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There’s a little more fuel to the fire known as the Richmond/Carrollton rivalry when the two schools meet Friday night at Trojan Field in Carrollton. At stake is the early top spot in the MRVC East race as the Spartans take their 1-0 league mark and 2-1 overall record to meet the unbeaten hosts in their first conference matchup.
The Trojans have rolled through their first three opponents on their way to a No. 5 ranking in the Class 2 poll, and have thrown three shutouts along the way. The Trojan defense, which returns 8 starters from last year’s team that advanced to the quarterfinals, is spearheaded by all-state linebacker Zach Davis and linebacker Jed Bultman, who had a dozen stops last week. Spencer Flick and Cody Renzelman patrol the Carrollton secondary. The Trojans have not allowed more than 130 yards of offense to an opponent through the first three games.
After dropping their opener to Lawson, the Spartans have picked up back-to-back wins including knocking off state-ranked Savannah last Friday. Richmond Coach Rob Bowers feels his team is playing with a lot more confidence than in the past.
“I think you saw it first game,” he said. “We got down early and fought back and they didn’t show any indications of folding. We just didn’t come out strong from the start that first week. I think the confidence is growing. The better we practice, the better we play, the better we play, the better we practice and it just snowballs going the right way.”
The Spartan defense has continued to play well. It was the defense that kept the Savages from scoring after Richmond committed four second half turnovers to help preserve the win last week. However, unlike last week when Savannah put the ball in the air 42 times, the Richmond defense will face a run-oriented Trojan attack led by Ross Flick.
Flick has been the workhorse of the Trojan attack with 599 yards and 11 touchdowns through the first three weeks. Although Carrollton will line up in the spread, the main focus is to run.
“Offensively we’re multiple formations in scheme, but we’re going to establish the run,” Trojan Coach Greg Hough said. “Football is football, no matter what offense you run or what defense you run. What ever team blocks, tackles and runs the best and what ever team controls the line of scrimmage is going to be the team that wins.”
Hough admits his offense will be challenged by a much larger Spartan front line.
“Going into this week, we’re going to be out-sized up front and that makes me a little nervous about our run game,” he said. “For three weeks we’ve been successful so the game plan is if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, but we’re definitely going to have to use all aspects of the game to get a victory.”
Bowers adds that the Trojans use their various formations trying to get the defense spread out.
“They line up in a ton of formations and try to confuse the defense and get them out of position,” he said. “They try to get you out of position and break long plays. It will be key for us to line up correctly and run to the football and make the tackle.”
The Spartan coach also said making the tackle in one-on-one situations is key in facing a spread offense.
Trojan quarterback Jason Mayden spent time last week working on the aerial game as he completed 10 of 13 passes for 115 yards. For the season, he has attempted just 27, but completed 19 of them for 303 yards and 3 touchdowns. His favorite target is Renzelman, who hauled in 5 passes last week for 58 yards.
Bowers knows his team must take care of the football.
Richmond gave the ball away four times last year and lost a 20-0 decision to the Trojans despite holding Carrollton to 131 yards of offense, while the Spartans gained 154 rushing and 34 more passing.
Meanwhile, Hough knows his squad faces its biggest hurdle.
“Richmond has been tested more than we have,” he said. “They have played better teams than we have, so the question mark going in is how good is Carrollton? I think that will be answered Friday night. I expect it to be a good, physical game. We know we’re in for a fight – it doesn’t matter what the records are.”