by JOSH SIGLER KOKOMO TRIBUNE
---- — INDIANAPOLIS — The Class 2A state final turned into a nightmare from which Tipton's football team couldn't wake up.
The Blue Devils became a victim of their own doing, committing six turnovers as they were overwhelmed by Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter's high-octane offense, a recipe that spelled doom in a 56-6 thrashing at the hands of the Raiders Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
"We did something wrong, because we certainly didn't do anything right [Saturday]," Tipton coach Aaron Tolle said. "I don't know what it is. We played four great ballgames in order to get here, and just didn't have it [Saturday]. We made every mistake under the sun, and we were playing an excellent football team. We were never able to get any momentum whatsoever. It's extremely disappointing. I'm not disappointed at my kids, I'm disappointed for my kids."
The Blue Devils lost a pair of fumbles, were intercepted four times, and had both a blocked punt and kickoff returned for touchdowns in a game that turned into a mismatch very early as a result.
"That sums up the whole day," Tolle said. "We couldn't get anything to go right. Simply wasn't our day. We had as many turnovers [Saturday] as we did the whole tournament coming in to this. You can't do that against a good team like that."
No. 3-ranked Ritter put the Blue Devils in an early 14-0 hole with a pair of long drives that sandwiched a Tipton three-and-out. Ritter quarterback Jake Purichia distributed the ball to a bevy of receivers with a dizzying array of screen passes and crossing routes before finishing off drives of 66 and 60 yards, with a one-yard sneak and five-yard run, the last of which came with 4:57 left in the first.
The first turnover came on Tipton's second drive, when Blue Devil QB Austin Hooker was intercepted by Logan Beaman at the Tipton 43. Three plays later, Purichia hit Kyree Hollis for a 47-yard TD strike with 14 seconds left in the first quarter.
The No. 7 Blue Devils (11-4) got on the board two plays from scrimmage later, after Ritter was called for illegal touching on an onside kick, when Hooker rumbled in from 37 yards out at the11:53 mark of the second quarter.
But Tommy Waites returned the ensuing kickoff 89 yards for a TD to put the Raiders (13-2) up 28-6 13 seconds later.
Tipton never recovered as Ritter built a 42-6 lead by the half. Four of the Blue Devils' six second-half drives ended in a lost fumble or interception. The two that didn't ended in a turnover on downs and a punt.
"I'm disappointed for our kids because we were on the big stage, and had a chance to show the entire state how good a football team we were," Tolle said. "But, we weren't able to do it."
Ritter's offense was superb when it was on the field, out-gaining Tipton 424-183. The Raiders were especially solid on third downs, converting 7 of 13 for the game, keeping the Blue Devils' defense on the field for long stretches when they had the ball.
“They’re back-breakers when you’re a defensive coordinator trying to make things happen to benefit your team and you get a team in position like that," Ritter coach Ty Hunt said of the conversion rate. "But, our offensive guys are playmakers. And, we had quite a few of them this year that could make things happen, and it’s tough to guard them all.”
Hooker finished the day 4 of 16 through the air for 15 yards and four interceptions, but was Tipton's leading rusher with 75 yards on 16 carries. Nate Hein added 68 yards on 14 carries.
Purichia completed 21 of 31 passes for 273 yards and two TDs. He also ran eight times for 25 yards and a pair of TDs, and returned a blocked punt 10 yards for another score.
He finishes his career with 11,146 passing yards, which ranks second all-time in state history. His 142 career TD passes are a state record.
Hunt felt Purichia made a strong final argument in his case for the Mr. Football award.
"He's something special," Hunt said. "He is our Mr. Football. Watch the film. Watch the game. He deserves everybody's vote."