The Richmond Spartans had a simple game plan Friday night. Grab an early lead and let the defense and the terrible field conditions take over from there. The Spartans are in the playoffs for the first time since the 2004 season following Friday night’s 21-0 win at Moberly on a field better suited for mud wrestling than playing football.
Richmond put a pair of touchdowns on the board in the first quarter and that would be more than enough make the Spartans the District 14 runner-up, and a spot in Wednesday’s Class 3 Regional at Holden for a rematch with the Eagles.
Richmond ran for 260 yards, most of those coming in the first half, and more importantly, did not commit a turnover. The lone pass completion on two attempts was for 21 yards, but those 21 yards from Colby Bowles to Kyle Carroll was good for a touchdown on Richmond’s second series of the game.
“In the first half, when we could run, our kids really played well offensively,” Richmond Coach Rob Bowers said. “We got a couple of turnovers and took advantage of them. I was really pleased with what we did offensively in the first half. Defensively, we did well the whole game.”
Bowers told his linemen before the game that, due to the field conditions, they would be leaned on heavily.
“We had to have them step up and play,” he said. “We’ve been on them a lot this year and tonight they stepped up and created some holes for us and the running backs did a nice job of getting through them.”
Gabe Vandiver led the Richmond rushers with 112 yards on 7 carries, with Arthur Bivines picking up 65 yards on 10 carries. Reny Ries also had 65 yards on 11 attempts.
Bowles found Carroll over the middle to cap the nine-play, 86-yard Richmond scoring drive, but the conversion kick was wide left with 3:05 remaining in the first period.
“We took the ball at the first of the game even though we knew we would be going against the wind because I knew the field would deteriorate quickly,” Bowers said. “So we wanted to try and get one in quickly.”
The defense took over from there as the Spartans held Moberly, who finished at 4-6 overall and 0-3 in district play, to 108 total yards – 87 on the ground and 23 through the air on a pair of completions. Moberly quarterback Kris Cupp, who had his appendix removed two weeks ago, started and saw limited duty. The senior signal caller completed just one of his passes for 7 yards, while Ben Stoecklin hit just one of his three attempts for 15 yards.
After Richmond grabbed the lead, the defense was quick to get the ball back as Reis fell on a snap that sailed over Cupp’s head on the next series. Richmond took just three plays to move the football 22 yards with Reis running for 16 and then the final 6 yards for the score. Bowles hit Kane Southwick for the conversion for a 14-0 Richmond lead with 1:50 left in the first quarter.
With the two-touchdown lead and the field conditions taking away any chance for an air game, the Richmond defense crowded the box to shut down the running game. A bulk of Moberly’s ground game came on its next play with John Dixon breaking around the left side for 56 yards before he was brought down on the Richmond 9-yard line. Moberly could not get any farther and the Richmond defense stopped them on the 5-yard line.
Richmond then practically sealed the game on the next possession by moving the ball from there to the other end of the field on seven plays with Gabe Vandiver racing in from 56 yards out for the touchdown. Trent Dial added the kick for what would turn out to be the final points of the game.
The Spartans did manage to move the ball some in the second half, but had drives stall out before reaching the end zone. Moberly had one final chance to score early in the third quarter, but that threat was ended with a Jake Vandiver interception in the end zone.
PHOTO: Spartan running back Arthur Bivines slips out of the arms of a Moberly defender. Bivines ran for 65 yards in Richmond’s Friday night victory. (Photo by Russ Green/The Daily News.)