Richmond landed the first punch Friday night, but the visiting Higginsville Huskers countered with a few hard punches of their own. Richmond scored on its first play from scrimmage, but by the half Higginsville had responded with 40 unanswered points on the way to a 46-23 MRVC East victory.
It was the conference opener for the Huskers as they continue their best start in 33 years with a 5-0 mark. Richmond has now dropped two in a row and stand at 2-3 overall and 1-2 in conference play.
It was the start the Spartans wanted. The defense forced the potent Huskers to a three-and-out, and on the first offensive play, Arthur Bivines broke off left tackle 56 yards, nearly untouched. Trent Dial booted the conversion and Richmond had jumped on top 7-0 just 1:56 into the game. That would be it for the Spartan offense for the rest of the half, as Richmond would add just 66 more yards to its total before halftime.
Meanwhile, Higginsville quickly came back with the next 40 points beginning with a nine-play, 65-yard drive with Kody Rinne capping the drive on a 12-yard run with 7:25 left in the quarter. Two plays later, the Huskers had the ball back following the first of three interceptions their secondary would come up with before the night was over.
A halfback option pass to Cameron Zuehlsdorf covered 37 yards on the second play, and one snap later Lance Kays hit the first of his three touchdown passes. DeShaun Thirkield, who ended the night with 3 touchdown catches and 75 yards, hauled in the first from 4-yards out as the visitors grabbed the lead for good 13-7 with 6:17 left in the opening period.
A questionable pass interference call against Richmond one series later, set up the third Higginsville score on the final play of the quarter for a 21-0 Husker lead. Higginsville would build its lead to 34-7 in just four plays. The second Husker interception of the night ended up on the Spartan 10 following the return and a blocking below the waist call against Richmond during the play. On the final snap of the half, Thirkield hauled in another touchdown pass from Kays from 12 yards out for a 40-7 cushion. Kays ended the night with just under 200 yards through the air with Zuehlsdorf catching 4 for 98 yards.
“Higginsville’s a good football team,” Richmond Coach Rob Bowers said. “Their skill kids are good players and they don’t need any help and we gave them some. We consistently let them outside on the pass all night long and that increased the time they had to pass. You give them that much time they’ll hurt you with it.”
The Spartans came out after intermission and got the offense untracked as they marched 58 yards in 8 plays for a touchdown, and followed that with another 8 play scoring drive covering 90 yards.
“We go in at halftime and come out and do, offensively what we should have done through the first half,” Bowers said. “There weren’t any adjustments made at halftime as far as blocking assignments, or anything like that. What we did in the second half is what we should have done in the first half.”
Bowers said his team has not weathered storms very well the last two weeks.
“We’ve got to find a way to fight through adversity,” he said. “Right now, when bad things happen, our kids get their heads down and take too long to get back up.”
Bivines, who ended the night with 137 rushing yards, scored his second touchdown of the night on a 12-yard run followed by Colby Bowles hitting Kane Southwick for the 2-point conversion with 8:28 left in the third quarter. Bowles would add Richmond’s final touchdown with a 23-yard run with 1:14 remaining in the third. Bivines ran the conversion.
Higginsville would come back with a long 14-play, 82-yard scoring drive with Kays scoring the final touchdown of the night.
PHOTO: Spartan running back Arthur Bivines scored on Richmond’s first play from scrimmage on a 56-yard run against Higginsville. (Photos by Russ Green/The Daily News)