Two teams trying to turn disappointing seasons around with playoff berths meet Friday night in Boonville, as the Pirates host Richmond in a Class 3 District 14 battle. Both of the former Missouri River Valley Conference rivals enter the 7 p.m. kickoff with 3-5 overall records and both teams opened district play with convincing victories last week.
The Pirates, in their maiden voyage through the North Central Missouri Conference this season, stunned Moberly 30-18, to end conference play at 2-4, while the Spartans dominated Odessa 30-14 at home.
Richmond Coach Rob Bowers called last week’s performance, “as close to a whole game that we played all season.” Richmond had just one turnover, very few penalties and came up with takeaways on defense.
Bowers knows for his Spartans to continue their success, they will have to play just as well this week. The Pirates are expected to unload a huge dose of Chuckie Jones on the visiting Spartans. The outstanding junior athlete has been moved to quarterback for coach Brad Parsons. Jones has rushed for over 500 yards and 6 touchdowns and has thrown for over 400 more yards this season. Last week he scored on runs of 49 and 52 yards on the way to a 191-yard outing, while completing 7 of 9 passes for 55 yards.
Jones was not a factor in last season’s 15-14 Spartan win in Richmond, as the Spartans did a good job of not letting him get his hands on the ball. Bowers knows his team will have to keep Jones in check again Friday.
“He’s carrying their team,” he said. “Without him, they don’t beat Moberly. Those touchdowns, he pretty much did on his own. Offensively, he is the key to their football team. They have a lot of other talented kids, but he is the key and we have to stop him first. If we can’t, it will be a long night for us.”
Also in the Pirate backfield are Will Parker, a senior who has run for 342 yards this fall, and junior Robert Callaway, who has rushed for 300 yards this year, and ran for 160 in last season’s meeting with the Spartans.
“They’re big up front and have great athletes,” Bowers said. “They’re probably athletically talented as anyone we have faced this year. It is going to take us playing a good game to win, but I think our kids understand that and are ready to take on that challenge.”
Despite losing a key defensive player, the Pirate defense has been solid in holding teams to 19 points a game – and only 13 a game the past three weeks. Boonville lost linebacker Anthony Ralph, their leading tackler, to a torn ACL three weeks ago, but his replacement, sophomore Gavin Hall, has stepped up to record 20 solo tackles, 4 for losses, and 7 assisted stops.
“Defensively, they have played well all year long,” Bowers said. “They have given up very few points, week in and week out. They are fast and their linebackers fly to the football.”
The winning team Friday night will be buckling their seat belts in the driver’s seat for the district crown.
“If we go 2-0 in district, then all we have to do is take care and we’re in,” Bowers said. “If we go to 1-1, then we have to win the third week and count on help from somebody else. We want to control what happens. The way we do that is to go out and play well Friday night and win the game.”