As the Spartans get ready for Friday night’s road trip to Holden, Richmond Coach Rob Bowers knows his team is a much better squad than the one that lost last week’s season opener to Lawson 24-17.
Bowers and the Spartans are hoping to file last week in the “lesson’s learned file” and are now looking forward to Friday night’s MRVC East opener at Holden as they face the defending champion Eagles.
Although there were just three Spartan turnovers last week (a fumble and a pair of interceptions), those three giveaways accounted for 17 of the Cardinals’ points. Bowers also bemoaned the fact that Lawson put the ball on the ground five times, yet lost just two of them.
“We spend more time on causing turnovers and recovering them than we ever have,” he explained. “That’s been a big emphasis in our practices this year. Part of that goes back to if you’re not playing with a sense of urgency and are a step slow, you’re going to pay for it.”
While the Spartans were coming up short in their season opener, the Eagles began their 2009 campaign with a 34-31 loss to visiting Warsaw.
Although there is no Dennis Hutchings (2,500 yards and 31 touchdowns in 2008) in the backfield for the Eagles this season, Holden still managed to chalk up 242 rushing yards against a veteran Warsaw defense last week. Junior Kyle Elkins led the way with 162 yards in his first varsity start, with James Gray, a senior, adding 73 more.
Junior Dalton Smith and sophomore Ryan Anderson split the quarterback duties. Smith completed one of 6 passes for 31 yards, while Anderson connected on 2 of his 6 attempts for 47 more yards. Bowers said although the Eagles are still trying to plug in new personnel, they won’t be too fancy.
“They’ll line up and just stick it at you and throw a big play-action pass every once in a while,” he said. “They just get after you and play hard. I’m sure early they will be searching, but those kids have been in that system for several years now and they’ll do well. We expect them to be a good football team.”
Holden held a 14-7 lead in the first half before Warsaw tied the game 14-14 at the half and then scored 20 more unanswered points.
Richmond surrendered 246 rushing yards last week, but Bowers was more concerned about his team’s 26 missed tackles and knows the Spartans will have to clean that up before Friday.
“We’ve got to tackle better,” he said. “That’s one of the areas we have concentrated on. Every defensive practice we’ve had so far this year we have had tackling drills, but Friday it looked like we hadn’t worked on it. I know the kids are better tacklers than that and they just have to go out and tackle better. I’ve seen them do it.”
The Richmond offense struggled for a while last week. The Spartans ran for 164 yards, while adding 46 more passing on four completions. Bowers said the key to getting the offense untracked is to cut down on the 5 dropped passes last week, and get more production from the line.
“We’ve got to do a better job of catching the football, and protecting the passer,” he said. “Our offensive line is going to be a good one and is a good offensive line – they just have to play like it and Friday night we didn’t. They are better than they played and they will play better this week.”
Bowers said his team needs to break a few big plays to get the offense rolling and not force them to drive the length of the field. He adds that although last week’s game was disappointing, the Spartans need to focus on the conference season that is still at 0-0.
“One game does not make a season,” Bowers said. “It’s frustrating that we didn’t play as well as I would have liked. We’re a better football team than that. I know we are and the kids know we are. While that stings and there is nothing we can do to change that, we can go out and not let that happen again.”