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Control your own destiny. That is the mantra the Richmond Spartans are repeating as they begin Class 3, District 14 action Friday at Odessa. The Spartans enter the 7 p.m. kickoff coming off an emotional 20-6 Bell Game victory over Lexington that has put them over the .500 mark for the second time this season.
The Bulldogs of the MRVC West are 2-5 in their second year under Par Pitts after a 2-8 campaign in his first season. Richmond Coach Rob Bowers said the Bulldogs are a lot better than their victory total shows.
“They’ve been in a lot of games,” he said. “Last year they changed offenses about the third week. This year they started out in the power formations and they’ve stuck with it. They’re big, strong and aggressive kids and they just line up and try to stick it down your throat.”
Odessa dropped an 8-point decision to Chillicothe earlier in the year, and fell a point shy of Pleasant Hill the following week. The Bulldogs were within two touchdowns in their game with Harrisonville before the Wildcats pulled away, and last week turnovers and special teams breakdowns cost them in a 28-20 loss yo Excelsior Springs.
It was the play of the Richmond special teams that got the Spartans started in the right direction last week. The first two Gabe Vandiver punts put Lexington inside its own 5-yard line to begin drives. Overall, the average field position to start Minutemen drives was the Lexington 28.
“All night long, our special teams really played well,” Bowers said. “Coach (Trey) Cavanah does a great job with them. This year we’ve got a sophomore snapper, a sophomore kicker, a sophomore punter and he’s brought them along and they’ve done a great job. When you’re playing well defensively, and your punt team gives them an opportunity to pin them deep, you can get great field position for your offense.”
The Richmond offense had its worst output of the season last week and Bowers said there is a lot of work to do during practice this week to get those mistakes corrected.
“We were really disappointed with ourselves,” he said. “We didn’t play very well. We didn’t protect very well on the pass and we didn’t catch the ball as well as I would have liked for us to. We had some routes we didn’t run well and the whole offensive side didn’t play as well as we would have wanted.”
The Bulldogs feature the 4-4 defense and have surrendered just under 30 points a game this season. Bowers said the Odessa defense features hard-nosed players who like to hit.
The Odessa offense is led by T.C. Shippy, who has picked up 290 rushing yards with 3 touchdowns, followed by Kyle Whited with 214 yards and a touchdown and Seth Martinko with 209 yards and 4 touchdowns. The Bulldogs are averaging just over 146 yards rushing a game and 25 points a contest.
The Bulldogs rarely pass, with Tommy Hotmer attempting 18 passes and completing a dozen for 166 yards and a pair of scores. In last year’s 30-14 Spartan victory, the Richmond secondary picked off four Bulldog passes. The Spartan defense has come up with 8 takeaways the last two weeks, but the goal for Richmond is to find a way to extend its winning streak to three games and have its fate in its own hands.
“We want to control our own destiny and you do that by winning that first game,” Bowers said. “That way, you don’t have to count on anybody else. We want to come out and win this first one and get on the positive side to start district. We’ve got a little two game roll going here and want to keep that going. This is a team we are going to have to play well against and if we do that, I think we have a chance to win.”