In 2020, Austin Regents broke through for a state title after four consecutive years of coming up short.
It was a thrilling finish, as Ben Buerkle grabbed an interception with 15 seconds left and raced to the end zone for an incredible 70-yard pick-six to give Regents a 26-20 win as time expired. The Knights overcame five turnovers with some solid defense, mounting four red-zone stands against the powerful Dallas Christian Charger offense.
“There are only a few teams in TAPPS that play defense,” Regents head coach Tim Phillips said. “A lot of teams can score 60 points, but they can’t stop anybody, so they get knocked out. Teams that play defense usually make it to the final four.”
The defense was the difference in this game for the Knights. In addition to Buerkle’s pick-six, Whitefield Powell had a blocked punt which was returned for a touchdown by William Raeder. The teams traded scores throughout the game and were tied at halftime, 13-13, and again with 15 seconds remaining at 20-20. Dallas Christian had the ball at the Knights’ 47-yard line. Charger quarterback T.J. King dropped back to pass and was pressured just enough by defensive end Jack Rampick to alter the throw slightly, just enough for Buerkle to make the pick and take it to the house. The team celebrated with a bench-clearing pile on in the end zone.
“It’s the kind of stuff you dream of as a kid,” Buerkle said.
This marked the first Division II state championship by an Austin/SA/Houston school in 21 years, as DFW teams have owned the TAPPS crown for over two decades. Phillips said it “was a 5-year victory,” as many of the players from the previous four runner-up teams were in attendance.
Phillips had been a defensive coordinator the previous four seasons under longtime head coach Beck Brydon, who started the school’s tackle football program back in 1997. Brydon stepped down last year as head coach to focus on the Regents athletic program as a whole in his role as Director of Athletics. His blessing and promotion of Phillips to head coach could not have been met with sweeter success — a state championship!
Coach Phillips shared a little of his background with me as we discussed his motivation for coaching and what separates Regents from other private schools.
After playing quarterback at Kent State University and coaching at the University of Kansas for nine seasons, Phillips took a departure from sports in his early 30s and built a very successful health care business in Cleveland, Ohio. The growth of the company allowed him to move his offices to Austin and he enrolled his children at Regents.
His coaching roots re-emerged as he began to coach his sons in Pop Warner and on through middle school while working full time in the health care business. With the growth of his company at an impasse, he sat down with a close friend, Jerry DeVries, to discuss what was next. Jerry had a son at Regents that Phillips coached as well. As they reasoned together and looked at several other business opportunities, Jerry, who had a background as a life coach said, “You want to coach don’t you? That’s what you’re good at.” That spark led Tim to step up into the defensive coordinator role at the high school level and has now resulted in the beginning of his head coaching career.
CORAM DEO is a Latin phrase translated “in the presence of God” and it is the motto of Regents School of Austin. The commitment of “redeeming sports for Christ” is at the heart of the philosophy for the athletic department. Brydon says, “the essence of sport like many things has much deeper value and meaning and only on the field or court can you learn some of these things.”
Phillips remarked that the football program has 16 coaches, many of which are volunteers, and out of the 165 boys at the school, 80 of them play football, which is a much larger percentage than the other schools they play. A father-son retreat precedes every football season and the involvement of the parents throughout the year is of utmost importance to the program. This dedication to developing character and a proper perspective on winning and losing has proven to be a successful approach for this football program.
Next season looks promising with the return of several starters, including QB Drew Dickey, DB William Raeder and top-rated kicker Will Stone. However, the Knights will need to replace some other positions including its entire offensive line as they say goodbye to a host of seniors: LB Ben Buerkle, C Simon Becker, FS Josh Franklin, LB Jack Cowden, RB Trevor Tezak, OT Caleb Rhodes, OG Griffin Clausen, NG Jake Morrison, WR Isaac Chin, LB Cale Myers, OG William Agueros, WR William Adams, CB Bryce Mountain, OG Jakob Votaw, OT Nick Zarbock and DE Jack Rampick. We look forward to seeing the Knights defend their title in 2021.
Congratulations to the Austin Regents Knights, TAPPS Division II State Champions!