The seven Richmond Spartan seniors had never seen the Saluda Bell sitting in the RHS commons during their varsity careers because for the past three years, it had made its home south of the river in Lexington. That all changed Friday night before a huge Homecoming crowd at Spartan Stadium.
Backed by an offense that got just enough yardage and a defense that came up with three interceptions and three fumbles, the Richmond Spartans knocked off their long-time rival – not to mention undefeated and state-ranked Lexington – 20-6 on Tom Adams Field. The victory boosted Richmond over the .500 mark at 4-3, as the Spartans end MRVC East play with a 3-2 record heading into districts with Lexington falling to 1-1 in the league.
Richmond grabbed the early momentum on the third play of the game as Colby Bowles found running back Arthur Bivines coming out of the backfield and down the middle of the field for a 57-yard touchdown pass just 1:31 into the game.
Richmond Coach Rob Bowers said he was wanting his team to make something good happen early.
“That’s why we took the ball,” he said. “We wanted to get out on a fast start and that’s what we were able to do. The kids played hard and played well all night long. I’m tickled to death for them. We didn’t always play great, but we played hard. If you play hard, you give yourself a second chance.”
Trent Dial’s extra point gave Richmond a 7-0 lead, but Lexington quickly answered on its next series as Josh Kaullen broke two or three tackles and busted loose for an 81-yard touchdown run. The extra point kick failed and the Minutemen trailed 7-6. The 81-yard burst would be about the only offense the visitors could manage as the Richmond defense held the Minutemen in check for the rest of the cool evening.
Lexington entered the night averaging 231 yards rushing and 82 yards passing a game as the Minutemen climbed to No. 7 in the Class 2 poll. The Spartan defense held Lexington to 109 rushing yards. Quarterback Josh Kaullen completed just 4 of his 12 passes for 77 yards while being sacked 3 times by the Richmond defense.
“We played pretty well,” Bowers said of his defense. “I was pretty disappointed in the touchdown they got because we missed some tackles and they broke one off. We did have a few misalignments that we need to get corrected. We’re getting to the football better and getting more aggressive. We’re still a work in progress, but we’re getting there.”
Gabe Vandiver, Jake Vandiver and Kane Southwick all came up with interceptions for the Spartans, with Colby Bowers and Jamal Robinson recovering fumbles.
Richmond was held to a season-low 99 rushing yards, while Bowles completed 3 of 16 passes for 68 yards, and a pair of touchdowns to go along with one interception.
“Lexington’s got a pretty good defense,” Bowers said. “They run to the ball, they’re aggressive and they tackle well. We made some mistakes that hurt us and we had opportunities there in the first half to get a couple more touchdowns after turnovers, but didn’t do it.”
The Richmond offense helped itself by drawing the Minuteman defense offsides by using varied snap counts. Lexington was flagged five times for jumping the gun for a loss of 24 yards – which was what the Spartans had worked on all week.
“They stunt their linebackers so much that we felt like it was imperative that we be able to go on a longer count and it worked well for us tonight,” Bowers explained.
Following the Lexington score, both defenses took over for the remainder of the half until Richmond got back on the board late with a short 28-yard drive capped by Bowles’ 2-yard run. A bad snap prevented the conversion kick try, but the Spartans held a 13-6 edge with 2:18 left in the half. A Gabe Vandiver interception and 68-yard return halted a late Lexington drive before intermission.
Once again the defenses took over in the third quarter. Richmond put together its best offense series of the game late in the period with a 46-yard drive, using 11 running plays and three passing plays. The final pass attempt was good for 6 points as Bowles scrambled and found Jake Vandiver in the middle of the end zone for a 6-yard scoring strike and a 20-6 cushion following Dial’s kick.
The Minutemen came back with a drive to the Richmond 22, but Southwick’s interception kept them off the scoreboard. Lexington did not threaten the end zone on their three remaining possessions of the game.
PHOTO: Spartan Arthur Bivines (24) is on his way to the end zone after hauling in a pass from quarterback Colby Bowles on the third play of the game against Lexington Friday night. Jake Vandiver (12) celebrates the score. (Photo by Russ Green/The Daily News)