Ringling football set for state title rematch with Cashion

Beau Bearden
The Daily Ardmoreite
Karson Daniel and the Blue Devils battle Cashion at 1 p.m. Saturday in the Class A State Championship at University of Central Oklahoma.

It’s not easy for a program to develop a winning culture. It requires dedicated athletes who put in countless hours of hard work to create a tradition that carries over each season.

That’s not all it takes though.

A certain type of leadership is also needed, and it’s safe to say the Ringling High School football team will turn to those leaders during the Class A State Championship at 1 p.m. Saturday against Cashion at University of Central Oklahoma.

“We have a good coaching staff and they’re really good at what they do,” said Blue Devils senior Brayden Johnson. “They teach us and get us there. We’re very thankful for that.”

However, the coaches won’t take all the credit.

Ringling has turned to talented athletes over the years, including several who helped the Blue Devils win a state title in 2019.

That shouldn’t be overlooked, as the two squads share an important quality.

“Character-wise, the teams are similar,” said Ringling head coach Phil Koons. “They’re really hungry and they’ve all worked hard. We’ve reached the final destination. The make-up is a little bit different, as far as the power running game. We don’t really have those guys, but we have a little bit more speed all the way around with receivers. Our running backs are a little bit smaller, but they’re quicker than they’ve been in the past.”

The different ingredients haven’t mattered though, as the Blue Devils are on the cusp of winning their second state championship in three years.

To accomplish that, they’ll need another win over Cashion after tallying a 20-14 decision in 2019.

It’ll be easier said than done though.

“In the past, Cashion relied on one or two guys, kind of like we have,” Koons said. “Now they have multiple receivers to get the ball to. The quarterback is well-seasoned. He’s a three-year starter and a dual threat. Their line is big and physical, so they do a great job in the rushing attack, as well as the air attack.”

The Wildcats have proven that with a high-powered offense that’s averaging 44.7 points in the postseason. Cashion scored a playoff-high 55 points in a win over Hooker in the second round.

However, don’t count out the Blue Devils as they bulldozed Minco 77-12 in the same round. Ringling is averaging 45 points in the playoffs and that’s impressive considering the offense scored just two touchdowns in a semifinals victory over Morrison.

“The kids know we didn’t play exceptionally well on offense (last week),” Koons said. “We can be a lot better on offense, as far as technically and with effort. You can’t ask any better of the defensive performance than we had. (But) we can get better on offense.”

Only time will tell what happens, but the Blue Devils are ready to take to the field, especially the 11 who won’t play another high school contest.

“Just the fact that we’re seniors, in our minds, motivates us because it’s our last games to play really hard and play well,” said Ringling’s Julius Koons. “It’s all of our last games. It’s this or nothing.”

That mentality could be a difference maker down the stretch, but that’s not the only thing that should help the Blue Devils.

The seniors have gained valuable knowledge over the past few years, and it could be what propels Ringling to another state championship.

“I think (the title game experience) helps the seniors, just because getting here isn’t enough,” Julius Koons said. “We know there’s an even greater joy you can feel by actually winning it. That’s motivating us to do well.”