NOBLE — Throughout the season, the Ringling Blue Devils have made it known they aren't afraid to run the ball, and run it often.
NOBLE — Throughout the season, the Ringling Blue Devils have made it known they aren’t afraid to run the ball, and run it often. Good thing they didn’t change their formula Friday night. The Blue Devils used a potent running attack to wear down No. 2 Rejoice Christian, as No. 6 Ringling punched its ticket to the Class A state finals with a 28-19 victory over the Eagles in the state semifinals at Noble High School. Ringling will now try its hand at knocking off No. 1 Cashion in the state finals on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Wantland Stadium on the campus of the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond. “The tradition of this program started with the Gandy family and the success they had,” Ringling coach Phil Koons said. “I’m very honored to be apart of this program, and to have been given this opportunity. When we lost our first game of the season it opened our eyes, and ever since then we’ve played with intensity and so much heart. This is a fun bunch of kids to coach and I’m super proud of them.” “We knew coming in that they (Rejoice Christian) had a great quarterback and a great running attack,” Koons added. “Our focus was to shut down the run game. We put ourselves in some situations, and the kids just executed out there for us. Our offensive line did a great job blocking tonight and creating space for our guys. Hats off to them for playing a top notch game tonight.” It took almost all of the first quarter for the initial points to be scored, but it was the Eagles striking first thanks to Nate Anderson finding the end zone from two yards out to make it 7-0 with 2:11 left in the opening frame. But less than six minutes into the second quarter, the Blue Devils were even thanks to Ethan Johnson scoring the first of his four touchdowns, this one coming from three yards out, as Logan Duhon added the extra point to make it 7-7. With less than two minutes to go before halftime, Johnson scampered in from 13 yards out to make it 13-7, with Duhon making it 14-7 after the extra point. The deficit was only the third time all season the Eagles had trailed in a game. Rejoice Christian though would strike back after a long sustained drive in the third quarter, with Riley Walker finding Caden Ward for a three yard touchdown to make it 14-13. On the ensuing extra point, Johnson bulldozed his way untouched up the middle and leaped to get the block, keeping the Blue Devils in front by one. Then in the fourth quarter at the 8:22 mark, Johnson extended the lead as he got his third score of the night, another touchdown from three yards out to make it 21-13 after the Duhon extra point. But the Eagles came back as Anderson scored on a four yard run to make it 21-19. Rejoice Christian would then go for two and the tie, as the Eagles went for a double reverse trick play. But the plan was foiled as Anderson was brought down before he tossed a forward pass into the end zone. After a brief conference by the officials, it was ruled the conversion was no good, setting off boos from the Eagles fans. Ringling then had to recover an onside kick, and managed to seal the game thanks to Johnson breaking free for a 15-yard touchdown to make it 27-19. But things nearly took a turn for the dramatic on the extra point as the Blue Devils were given a five yard penalty. The extra distance though was nothing for Duhon as he calmly stepped up and chipped the ball through the uprights, giving the Blue Devils a nine point lead. Rejoice Christian tried to mount a comeback late on, but an interception from Drake Stapleton ended any offensive threat by the Eagles. Johnson finished the game with 11 carries for 88 yards and four touchdowns, while Kash Lyle was the leading rusher with 25 carries for 234 yards. River Miller totaled two carries for 12 yards while Sam Vanbuskirk had seven carries for 29 yards. “I feel great, and I owe everything to my teammates,” Johnson said. “We just came out ready to go and we executed like we needed to. We’ve worked so hard for this moment and we love each other like family.” Rejoice Christian ends its season at 13-1 for the second straight year, as quarterback Riley Walker suffered just his fourth loss as the Eagles starting quarterback, finishing his career at 36-4 overall. Ringling improves to 12-1 on the season with the victory.