The one that got away.
That’s how the Richmond Spartan coaching staff will look at Friday night’s 20-13 Class 3 District 14 loss at Boonville. The loss drops Richmond to 1-1 in district play and forces the Spartans to defeat visiting Moberly this week to earn a spot in the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Pirates, who like Richmond who entered the game at 3-5 overall, are the district champions and will be at Odessa Friday. Moberly evened its district record at 1-1 with a 27-20 win at Odessa.
The Spartans had their chances but just could not put the Pirates away. Richmond ended the game with 242 yards of total offense – 192 of those on the ground, but the first half was all Spartans even though they only held a 6-0 lead. Boonville had 37 yards of offense (18 rushing, 19 passing) through two quarters, and did not pick up a first down until the final 30 seconds of the half.
All Richmond had to show for their work offensively in the first half was a 1-yard quarterback sneak by Colby Bowles with 37 seconds left in the second period. A 12-yard touchdown run by Arthur Bivines late in the first quarter was called back by a holding penalty, and the Spartans could not poke it in the end zone.
“Offensively, we moved the ball all night long as long as long as we didn’t get penalties that put us in long-yardage situations,” a frustrated Spartan Coach Rob Bowers said. “We didn’t do a good job of finishing drives and that – as much as any reason – got us beat. We should’ve scored 21 points in the first half, but we just didn’t finish the drives and get the points up on the board.”
As the second half opened, the Spartans got a heavy dose of Chuckie Jones, the outstanding Pirate quarterback and leading ground gainer, who was held to just three touches in the first half (2 carries for minus-4 yards, and one reception for 3 yards). Jones carried the Boonville offense in the second half beginning with the second play from scrimmage after the intermission. Jones took the snap and went around left end – broke some tackles – and did not stop until he reached the end zone 50 yards later. Devon Hohensee’s kick gave Boonville a 7-6 lead and the tone for the second half was set.
Jones carried 10 times in the final half for 87 yards and added the clinching touchdown later on an 11-yard burst untouched up the middle.
“He’s just an outstanding athlete,” Bowers said. “We hit him on the line of scrimmage and couldn’t get him down. He made plays and that’s what great athletes do.”
The Pirates completely seized the momentum following the ensuing Richmond possession when a snap to the punter sailed over Jordan Smith’s head and was recovered in the end zone by D.J. VanGent for a Boonville touchdown, but the extra point kick was blocked. Bowers said that miscue was a killer.
“You just can’t give up seven points in a tight ballgame,” he said. “We gave up seven right there and we got beat by seven.”
Bowers was pleased with how his Spartans responded following the miscue when they answered with a 65-yard, 8-play scoring drive. Bowles completed his only three passes of the game on that drive – two of them to convert third and longs. His first to Jon Vance covered 12 yards and a 35-yarder to Bivines was good for 35 yards to the Pirate 21. Bivines, who ended the game with 60 yards rushing on 14 carries, capped the drive with an 18-yard run just two plays later, followed by Bowles’ kick to tie the game at 13-13 with 5:39 left in the third quarter.
The Spartan defense stopped Boonville on the next series, but back-to-back holding calls on Richmond halted the next Spartan possession to force a punt. The Pirates took over on the Spartan 20 following Hohensee’s 40-yard return. Jones called his own number on second down for 8 yards and then followed with his 11-yard burst for what would be the game-winning touchdown with 56 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Spartans could not generate any more offense and the Pirates milked the clock with an 8-play drive that moved the ball from their own 35 to the RHS 39 before punting with 54 seconds left in the game.
“Our kids played hard and I was proud of their effort,” Bowers said. “There were times I felt like we had a chance to stop a couple of drives that were key and we just didn’t make the play when we had to and that’s how you lose the game.”
The Pirates ended the game with 133 rushing yards and 19 in the air. Jamal Robinson led the Richmond ground attack with 86 yards on a dozen carries, with Bowles adding 33 more in 15 attempts, and Smith ran for 14 on seven carries.
The Spartans had 12 first downs while Boonville moved the chains seven times. Despite the wet turf, Richmond fumbled only three times, and lost one, with the Pirates recovering all three of their drops. The Spartans were flagged seven times for 46 yards, with Boonville drawing six penalties for 44 yards.
Photo: Spartan quarterback Colby Bowles fights his way through the Boonville defense to pick up a few of his 33 rushing yards. (Photo by Russ Green/The Daily News)