Ringling holds off top-ranked Cashion, 20-14, in physical Class A state title game
Lynn Shackelford has been here before and felt the sting of a state championship loss.
But this one?
It stings a little more.
Cashion’s dream of its first football state title since 1981 was crushed last Saturday by Ringling.
The Blue Devils dominated the time of possession and converted some key offensive plays to knock off No. 1 Cashion 20-14 in front of 3,140 people at Wantland Stadium in Edmond.
“This one will hurt for a while,” said Shackelford, who now has coached Cash-ion in three state championship games and had to settle for silver each time.
The first came in 2014 when the Wildcats were stuffed by Thomas, 28-0, in a battle of undefeated teams.
“Going into that game, I thought we had a good chance,” Shackelford said. “But when the game was over, we sat back and realized just how good Thomas was and that we would have had to play really well to beat them.”
The next year, Stratford wasn’t going to lose to anyone.
“We knew what we were dealing with in that game and it was a long shot,” Shackelford said.
But this year…this was supposed to be the year for the Wildcats.
They entered the game ranked No. 1 and sporting a 13-0 record.
Ringling was 12-1 with 12 straight wins and had physically dominated each of those victims on both sides of the ball.
The Phil Koons-coached team attempted to do that offensively against Cashion, running it 52 times on its 59 snaps.
But it was those seven pass attempts that ultimately got the best of the Wildcats.
Ringling quarterback Sam Van Buskirk completed 6 of 7 passes for 115 yards and three touchdowns.
“He played really, really well and they were able to convert a couple of big plays that truly hurt us,” Shackelford said.
Ringling’s three scoring drives were all at least 11 plays and chewed nearly 23 minutes off the game clock. Most of those drives were dominated by the run game, but ended with a pass play.
Ringling got on the board on the first play of the second quarter. Facing 3rdand-19, Van Buskirk heaved the ball to Coty Scott, his 6-foot-5, 250-pound tight end who was lined out wide on the snap.
Scott pulled in the pass for a 41-yard touchdown to end a 13-play, 77-yard drive that took 7:06 off the clock.
Later in the quarter, Cashion found some of its best success on offense by running on the perimeter.
Quarterback Ben Harman had a 20-yard gain on an option keeper and the Wildcats eventually scored on Brexten Green’s 44-yard scamper on an end-around.
Hayden Aaron’s extra-point gave Cashion a 7-6 lead with 8:13 to play in the half.
“That was something we figured out as the half went along,” said Shackelford of running outside the tackles, noting that fact surprised even him.
“I thought it would be the opposite watching how they played against other people. I thought we’d have more success inside, but I didn’t think they had a really good plan for the option after seeing how they lined up against us.”
The Wildcats made good on that success and had more rushing yards at halftime (136) than did Ringling (117), despite six fewer attempts.
But Ringling had an answer as it drove 69 yards over the next 6:03 to reclaim the lead.
This time the Blue Devils scored on 4th-and-5 when Van Buskirk hit a wide open Braden Johnson for a 6-yard pass using play-action.
Logan Duhon’s kick put Ringling on top 13-7 with 2:04 remaining in the half.
Cashion stayed with the run game despite needing to cover 70 yards with under two minutes to play in the half.
T.J. Roberts boasted a 40-yard run and Harman covered another 10 yards and Alex Nabavi helped the Wildcats earn 1st-and-goal from the 5.
However, the Wildcats, out of timeouts, couldn’t punch it into the end zone as Roberts was denied on fourth down as time expired.
“Us not scoring right there was huge,” Shackelford said. “Even at the time, we knew it was really big just because points are so hard to come by.”
And, said Shackelford, so are possessions against a team that had the ball for 32:14 of the 48 minutes.
“We actually got more opportunities than I thought we would in the second half,” he said. “We just couldn’t do enough with them.”
One of those opportunities came after Cashion forced a punt on Ringling’s second possession of the half. The punt covered just 14 yards and set the Wildcats up at the Ringling 31.
But Cashion had back-to-back penalties before Julius Koons intercepted a Harman pass on 2nd-and-long.
“That was one of those possessions that you look back on,” Shackelford said. “We were in great position, but the first two things we did was move backward.”
That told the tale of much of the second half as Cashion, he said, wasn’t in position enough to take advantage of its strengths.
“In the first half we ran it really well and in the second half we didn’t have those situations,” he said. “We never could really get in an ideal situation where we could dictate to them, which is what we want, instead of them dictating to us.”
The missed opportunity proved extra costly.
Koons’ interception gave Ringling the ball at its own 13 with 3:09 to go in the third quarter.
Cashion wouldn’t get the ball again for nearly 10 minutes.
The Blue Devils converted five third downs en route to going up 20-7 with 5:28 left in the game.
Two of the third downs were screen passes to River Miller and Scott that covered a total of 33 yards.
The last one was 3rdand-14 from the Cashion
32. Van Buskirk again threw the ball up for grabs in Scott’s vicinity.
This time he was covered up by two Wildcats, but still managed to overpower them for the touchdown.
“It’s not like we didn’t have him covered. We did everything but tackle him before the ball got there,” Shackelford said. “Our defense played really, really well overall, but Ringling was able to make some huge plays when it needed to.’
“And that drive and that play seemed like a back-breaker.”
The game was seemingly over when Cashion turned it over on downs on its next possession, but the Wildcats’ own defense got a stop on fourth down as Ringling was attempting to run out the clock.
“It was a physical ball game and there were kids out there really hitting,” Shackelford said. “And that includes our guys. They played to the very end and made some tough, physical plays out there.”
The stop gave Cashion the ball at its own 15 with 1:35 to go.
The Wildcats marched down the field and they faced a 2nd-and-2 from the Ringling 8 with under 1:00 to play, but Harman was sacked by Johnson for an 8-yard loss.
Harman was shaken up on the play, prompting an officials’ timeout, meaning he had to leave the game for at least one snap.
Green took his spot behind center and promptly threw a 16-yard TD pass to Nabavi. With 15 ticks remaining, after Aaron’s kick, Cashion trailed by just six points.
Any hope was short-lived as Ethan Johnson recovered Lance Christensen’s onside kick, allowing Ringling to run out the clock.
Cashion’s defense limited Ringling to 3.3 yards per carry. Johnson led the team with 85 yards on 20 carries. Kash Lyle added another 71 on 18 attempts.
Five different Wildcats had at least 10 tackles.
Junior Justice Broadbent boasted 15 of them.
Caden Harrell added 14 and Austin Vandruff 13.
Vandruff was seriously injured on one of the game’s final plays when he suffered a broken ankle trying to pull down a pass near his team’s sideline while on offense.
Vandruff had to be carted off the field by medical personnel and had the fi rst of what Shackelford said will be multiple surgeries on Sunday.
“It was a terrible situation and I hate it for him,” Shackelford said.
Jacob Farrow and Bryce Miller were each in on 10 tackles.
The Wildcats countered with 149 net rushing yards and averaged 5.1 per attempt.
Roberts’ 10 carries totaled 67 yards while Harman ran for 56 and Green
But Ringling made good on 85.7 percent of its pass plays. Of the six completions, five went for fi rst downs or touchdowns.
Cashion, meanwhile, made good on just 35.2 of its 17 pass attempts for 90 yards. Nabavi led the way with 33 yards on three receptions.
“It just seemed to me we never could get in a rhythm,” Shackelford said. “A lot of that had to do with them.”
Ethan Johnson led a balanced defensive effort for Ringling with 10 tackles, eight of them solo for the 6-foot-2, 230-pound linebacker.
Ringling had three sacks and seven other tackles for loss against Cashion.
Still, Shackelford knew this was a gold ball for the taking.
Upon refl ection, 2014’s was a long shot and 2015’s was no shot.
But this one?
“I’m not taking anything away from Ringling. They’re really good and they’re well coached,” he said. “But this is one where we had some opportunities and just couldn’t capitalize.
“I know we could play them 10 times and we’d win our share of them.”
Shackelford said his disappointment is only in the final result, not in his team.
“I talked to one of our guys for quite a while after we got back. He was devastated and said they played as hard as they could,” Shackelford recalled.
“I told him I know they did. And that’s the truth. They absolutely left it all out there and they’ve got nothing to be ashamed of. They gave us everything they had and I’m so proud of all of them.
“We just didn’t get the result we wanted.”