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Parr Pitts is used to having tough acts to follow. Pitts, the new head coach of the Odessa Bulldogs took over a program that former coach Mike Bliss lead to 14-7 mark in two seasons before departing for Edwardsville, Kan. Pitts came to Odessa after 10 years at Palmyra where he followed Fred Bouchard, who moved on to turn Harrisonville into a state power.
This year, Pitts, who guided Palmyra to a 78-31 record and the only Show-Me Bowl appearance in school history, has struggled getting the Bulldogs going in the tough MRVC West Conference.
After pounding Westport 63-14 in the season opener, the Bulldogs have since dropped their last six games.
Friday night at Tom Adams Field, the Richmond Spartans host their former conference rival and, like their guests, hope to get things turned around in the second season known as districts. The Spartans take a 2-5 record into the 7 p.m. kickoff. After opening the campaign with four straight losses, Richmond appeared to have righted the ship with back-to-back wins, but took a step backward in last week’s 13-6 loss at Lexington in the Bell Game.
Even though the Dawgs are on an uncharacteristic six-game slide, Pitts feels his team is on the upswing.
“Our competition has been pretty stiff,” he said. “Every team, excluding Excelsior, has been ranked at one time or the other this season. The biggest thing is that we’ve improved each week. We’ve gone through some growing pains, but I feel like we can still play our best football.”
Odessa began the year experimenting with a spread offense, but in the last three weeks has reverted to the wishbone and wing-T power type football that the Bulldogs are more known for. Spartan coach Rob Bowers said you have to look at who Odessa has faced more than their record.
“They’ve played some good competition,” he said. “The last two or three weeks they have made great strides to getting back to types of teams Odessa has had in the past. They’re huge up front. We’re going to be going against bigger people. They will also be looking at this district as a fresh start for them and will be coming out to get after it Friday night.”
Bowers adds that the change in offense also suits the Odessa personnel better. Meanwhile, the Richmond offense, which had produced over 300 rushing yards in the two games prior to last week sputtered against the Minutemen. The Spartans spent most of the game in poor field position and Bowers also admitted that the offensive line did not repeat its performance of the previous two weeks.
“We didn’t play very well Friday night for a lot of reasons, but we didn’t give ourselves a very good chance to play better because of some of the situations we were putting ourselves in,” he said. “We spent a lot of drives backed up and we didn’t help ourselves because I counted at least three times we started a drive with a penalty.”
The Richmond offense will be going against an Odessa defense that surrendered over 400 yards last week at Excelsior Springs in a 48-22 loss.
Most of that yardage came from Nick Anderson who used his speed to pick up 116 yards on 9 carries as he found plenty of running room outside of the Odessa defense.
“I think we’ve improved,” Pitts said of his defense. “I think sometimes we take two steps forward and one back. Probably we play with pretty good effort, it’s just that our execution has been very inconsistent. We just have to improve our tackling.”
Pitts added that he expects to see the Spartan offense from a few weeks ago to show up Friday night.
“They are very talented in the backfield,” he said. “They have three guys who can really make some big plays. Their fullback and tailback can get some good yards and I think their quarterback has been experiencing the things about moving to varsity football. The offensive line can definitely move people.”
Bowers said it will be important for his team to get off to a better start than last week and keep the intensity throughout the game.