25 Days of Champions -- 2007 Richland Springs


Six-man expert

After winning their second state championship in 2006, Richland Springs was the obvious favorite to make it back to back tiles and win their third in four years. Why you might ask? Simple; Tyler Ethridge, the star of the six-man world for his four years as a Coyote, was back for his senior season in 2007 and so were 10 of their 12 starters.

Ethridge was the 2006 Texas Six-Man Coaches’ Association Player of the Year and returning starter Shelby Smith was the returning Defensive Player of the Year. Mark Williams was a returning 1st team all-state wide receiver and Patrick Couch a returning 1st team all-state defensive lineman. The Coyotes were not just a one man show!

Richland Springs opened their season with a little challenge from Happy, who managed to score 32 points, but the Coyotes still won via the mercy rule, outscoring the Cowboys, 78-32. Two weeks later, they defeated the DII defending champion, Northside Indians, 62-16, in a game which Tyler Ethridge set the national high school touchdown pass record. They then beat El Paso Faith 72-0, Veribest 84-0 and Granbury Happy Hill 82-6 in games that all ended at halftime! They would finish the regular season 9-0.

In bi-district the Coyotes beat Lometa, 54-6 and in the second round, however, May was able to score 43 points but Richland Springs still won by the mercy rule, winning by 50, 93-43. Calvert was little trouble in the quarterfinals as Richland Springs won, 76-26, and the same went for Trinidad in the semifinals, whom they beat 70-22.

It needs to be said that all four of their playoff opponents were great teams and the Coyotes just completely dominated them. Going into the state game they had won every single game by the 45-point mercy rule.

For the state championship game, the Coyotes would once again face off with Rule, whom they had beaten 78-58 in the 2006 DI state title game.

Coach Mike Reed’s squad went through their regular season schedule with ease as well, winning their first game of the season over a visiting team from Idalia, Colorado, 54-8, and then defeated a tough Valley team, 60-23, the next week.

Their first real challenge would come in their first playoff game against Happy, in the second round of the playoffs, Rule had a first round bye, which they won 96-72. They defeated Valley again, 59-14, this time in the quarterfinals and a salty Rankin team, 86-60, in a hard-fought semifinal game.

C.J. Saucedo, J.T. Spitzer and Stephen Pace were all returning players who received all-state honors in 2006 and were pumped up and seeking revenge entering the 2007 state game against Richland Springs.

State Championship Game – Saturday Dec. 15th 7:30pm in San Angelo Stadium, San Angelo
After the opening kickoff went out of bounds, Richland Springs started the game at their own 30. Out of a spread formation, Tyler Ethridge sprinted, appearing to be taking off on a run, only to throw the ball deep down field to a wide-open Haustin Burkhart for a 50-yard touchdown. The PAT was blocked and Richland Springs was up 6-0, with just 8 seconds having rolled off the clock.

The quick score would be a harbinger of things to come.

On their first possession, Rule was forced to punt and the Coyotes took over at their own 28. A fumble that was recovered by Ethridge moved them back to the 19. Dropped passes hurt the Coyotes, and they elected to go for it on fourth-and-short, but an incompletion turned the ball over back over and Rule was in business at the Coyote 39.

A pass interference on the first play gave Rule a first-and-goal at the Richland Springs seven. On the next play, Stephen Pace ran it in for the score. Their PAT was also blocked and the game was tied at 6, with 6:05 left in the first quarter.

Richland Springs began their drive at their own 20 and on the first play, Ethridge took the pitch in the spread set, ran forward, juked two defenders and hurdled another one, before stepping out of bounds at the Bobcat 25. A nice pass and catch, two plays later, moved the ball down to the four-yard line and gave the Coyotes another first down. Then out of the old school I-formation, Abraham Ahumada took the handoff on a fullback dive, was hit by two defenders simultaneously, bounced off and found his way into the end zone for another Coyote touchdown. Richie Daniels’ PAT kick this time was good and Richland Springs led 14-6, in the first quarter.

With a few great catches by Rule receivers, the Bobcats moved the ball downfield. Another pass interference in the end zone gave them a first-and-goal at the 12-yard line. On the next play, Kyle Simpson made an amazing catch in the end zone, as he turned back to the ball that was slightly under thrown by Pace, was pushed by a Coyote defender, and was still able to reach around him and make the catch for the score. The pass interference penalty was declined and Rule tied the game up again with the PAT kick from Pace splitting the uprights. It was now 14-14 with 1:28 left in the first.

The ensuing kickoff was fielded at the goal line by Tyler Ethridge, who returned it the length of the field, splitting defenders and going untouched down the sideline for the touchdown. The PAT was good and just like that Richland Springs was back on top, 22-14.

The first quarter would come to an end soon after, with Rule driving, again aided by a few Richland Springs penalties, and the ball at their own 32, facing a second-and-long.

Rule would gain some yards on short plays and faced a fourth-and-two at their own 39. But on fourth, C.J. Saucedo was tackled for a loss, turning the ball over to the Coyotes at the Rule 38.

Utilizing the run, out of a tight formation, Richland Springs would score just three plays later on a seven-yard run by Ahumada. With the added PAT, they now led 30-14, with 7:39 left in the second.

It didn’t take Rule long to answer, as James Wolfe returned the kickoff 73-yards for a touchdown and Pace’s kick was good, making the score 30-22 just 13 seconds later.

Ethridge brought the ball out to near midfield on the return and the Coyotes and he would cap off a five-play drive with a 13-yard touchdown run. The PAT was good and the score was now 38-22, halfway through the second quarter.

A shanked kick gave Rule the ball at their own 30, and on their first play, Saucedo took the ball on an option out of the J-Bird and, after looking things over, decided to keep it, racing 47 yards down the sideline before being pushed out at the three. Their next two plays resulted in negative yards but on third down, Jay Spitzer threw to a wide-open Simpson for a six-yard touchdown reception. After the successful PAT, the score was now 38-30, with 3:29 left in the second quarter.

After the kickoff, Richland Springs took over at their own 30. Out of a spread formation, Ethridge shook a defender and appeared to be going to run the ball, only to pass to Mark Williams. Williams leaped over a defender to make the catch at the Rule 10, spun out of another tackle, all the while staying in bounds, then stiff-arming the same defender and scoring. And just 15 seconds later, the score was 44-30.

The Bobcats moved the ball through the air on their next possession thanks to Saucedo and Simpson hooking up for good yardage. Unfortunately, Saucedo eventually threw an interception that was returned to near midfield.

The Coyotes took over at their own 38 and two plays later with a minute still left in the first half, Ethridge rushed in for a 12-yard score. The kick failed and the score was 50-30.

Rule was going to idly head to the locker room for intermission. On their first play, Spitzer found Wolfe, who made a leaping catch in stride over a defender, and strolled into the end zone for a 57-yard touchdown. Pace’s kick narrowed the margin even more and with 44 seconds left in the second quarter, Richland Springs led 50-38.

That would be the score heading into halftime.

Receiving the ball to start the second half, Rule would cut the Coyote lead to just four points when Pace hauled in a 57-yard pass from Spitzer on a fourth down. After the PAT, the score 50-46, with 8:47 left in the third quarter.

This would be the closest The Bobcats would come to catching Richland Springs in the second half, as the Coyotes responded in force, racking up four straight scores.

At the 8:03 mark Ethridge threw to Andrew Fowler for a seven-yard touchdowns. Then late in the quarter, Fowler rushed in from three yards out for another touchdown.

The Coyotes would enter the final quarter with a 66-46 lead.

The third-straight unanswered touchdown came just eighteen seconds into the fourth quarter, when Ethridge hooked up with Williams again, this time for a 44-yard touchdown. Just over a minute later, the Coyotes would score add on to their lead on a four yard run by Mitchell Jacobson.

The kick was good giving Richland Springs a 36-point lead, 82-46, with 8:29 left in the game.

At the 5:52, mark Spitzer ended the Rule scoring drought with a 10-yard touchdown run. The Pace kick made the score 82-54, but that would be all the scoring Rule would manage. Richland Spring, however, was not done, as Daniels scored a defensive touchdown, when he recovered a fumble and ran it in on a one-yard return. He then converted his PAT kick, extending the lead to 90-54, with 4:12 left in the game.

The final touchdown came with just over a minute to play when Ethridge ran in from five yards out for the score. The Daniel’s kick made the final score, 98-54.

Richland Springs had outgained Rule, 552-402, had two more first downs, 17-15, and won the turnover battle, 2-0. Tyler Ethridge accounted for 399 yards of his team’s 552 total yards, 150 rushing and 249 passing. He threw four touchdown passes, rushed for three touchdowns and returned a kickoff for another touchdown. Mark Williams led the Coyotes in receiving with four catches for 117 yards and two touchdowns. Richland Springs ended the Tyler Ethridge era 56-1, with three state championships.

-Stats used are from the San Angelo Standard-Times game article and summary. I also watched the game film to help with this piece.
-Ethridge ended his career with 10,681 yards passing and 4,536 yards rushing and throwing 230 TD passes which set a national record (though rarely recognized). He will be inducted into the Texas Six-Man Coaches Association this coming summer.
-The win in the state game bumped the Coyote’s win streak to 28 games and it would end at 38 with a loss to Strawn in the bi-district round of the playoffs in 2008.
-This was one of the rare years I (Leman) did not go to the state championship games.