For the third year in a row, the Ringling Blue Devils must find a way to defeat the Talihina Golden Tigers in order to keep their dreams alive to capture the Class A state championship.
In 2013 the Blue Devils, defeated Talihina 26-18 at Southeastern Oklahoma State University in the semifinals to advance to the championship game. Ringling fell to Hollis 29-12 the next week for the gold ball. Last year, the Golden Tigers traveled to Ringling and defeated the Blue Devils 28-8 before falling to Cashion in the semifinals.
Things are reversed this season with Ringling making the 184-mile, four-hour bus ride to Talihina for today’s game. And this year’s game could be a survival of the fittest with rain, wind, freezing precipitation and cold temperatures forecast for this weekend.
First-year Blue Devils coach Steve Justus is optimistic about this year’s game against a Golden Tigers squad that traditionally plays tough against Ringling.
“They are a good football team, and we are a good football team,” he said. “They do some things on offense and on defense that we hope to take advantage of. They run a spread offense with a two-back set and not a one-back set like many other teams. They spread out in order to run more effectively. They have thrown the football really well. So we will need to stay with our assignments in order to keep them from moving the football effectively. Last week Thomas ran a similar game play. They just set things up differently.”
Justus believes the weather could be a telling factor in the game’s outcome.
“You can prepare and put a game plan together as well as you can and still not be able to use it because of the weather,” he said. “Field conditions will not allow it. We have about a 100 percent chance of rain on Thursday and a good chance on Friday before the game. It will be wet and cold over there, and we need to be ready.
“In order for our running game to be effective our offensive line must be able to push people off the line. Footing can be an issue after a couple days of heavy rains. I know what our field is like. I just do not know what their field can stand.”
Ringling, ranked No. 4 in Class A brings a perfect 10-0 mark to the game. Talihina, ranked No. 9 in Class A, is 10-1 with its only loss coming to Antlers 34-20 in week two. The Blue Devils won District A-3, and the Golden Tigers are the A-8 district champs.
“We understand it will be a long trip over there, and we are not accustomed to taking many long trips,” Justus said. “But I am not worried about our players being up for this game no matter the trip and no matter the weather. These issues are all a part of playing post-season football. And if you can’t get fired up to play football at this time of the year, your wood is wet.
“I believe our players are keyed up right now and will play hard anywhere they go to compete. This week’s game is a long ways off and the conditions will likely not be ideal. But it’s the same for the other team. We’ll be ready to play. I promise you that.”
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. at Talihina.