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It looked like it was going to be another one of those games for the Richmond Spartans Friday night as they hosted Knob Noster in a Homecoming and MRVC East battle at Tom Adams Field. Richmond had scoring opportunities, came up empty and found itself trailing midway through the second quarter.
Finally, things began to turn the Spartans way and it was sparked by a defensive play that started Richmond on the way to a 26-6 win. Richmond’s second win in a row boosted the Spartans to 2-4 overall and 2-2 in the conference while Knob Noster dropped its third in a row and is now 3-3 overall and 0-2 in league play.
The Panthers had taken a 6-0 lead on a 15-yard Ivan Pyszka to Brian Hughes pass with 6:38 left in the first half. The next two Spartan possessions ended with interceptions and then Jordan Smith got things turned around when he stepped in front of a Pyszka pass near midfield and returned it 47 yards for the first Richmond score of the night.
“Defense and special teams gave us a big lift tonight,” Richmond Coach Rob Bowers said. “The offense kind of shot themselves in the foot early and the defense pulled them out of the fire and got us going. Once we got it going, the offense kind of came around.”
The try for 2 points failed following Smith’s score, and the half ended tied 6-6, but the Spartans clearly had the momentum and carried it throughout the second half when a special teams play put the game in Richmond’s hands.
Once again, the offense came up empty after Aaren Mathis recovered a Panther fumble on the Knob Noster 23. A holding penalty called back an Arthur Bivines touchdown run and the Spartans failed to score. The defense held the Panthers and forced a punt from their one end zone when Mathis broke through and blocked the punt out of the end zone for a safety and an 8-6 lead.
Following the free kick, the Spartans marched just 36 yards in five plays with Colby Bowles scoring on a 9-yard run giving Richmond a 14-6 lead after the missed conversion kick.
“Defense and special teams really pulled their weight tonight,” Bowers said. “They got us back on track and made the difference.”
Throughout the rest of the game, the Spartan defense pressured the Panther quarterback and shut down the Knob Noster passing attack as they held All-State receiver Cullen Rosine without a catch.
“Those kids played their tail off up front,” Bowers said of his defense. “They rushed the passer and stopped the run. D-line and linebackers did a great job. Our whole defense did a great job, especially in the second half.”
The Spartan defense held Knob Noster to 184 total yards with 41 of those on the ground. After completing 10 of 17 passes for 125 yards in the first half, Pyszka connected on 4 of 14 in the final two periods for 19 just yards.
While the defense shut down the visitors in the second half, the Richmond offense found its rhythm – picking up 236 of its 340 yards in the second half. For the second week in a row, the Spartans ran for over 300 yards with 312 for the game – led by Smith and Bivines who had 95 yards each. Bivines boosted the Spartan lead to 20-6 with 2:08 left in the third period on a 55-yard run, and Smith capped the scoring with a 23-yard burst with 6:04 to play in the game.
Bowles rushed for 55 yards on 13 attempts and completed 6 of 15 passes for 60 yards with Bivines grabbing one for 32 yards.
Photo: Junior Arthur Bivines ended the night with 95 yards rushing and a touchtown, plus 32 receiving in the Spartan win. (Photo by Russ Green/The Daily News)