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As the scoreboard clock at Spartan Stadium slowly ticked down to triple zeroes Monday night, the Spartans were left to think about what might have been. A mistake here, a penalty there, all resulted in Pleasant Hill escaping back home with a 21-20 Class 3 Sectional victory over Richmond and a home game Saturday against O’Hara in the quarterfinals.
The Spartans end the season at 7-5 and posted 245 yards rushing, while limiting the Roosters, now 8-4, to 116 yards on the ground and 140 more through the air. However, it was the 12 penalties for 95 yards that caused the most damage to the Spartans, while Pleasant Hill drew 6 flags for a loss of 43 yards.
Still, Richmond had a chance for victory in the final minute of the game. Junior quarterback Colby Bowles sparked the potential game-tying drive as the Spartans trailed 21-14. Bowles completed all four pass attempts in the drive for 21 yards while rushing for 58 yards after Richmond took over on its own 21 with time running out. A 24-yard run on third and 2 pushed the ball to the Pleasant Hill 24, followed by a 19-yard run and the final 5 yards with 57.7 seconds left in the game.
The Spartans never got a chance for the kick as the snap was mishandled and a pass to the end zone was incomplete. Pleasant Hill was able to run out the clock to end the Spartan season. Richmond Coach Rob Bowers was pleased with the way his team battled throughout the night.
“I was proud of the things the kids were able to accomplish,” he said. “It didn’t end like we wanted. It would have been a lot easier to take if we had played well and just got beat by a team we couldn’t handle. A lot of things tonight were self inflicted and that’s disappointing.”
The Spartans gave the ball away on their first play from scrimmage, but the defense held on four downs to get the ball back for the offense. On the very next play, Gabe Vandiver busted through the middle of the line and raced 77 yards for a touchdown, followed by Trent Dial’s kick for a 7-0 Richmond lead.
Richmond ran into trouble on its next possession when a personal foul call slowed the momentum. Instead of second and 9 from the Rooster 21, Richmond faced third and 25.
Pleasant Hill stopped the drive and the Roosters then marched 71 yards for the score with Dalton Rucker crashing in from the one. However, the conversion kick was wide left.
The Roosters did manage to take the lead late in the first half with a 42-yard pass play from Cody Todd to Tyler Hansen, followed by a successful conversion pass with 3:33 left in the second period.
It appeared the Spartans would get a late momentum boost when Gabe Vandiver zigzagged his way down the field from the Rooster 47 into the end zone, but an illegal block call against Richmond took away the score and the half ended with the visitors still nursing a 14-7 lead.
“Penalties cost us two touchdowns,” Bowers said. “We were down there with an excellent chance to score and then we get a dead-ball personal foul and that took us from a short yardage situation into a long-yardage situation. Then we get one called back. You can’t do that.”
Richmond did manage to score on its first possession of the third quarter with a 70-yard, 5-play drive with Bowles, who ended the night with 116 yards rushing and 50 more passing scored on a 3-yard plunge with Dial’s kick tying the game. Another Spartan miscue on a punt gave Pleasant Hill a short field as the Roosters scored on the next play – at 28-yard Todd to Justin Starks pass with 3:21 left in the third quarter. Jake Goosey then added the conversion.
“We just did not do the things it takes to win, especially when you get in the playoffs,” Bowers said. “We came close, but couldn’t finish it off. It seemed like every time we turned around, we were shooting ourselves in the foot. The kids played hard, we just made too many mistakes.”
In addition to Bowles’ rushing yardage, Gabe Vandiver added 119 more on 7 carries with Arthur Bivines picking up 34 on 10 attempts. Kane Southwick had four receptions for 21 yards with Jake Vandiver grabbing a pair for 20.
Matt Hertzog led the Pleasant Hill offense with 19 carries for 109 yards on the ground, while Todd completed 15 passes on 22 attempts for 140 yards.
PHOTO:Spartan quarterback Colby Bowles (10) breaks loose for a 24-yard gain to keep Richmond’s final scoring drive alive Monday night. (Photo by Russ Green/The Daily News.)