Richmond's title defense ends
By Stephen Bubalo PrepsKC staff writer
The Richmond defense, a unit that was allowing just a shade more than eight points per game this season, knew all about Logan-Rogersville’s running back duo of Dylan Cole and Joe Zimmer heading into Saturday’s Class 3 state semifinal game.
Stopping them was a whole other issue.
The two were a big part of a Logan-Rogersville offense that combined for more than 400 yards rushing to help lead the Wildcats to an impressive 48-28 win over the defending state champion Spartans on their home field.
“All we heard about coming in was their running backs, their two-headed monster,” Spartan defensive back and running back Gabe Vandiver said. “We knew we had to stop them and we didn’t.”
Cole and Zimmer were a load for the Spartans all game long, especially when they got outside the tackles, as they repeatedly dodged or broke would-be Richmond tacklers.
“We didn’t tackle very well. We weren’t aggressive enough. We were timid,” Richmond head coach Rob Bowers said. “At the point of attack we had them stopped and the backside fill people didn’t come up aggressive enough.”
Vandiver simply added, “We didn’t tackle the way we’re taught.”
Richmond didn’t have a ton of momentum during the game but the times they did they weren’t able to capitalize on it.
Midway through the second quarter the Spartans caught a break when Derek Rickart picked up a bad snap out of the shotgun formation by Logan-Rogersville and rumbled into the end zone from 3 yards out to cut the deficit to 19-14.
With the Richmond sideline and crowd back in the game, now was the time for the defense to get another stop.
“We had some momentum. We needed a stop and we couldn’t do it,” Bowers said.
The Wildcats scored six plays later – all runs – when Cole broke numerous tackles on his way to the end zone for a 48-yard score to make it 27-14. Another score before the half would make it 34-14 at the break.
“At halftime we still knew the game wasn’t over. We had to get stops,” Vandiver said.
The Spartans came out of the locker room fired up and immediately put the Wildcats in a third-and-12 situation, only to see Zimmer run for 23 yards and a first down.
Logan-Rogersville would score later in the drive – converting two more third downs and running more than 8 minutes off the clock – to go ahead 41-14 and all but put the game away. To start the second half the Wildcats converted their first five third-down attempts.
“When you can’t stop anybody it’s hard to keep matching them with the way we run our offense,” Bowers said. “That was a big key coming out in the second half. They took up over half the quarter with that first drive.”
Added Vandiver of the third down conversions, “Not only does it get our heads down but even more it lifts them up.”
With the Spartans trailing, they were forced out of their usual run-heavy game plan on offense and never could get going.
“On offense, we drove the ball well at times but we made mistakes at key times and it got us out of our rhythm,” Bowers said. “We got down early and it’s not our forte coming from behind.”
The loss put an end to a 12-2 season for Richmond, as its state title defense came up short.
But this was almost an entirely different team from the group that won state last year, as just five starters returned.
That didn’t stop them from nearly getting back to St. Louis.
“People thought we were done against Maryville (in the second round),” Vandiver said. “It was a big time accomplishment (to get here.)”
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