Ringling football ends year with semifinals loss to Thomas

Beau Bearden
bbearden@gannett.com

THOMAS — There are times during a season when a loss hurts, but it’s safe to say nothing compares to falling short by one point during a playoff game.

The Ringling High School football team experienced that anguish Friday night as a last-minute touchdown was the difference-maker in a 28-27 loss to Thomas-Fay-Custer in the semifinals of the Class A State Playoffs.

“This group has nothing to be ashamed of,” said Blue Devils head coach Phil Koons. “They’re heartbroken because they play so hard. When you put your heart and soul into what you do, you’re going to be brokenhearted at the end if it doesn’t come out with the gold. That’s why these guys hurt so bad.

“They’ve worked so hard in the summer and all year,” Koons continued. “There’s not a team that works harder than us. And there’s not a coaching staff that works harder. I guarantee it. That’s why it hurts.”

That pain could be seen in the locker room, but Ringling didn’t show any emotion on the field as everyone kept their heads held high as they ran off the field. And while it wasn’t the ending the Blue Devils wanted, Koons knows it's part of the game.

“I’ve only been a state champion three times and you really cherish those moments,” he said. “I’ve been head coaching for 20-something years and I’ve experienced this (pain) more than I have the glory. But again, what a great season. And with the COVID and all that stuff, for us to win 10 games. We just came up a little short — lost by one to a great team on the road three hours away.”

The long trip north didn’t appear to matter early on as Ringling jumped out to a 13-0 lead on rushing touchdowns by Kaden Barron and Kash Lyle.

And Lyle didn’t stop there as the first-quarter score was the start of a big night. The senior added a short touchdown in the third and another in the fourth to put Ringling up 27-14 with nine and half minutes remaining in the game.

Unfortunately, that was the last time the Blue Devils found the end zone as Thomas-Fay-Custer scored 14 unanswered points to pick up the win.

It appeared Ringling was in good shape to hold on for a six-point win after the Terriers scored with 4:38 to go, but the Blue Devils couldn’t get a first down and were forced to punt.

Thomas-Fay-Custer did use all of its timeouts before getting the ball back, but drove down the field and scored with under a minute on the clock.

Ringling had a glimmer of hope with one timeout and the ball, but time ran out.

“It’s too bad somebody had to lose that game,” Koons said. “It was too bad for us, but Thomas made plays when they needed to. They have 16 seniors on their roster, so they did what they needed to do. We came up a little short.”

Ringling finishes the 2020 campaign at 10-1 and will have to replace eight seniors. However, their accomplishments won’t be easily forgotten.

“These seniors have given me a lot,” Koons said. “They gave me a gold ring last year, a gold ball and a banner on the wall. We only lost one game this year and one game last year. We’ve won a lot of games and not lost very many.”