing on Tishomingo's thinner roster with size, speed and depth in the running game.
Tishomingo, 0-10 last season, didn't shy away from the Blue Devils, however. The Indians' offense and defense showed flashes of what it can bring to the District 2A-4 race. The highlight for Tish was its final offensive drive, where the Indians finished with a defense-splitting 40-yard touchdown run that fired up a team that had little to cheer about a season ago.
That excitement carried over into the postgame huddle. First-year coach Nick Claborn was about to interrupt the uproar, but thought better.
Let the excitement continue.
"I think our effort was really good; I think our intensity was really good," Claborn said. "I felt good about the scrimmage, but we've got to continue to get better."
With Tishomingo's defense amped up from the first snap, Ringling's No. 1 offense started slowly. But once the Blue Devils got deeper into their 12-play offensive series, the power and stamina became evident.
Braidon Willis was the first to break a long run for Ringling, weaving his way for about a 50-yard gain on the eighth play of that series. The Blue Devils also put the pressure on Tishomingo defensively, with the Indians fumbling three times and losing two.
"I tell my kids 'it's not just about one play," Claborn said. "They're gonna have to get to where they're better every single play. It's got to be to where we focus on it down-by-down-by-down."
Ringling coach Tracy Gandy was pleased that his players weren't pleased with their performance. He did, however, think the Blue Devils were better than they were in their first scrimmage against Lone Grove last week.
"They're not happy because they're still messing up," Gandy said. "They realize that in order for us to be great, the individuals have to be great, and they know they're not yet. They'll use it as a motivation to improve themselves."
Ringling's second team was efficient against a thinner Tishomingo squad. Quarterback Lucas Lester linked up with Halston Cox for a 50-yard touchdown pass, and Coltin Eubanks scored on a short-yardage run.
Later in the scrimmage, with the first-team back on the field, Flint Wilson broke a long TD run on Ringling's final play.
Tishomingo's defense had its moments, however, as the Indians limited Ringling's passing offense and forced quarterback Taner Richardson on several occasions. On one drive, Richardson was driven out on the Tishomingo sideline and tweaked his ankle.
There were positives with the Indians' quarterback play. Starter Devante Lawson and No. 2 QB Zac Floyd each had bright spots, particularly Lawson on his deception in the read option game and Floyd on his downfield passing.
Tishomingo just missed on a touchdown in the second team offense's first drive, as a receiver dropped Floyd's deep pass on the final play. The Indians did get on the board once later, as Jason Dollar surged up the middle untouched for a long TD on Tish's last offensive possession.
When asked to rate its performance, Claborn gave his team about a 6 or a 7. Senior offensive/defensive lineman Collin Sullivan gave the performance an 8.
"We began to get more physical and get more after people," Sullivan said. "Our offensive line has been trying to get blocks at one level and work up.
"I'd rather scrimmage a team that's good, knows what it's doing and can play a little bit of football. I'd rather start off strong and work against hard teams."
Follow Horne on Twitter: @ekhorneARD