Richmond keeps rolling
By David Svoboda
One year later – almost to the day – different location, same result.
Defending state champion Richmond cruised into the Missouri Class 3 semifinals Saturday with a resounding, 51-7 thrashing of an over-matched O’Hara.
This time the game was played at O’Hara, but the change in venue hardly mattered; the Richmond margin of victory, in fact, was 10 points greater than that of one year ago.
But Coach Rob Bowers’ squad has now scored 42 or more points in three of its last four games – all victories – and has run its record to a remarkable 26-1 over two seasons. The lone Richmond blemish was a 20-16 defeat at the hands of Lafayette County back in week five of the regular season.
“Our kids are playing hard, playing aggressively, playing tough,” said Bowers, whose team is now just one win from a return trip to the Missouri title game in St. Louis.
And don’t think, not even for a moment, that the Spartans’ trip to the title last season hasn’t had an impact on this year’s team.
“No. 1, our kids know it’s possible for Richmond to win a state championship,” Bowers said. “When you set your goals at the start of a season, you set your goals for that.”
The Spartans are now one step closer to reaching that goal, and the Celtics were just the latest speed bump.
The game was over, for all intents and purposes, at the half. Richmond scored early and often in the opening 24 minutes en route to the 28-0 edge at intermission.
Richmond was equally impressive on offense and defense, with the O racking up four TDs and 271 yards of production, and the D limiting O’Hara to 48 yards and just four first downs – all of which came on the final Celtic drive of the half, more than 20 minutes into the contest.
“Defensively, we played well,” Bowers said. “The wind (which gusted to 35 miles per hour) obviously didn’t help them, but secondary-wise our kids played tough.”
If it was O’Hara’s intent to throw the ball to win, that plan was turned on its ear when Richmond grabbed the early lead and wouldn’t let go.
The first Richmond TD came on a nifty catch and run by Lendarius Pritchett of the Spartans on a toss from quarterback Kyle Carroll. The play would go into the record books as a 34-yard score, but 18 of those yards came after initial contact and a spin away from an O’Hara defender by Pritchett.
Richmond’s second score was aided by an O’Hara penalty on a punt. The Celtics’ Brandon Dennis hit the ball well on his initial effort, trapping Richmond’s Gabe Vandiver at his own 15. But the O’Hara line was called for a penalty, and Richmond decided to force a second Celtic punt.
This one was partially blocked, traveled just 13 yards, and Richmond was now in business from the O’Hara 39-yard line.
The 46-yard swing in field position made all the difference, as Richmond went those aforementioned 39 yards in just four plays for the second score, an eight-yard run by Jimmy Hamm.
Richmond’s third TD drive was a bit more conventional. The Spartans went 71 yards in 12 plays over 3:38 before Carroll scampered around end from 20 yards out for the 21-0 lead.
One final TD before the half sent a spirited Richmond squad into the locker room up 28-0. The key play in that final Spartan drive was a zigzagging 24-yard run by Vandiver, who headed left, reversed his field back to the right, and finally burst ahead for the long gain – probably traveling 80 yards in total to get those 24.
A single play later, Hamm went on an 11-yard sprint to the end zone and the half’s final scoring drive was complete.
And so was O’Hara’s season, minus the final two quarters and a running second-half clock over the game’s last 18 minutes.
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