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Richmond Coach Rob Bowers is hoping Wednesday night’s 41-26 Class 3 Regional win at Holden shook off the playoff nerves for his Spartans. The Spartans bobbled away the opening kickoff and surrendered 12 points off turnovers in the first half Wednesday before righting the ship. The Spartans return to Tom Adams Field tonight to host Pleasant Hill in a meeting of 7-4 teams in a sectional matchup at 7.
Bowers feels his team might have had a few jitters on Wednesday and is glad to have gotten that first postseason game under their belts.
“I think it was important for us because it’s been a while since we’ve been in the playoffs and it was a good experience for our kids to get out there and get a taste of it,” he said. “Hopefully now, it won’t be that big a deal for them as far as getting nervous.”
The Spartans and the Roosters meet for the first time in a couple of seasons since the split of the MRVC sent Pleasant Hill to the West, and Richmond to the East. While the Spartans were getting past Holden Wednesday night, the Roosters outscored the Bulldogs at Odessa, 35-34.
Pleasant Hill coach Kyle Roach will lean heavily on his 5-9, 173-pound senior running back Matt Hertzog. Hertzog has rushed for 1,451 yards and has 22 of the Rooster’s 26 rushing touchdowns.
“He’s a great running back,” Bowers said. “He is their go-to guy. If they run 45 running plays, he’s probably going to run 35 to 40 of them. He’s going to get the ball. If they move the ball, it’s because he’s toting the pill. We’ve got to do a great job of getting people to the ball, wrap up and get him down.”
Quarterback Cody Todd has attempted just 208 passes this season. He has completed 108 of them for 1,221 yards with 6 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. Hertzog has caught 17 of them for 163 yards, with senior receiver Justin Starks having caught a team-high 44 passes for 647 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
This year’s version of the Roosters is younger than the squad that advanced to last year’s quarterfinal. Bowers said although they are not quite as experienced, they are a fundamentally sound team.
“They play hard and they expect to win,” he said. “They’ve had three straight pretty good years and they have a lot of confidence. You get a team like that they are always a threat. You have to go out and beat them because they are not going to beat themselves.”
The Roosters are also a very respectable 5-1 on the road this season.
Bowers knows his defensive front will have to have a better night than they had last week.
“We missed a lot of tackles and weren’t as aggressive on the d-line as we have been,” he said. “We’ve got to stay down. We played with our pads up Wednesday and we were looking to find the ball, rather than win the battle with the guy across the line.”
While the defensive line struggled a bit, the Spartan offensive linemen were paving the way for 395 rushing yards against Holden. The lone negative from Wednesday’s performance was Richmond’s three turnovers.
Bowers expects Pleasant Hill to run its usual 4-4 defense in order to stop the Richmond ground attack that has averaged over 230 yards a game the last four contests. And just like the Rooster offense, the defense will also be fundamentally sound.
“They are well-schooled on what they are supposed to do and how they are supposed to do it,” Bowers said. “You’re not going to line up and catch them out of position. You’re just going to have to go out and block them and be better than they are.”
The Roosters have won the last three meetings between the two schools.