Just one week after their most disappointing performance of the season, the Richmond Spartans turned in arguably their best of the 2008 season Friday night as they opened Class 3, District 14 play with a 30-14 thumping of visiting Odessa. The victory boosted Richmond to 3-5 overall, while sending the Bulldogs to their seventh straight loss of the season after an opening night win.
The Spartans didn’t waste any time in taking control of the game as they marched the opening kickoff 65 yards using 10 plays. Richmond Coach Rob Bowers said that first drive made a big statement.
“I’ve told these guys all year long that if they just don’t shoot themselves in the foot, they do a lot of good things,” he said. “That first drive was a good indication of that. We didn’t have any broken plays, didn’t have any penalties – we just methodically moved the football and stuck it in and that was a huge start for us.”
After Colby Bowles capped the opening drive with a 3-yard run and then passed to Jake Vandiver for the 2-point conversion 4 minutes into the game, the Bulldogs never really threatened. The Spartan defense shut down the Bulldogs – holding them to 106 rushing yards and 87 passing yards, but coming up with four interceptions. Arthur Bivines and Bowles had two picks each. The Richmond defense turned Odessa away several times, especially in the second half. Bowers said his defense just matched the visitors’ aggressiveness.
“Odessa is always physical and they really hit you,” he said. “I thought we won that battle tonight. Our kids were more aggressive and got after them and did a great job of getting to the spot and making the tackle. We got turnovers and made a couple of stands deep in our own territory.”
While the defense was coming up with key stops, the offense posted 196 rushing yards on the legs of Jordan Smith, who collected 78 yards on a dozen attempts; Bivines, who gained 47 yards on 13 carries; Bowles, who picked up 44 more on 11 attempts, and Jamal Robinson’s 25 yards on 5 carries.
Bowles also hit 4 of 9 passes for 113 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
“Odessa is huge up front and our kids got after it,” Bowers said of his offensive line. “They stayed with their blocks. As poorly as we played last week, we played that well this week and when you control the line of scrimmage you can do a lot of things offensively. We had time to throw the football and we ran the ball well.”
After marching the ball downfield on its first possession, Richmond struck quickly for its second touchdown following an Odessa punt with 6:17 left in the half as Bowles hit Vandiver down the middle for a 53-yard scoring strike. Bowles ran the first of his three conversions for a 16-0 cushion. Odessa was able to answer with a 5-play, 64-yard drive set up by a halfback pass from Tommy Hotmer to Michael Attebury that covered 54 yards. Two plays later, Bryson Harvey crashed in from 5 yards out and the Richmond lead was cut in half after the conversion.
The Spartans then regained control of the game as they answered Odessa’s answer with a 10-play, 65-yard drive. Richmond took advantage of a personal foul penalty on the Bulldogs following an incomplete pass on third down. Robinson found the end zone 6 plays later on a 2-yard run with 1:12 left in the half, and after the conversion, Richmond took a 22-8 cushion into the intermission.
“That was the second big turning point in the game,” Bowers said of the drive. “If they had held us to three and out they get the momentum, but our kids rose up and stuck it in and kept the momentum on our side. That gave us a little breathing room.”
The Spartan offense sputtered just a bit in the second half, but the defense kept Odessa from the end zone despite battling with their backs to the goal line. Richmond drove in the final nail with 4:56 left to play following a Bivines interception and 34-yard return to the Odessa 31. Three plays following the turnover, Smith busted loose off the right side for a 19-yard touchdown run.
Odessa did get the final score of the game with less than 40 seconds left in the game as Daniel Cahill recovered a blocked punt in the end zone.
Richmond will be at Boonville Friday night to meet another former conference rival. The Pirates, also 3-5, stunned Moberly 30-18 Friday.
PHOTO: Richmond linebacker Reny Reis (44) attempts to block the half-back option pass against Odessa Friday night. (Photo by Russ Green/The Daily News)