It’s time to break out the clichés following Richmond’s 9-0 loss at Odessa last week to open District 14 play – “backs are against the wall,” “there’s no tomorrow,” “it’s now or never,” etc., etc.
No matter how it’s phrased, the Richmond Spartans face a “must win” game Friday night as they host their old MRVC nemesis Boonville Pirates in a 7 p.m. kickoff at Spartan Stadium. While the Spartans were letting their opener get away, the Boonville Pirates defeated Moberly for the second year in a row, 28-19. With the top two teams in the district earning a post-season invitation, Richmond must win its next two games in order to keep playing beyond that.
“That’s why winning the first district game is so important,” Spartan Coach Rob Bowers said. “It gives you a little bit of breathing room. We’ve got to go out and win two games with a chance to get in. It’s possible and we just have to be able to handle the pressure of not having any room for error.”
Particularly frustrating for Bowers and the Spartan coaching staff is that just a handful of plays made the difference in Friday night’s loss.
“We didn’t do a very good job of cashing in our opportunities,” he said. “We’ve got to take advantage of those scoring opportunities, and in close games if you don’t, that gets you beat.”
The Pirates will bring a 6-2 record with them to Tom Adams Field. After dropping the opening game of the season to Versailles, 6-3, Boonville has lost just one more and that was to state-ranked Hannibal 35-0. The Pirates have played most of the season without the services of their outstanding running back Chuckie Jones. However, in limited duty Jones has managed 322 yards on 39 carries with three touchdowns.
“They’re 6-2 for a reason,” Bowers said. “It’s not just the Chuckie Jones show – in fact, in the tapes we have he didn’t even play in one of the games and they still looked really good offensively. So it’s not us against Chuckie. We’ve got to come out and play well against the entire Boonville offense.”
Taking up the load for Jones is Kellen Kempf, who has 1,211 yards on 183 carries with 13 touchdowns, while quarterback Aaron Schanzmeyer had hit 32 of his 59 pass attempts for 447 yards with a touchdown and 4 interceptions. His main target is Devin Hohensee who has caught 15 passes for 262 yards.
The Pirate defense is allowing just 11 points per game behind a very talented line that puts plenty of pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Boonville has recorded 19 sacks, and 70 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Gavin Hall has 5 sacks and 11 tackles behind the line with a forced fumble and fumble recovery.
“They have a couple of defensive tackles who are pretty good,” Bowers said. “They play hard all the way. Their linebackers are active and people have not thrown the ball against them because they’ve had so much pressure protecting the quarterback.”
Bowers said it is important for his running game, that has been limited to just 211 yards the last two weeks, to get going Friday night.
“We are much better at throwing the football when we want to with play action and some situations like that, because we do a much better job at protecting,” he said. “If we get in a throwing formation, and have to throw, we run into problems with our protection.”
The Spartans dropped a 20-13 decision to the Pirates last year at Boonville. The Pirates dropped a 15-14 contest in their last visit to Richmond during the 2007 season.