The Richmond Spartan defense will be out to slow down an offense guided by a quarterback who throws to a lot of talented receivers. Sound familiar? That is the case – once again – for the Spartans this week as they travel to Knob Noster to face the Panthers in an MRVC East battle.
After having a first half to forget last week in a 46-23 home loss to pass-happy Higginsville, the Richmond defense will try to regroup as they face Panther quarterback Ivan Pyszka, who last year threw for over 1,900 yards and 18 touchdowns on his way to earning second-team, all-conference honors. The Panthers are 3-2 overall and 0-1 in the conference (35-14 win at Holden), and like the Huskers one week earlier, are coming off a victory over Trenton the previous week.
The Spartans, 2-3 overall and 1-2 in the league, are hoping the similarities end there as they attempt to snap a two-game skid. What coach Rob Bowers is hoping for is a repeat of last year’s defensive effort against Knob Noster that was probably the best of the season. Richmond held Pyszka to just 143 passing yards with only 19 coming in the second half in a 26-6 RHS win. The Spartans also held all-state receiver Cullen Rosine without a reception.
“Last year might have been a little easier because Rosine was their go-to guy,” Bowers said. “Probably 80 percent of their offense went through him and that allowed us to try and take him away. When we did that it made it difficult for them to do what they liked.”
Although Rosine has graduated, there are still plenty of targets for Pyszka to look for. The Panther signal caller, who missed the first two games of this year to an injury, passed for 195 yards last week to five different receivers with three of them grabbing four each. Senior wide out Brian Hughes, a first-team, all-conference player from last season was among those targets. Junior tight end Connor Krause grabbed a pair of passes last week for 90 yards.
“We have to do a great job at lining up and playing our responsibilities and doing what we are supposed to do,” Bowers said. “We have to play better no matter what type of offense we’re facing.”
Bowers said a big concern is stopping the Panthers on third down. Last week, Higginsville was three of nine on third downs, including converting a third-and-17 situation on the initial Husker scoring drive.
“We’ve got to do a better job on third down,” Bowers said. “We had opportunities last week on third down to get stops and we didn’t get them so we need to get that straightened out.”
Meanwhile the Spartan offense failed to convert a third down in nine tries last week. Despite their offensive struggles last week, especially in the first half, Richmond quietly had close to 200 yards on the ground for the game. Bowers knows it will be a priority for the Panthers, who gave up 463 yards of offense to Trenton, to stop the Spartans on the ground.
“They are going to come out and make it tough for us to run the ball and I’m sure they will try and force us to beat them with our passing game,” he said. “I think that’s something that we can do. We have to do a better job of protecting the quarterback and that’s where it all starts.”
After missing his first 5 passing attempts last week, quarterback Colby Bowles ended the night hitting 8 of 18 passes for 45 yards, with Luke Hook grabbing 5 of those for 29 yards.