The Duncan Banner
RINGLING — A big blue wave came rushing over Empire and likely drowned its chances for a league title, as top-ranked Ringling rolled to a 56-7 victory in a key District A-4 contest Friday at Rick Gandy Field.
The Devils — all 47 of them clad in Royal Blue uniforms and helmets — wrapped up the district championship by running past an overmatched Empire defense, which missed its injured middle linebacker Stephen Price, for 348 yards and seven touchdowns.
The Blue Devils have not lost to a Class A team since the quarterfinal round of the 2011 playoffs. Their only two losses in the past 23 games have come at the hands of Class 2A juggernaut Davis.
Ringling's roster, one of the largest in Class A history, features eight more players than does the roster of Duncan High School, a 5A school that, according to OSSAA figures, is the 44th largest district in Oklahoma.
Duncan owns an average daily enrollment of 1,002 students. Ringling, by contrast, serves an average of 147 students per day and is the state's 264th largest district, according to the OSSAA.
Ringling also has 17 freshmen who play junior high football but don't dress for varsity high school games.
On Friday, the Blue Devils' depth showed in the number of running backs — 10 — who carried the ball, the number of players — three — who passed the ball, and the number of receivers — three — who made catches.
That equals 16 different skill players who touched the ball in a contest that essentially amounted to a district championship game for the Blue Devils. Ringling will draw a forfeit from Bray-Doyle this Friday and finish the season by playing host to Walters in the season finale.
The Blue Devils (5-0 , 6-1) can finish with no more than one league loss. The winner of this week's Empire vs. Velma-Alma contest will also have just one district defeat, but Ringling has beaten both of those teams and thus owns the tiebreaker against them.
The winner of Empire-V-A will finish second in District A-4 and host a first-round playoff game. Empire is 6-2 overall and 4-1 in the district.
The Blue Devils scored touchdowns on five of their first 25 plays Friday. Empire opened the game with a four-minute drive that stalled on the Ringling 41-yard line. The Dawgs appeared to have Ringling stopped on the ensuing drive, forcing the Blue Devils to face a third-and-23 from their own 16.
But quarterback Taner Richardson threw Ryan Lester for a 43-yard gain along the right boundary. Four plays later, Richardson threw to Lester again, this time for a 5-yard touchdown to break the ice.
On its next possession, Ringling marched 97 yards in eight plays and celebrated a 14-0 lead after Braidon Willis capped the drive with a 17-yard sprint up the middle.
Ringling finished with 193 total yards in the first quarter and was just getting warmed up. Slade Stewart scored two touchdowns on Ringling's first five offensive plays of the second squarter. Then, Richardson added a 39-yard scoring run to give Ringling an insurmountable 35-0 halftime lead.
Stewart and Willis each gained 92 yards and scored two touchdowns to lead Ringling
Empire's Dillon Twigg, who came in averaging 214 yards rushing, gained 116 yards on 28 carries.
Quarterback Evan Whitt scored Empire's only touchdown on a 3-yard plunge with 51 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Empire is only the third team to score against Ringling this season. No team other than Davis -- a 34-28 winner over Ringling in the season opener -- has scored more than one TD against the Blue Devils.