The Richmond Spartans hope to build on the momentum from last week’s 21-14 win at Higginsville and carry it into Friday night’s Homecoming contest with the Knob Noster Panthers.
Even though the Spartans still committed self-inflicted wounds (5 fumbles, 3 of them lost and 7 penalties for 57 yards), Richmond managed 19 first downs and 459 yards (353 rushing) against the Huskers. Part of the reason for the success was a rework of the offensive line to add more size missing since the loss of Jake Halterman to an injury. Aaron Goodman, the 6-4, 235-pound junior moved from tight end to tackle to provide more quickness at that spot, and Troy Higgs, a 6-4 220-pound sophomore switched to guard.
“They played a great game Friday,” Bowers said. “As a group, I still think there are some things they can do to improve. If we get a few things corrected, like blocking through to the whistle and things like that, they can be a pretty good unit.”
The Richmond defense also had its best outing of the year as they held Higginsville to 196 total yards. The Huskers ran for 133 and 63 passing yards Friday night despite three dropped passes. Even though the Spartans held the Higginsville passing game without a completion in the second half, Bowers adds his secondary will have to play much better this week.
The Knob Noster spread attack features All-State receiver Cullen Rosine. The Panther senior already has over 30 receptions and 500-plus yards this season.
“He’s a tremendous talent,” Knob Noster Coach Ed Phillips said. “He has good size and great hands. He’s our go-to guy and everybody knows that and everybody has put together a plan to stop him. He’s been a guy that’s been a good threat, but we need to get somebody else to help him out.”
Bowers said the Panthers find several ways to get Rosine’s hand on the ball.
“He’s probably 70 percent of their offense,” Bowers said. “They throw it to him short, they throw it to him long, they throw it up where he can go up and get it, they move him around. It’s hard to get him isolated defensively because they move him around to where they want him. Our kids will have to recognize offensive formations and then get lined up right.”
Bowers also adds the key will be in getting pressure on junior quarterback Ivan Pyszka. The combination of Pyszka and Rosine was one of the keys in Knob Noster’s late-season surge in 2007 that saw the Panthers win three of their final five games following a 47-26 loss to Richmond. Pyszka threw for over 900 yards last year, and already has surpassed the 1,000-yard mark through the Panthers 3-2 start.
“One thing about him is that we’ve got to protect him,” Phillips said. “I know Richmond is going to come after him and we’ve got to be able to protect that. That’s been a focus this week. We’ve been trying to use all of our receivers and we’re going to focus more on that this week.”
With the Panther offense geared more to the pass than the option, Bowers said that will allow his defense to do more stunting to help put pressure on the quarterback.
Knob Noster won its first three games of the season, but has lost its last two to Holden, 48-14, and last week to Trenton 21-13 – a game Phillips thought his team should have won. Defensively, Phillips said his defensive end Daniel Blair has had a good season along with his secondary of Brian Cass, a second-team, all-conference selection last year, and Rosine. Senior back Alan Jungnitsch has four interceptions this season.