RINGLING — Fans at Rick Gandy Field witnessed a classic matchup between two of southern Oklahoma's premier football programs Friday night.
Most games of this magnitude ultimately center on two or three plays that change the outcome. And this time it was Class 2A No. 1 Davis that took advantage of key Ringling mistakes for a 34-28 victory.
Ringling, ranked No. 1 in Class A, was sharp in the opening possession. They took the opening kickoff and moved 67 yards in 13 plays to take a 6-0 lead when quarterback Taner Richardson scored on a 2-yard run around right end.
Davis was equally adept in its initial possession. An eight-play, 55-yard march culminated with quarterback Blake Summers hitting Drew Melton with a 24-yard scoring toss to put the Wolves up 7-6.
Hard-hitting defense characterized second-quarter play. And with less than a minute left before intermission, the Blue Devils appeared in position to quietly run out the clock and take a one-point deficit to the locker room. But Ringling opted to go for a game-changer, and it backfired.
A pass by Richardson was picked by Davis' Paxton Killblane and returned 35 yards for a touchdown and a 14-6 Davis lead.
"We had this situation come up before, and we wanted to try something," Ringling coach Tracy Gandy said. "Although it didn't work, it will be a great teaching tool for Taner. I would rather him make the mistake now than later in the year. He won't make that mistake again, because he will know to throw it away if no one is in the clear."
Offense started to dominate following the break with both squads scoring on three of their five second-half possessions.
Summers scored on a 40-yard run on Davis' first try following intermission for a 20-6 lead. On their first second-half possession, the Blue Devils methodically marched 64 yards and pulled to within a touchdown when Flint Wilson ran it in from a yard out.
"You know when you go up against a football team that is coached by a Gandy you will have your hands full," Davis coach Jody Weber said. "You can't get away with any mistakes. This was a good hard-fought win for our team, because Ringling has all the weapons you need. They have an excellent quarterback, good running backs and a solid offensive and defensive line.
"We were up against one of the best football programs in Oklahoma, and I am proud of the way we met the challenge. If you like real hard-nosed football, this was the place to be tonight."
On the first play of the fourth, Wolves fullback Braden Ruth bulled through the Ringling line and ran almost untouched 39 yards for a score. And with 3:47 left, Wilson scored again for Ringling, this time on a 5-yard run up the middle.
The Blue Devils could not get the stop they needed down the stretch. Hunter Karlik broke free and sped 40 yards for a touchdown to give Davis a 34-21 lead with 2:24 remaining.
Ringling continued to march on the Wolves' defense. The Blue Devils moved 57 yards on seven plays and pulled to within six when Wilson scored his third touchdown, this one on a 21-yard sweep around right end with 36 seconds left.
When the all-important onside kick was recovered by the Wolves, this heavyweight fight came to an end. And future scheduling does not have these two teams matched up for several years.
"Davis is such a hard team to defend against and to run an offense against because of their schemes," Gandy said. "They are so well coached, and they see breakdowns that you have and make you pay. We knew we would need some breaks to win, but it didn't happen.
"I was so very proud of our team and the way they competed. I believe from what I saw in this game, we will have an outstanding year."
Ruth had 13 carries for 103 yards and one touchdown for the Wolves. Summers had 90 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown and was 3 of 5 passing for 53 yards and one touchdown.
Richardson rushed for 76 yards on 17 carries and a touchdown for the Blue Devils. Wilson had three rushing touchdowns and had 36 yards on 10 carries. Slade Stewart had 10 carries for 72 yards.