By Russ Green-Sports Editor
The Richmond Spartans continued their recent dominance of the Bell Game series with the Lexington Minutemen Friday night at Tom Adams Field. The Spartans chalked up their fifth straight Bell Game victory with a 42-20 victory over Lexington. Richmond, winners of 11 of the last 14 meetings against the Minutemen, now leads the series 15-11.
For the second year in a row Richmond ends the regular season with a 3-2 MRVC East record and a third-place finish, and will take a 6-3 record into Friday night’s District 8 home game against Kansas City Northeast. Lexington falls to 2-3 in league play and will take a 3-6 overall record to St. Joseph to meet Bishop LeBlond in Class 2, District 8 play.
The 22-point Richmond victory did not come easily. For the third game in a row, the Spartans fumbled the ball away on their very first play from scrimmage. Lexington immediately cashed in the opportunity with Tommy Smith scoring two-plays later on an 11-yard run.
“When you turn the ball over and let them get going, that makes your job a lot tougher,” Richmond coach Rob Bowers said. “Lexington has some good weapons offensively and defensively, they play hard and they played well. They made life miserable for us in the first half.”
Smith carried the workload for the Minutemen with 127 yards rushing on 28 carries. Most of the yardage by the junior running back came in the first half as Lexington managed to stay with the Spartans through the first two periods. The Spartans held a 21-13 lead at the half, but the Richmond defense shut down the Lexington ground attack and Smith by holding him to just 18 yards on 8 carries through the final two quarters.
“They were running a lot of zone stuff and we were over pursuing,” Bowers said. “Our kids did a much better job in the second half of playing their gap responsibility and doing what they were supposed to do. It was a good job of the kids recognizing and listening to what they were supposed to do and then going out and doing it. That’s something I’m not sure we would have done at the beginning of the year.”
The Spartans gave up just 80 yards of total offense to Lexington in the second half, with the lone Minuteman score coming on a 41-yard fumble return by Blake Johnson with 5:32 left in the game.
After Lexington’s opening punch, Richmond bounced back later in the quarter with a 46-yard run by quarterback Quinton Maxwell. The junior signal caller ran for 117 yards on 10 carries and a pair of touchdowns, while also completing half of his 10 passes for 121 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Shane Battagler booted the first of his six conversions to tie the game at 7-all with 5:13 remaining in the opening frame. Smith then capped the following Minuteman possession with his second score of the night from a yard out, but the run for 2 failed.
That would be the final Lexington lead of the night as Richmond – struggling to get the running game going consistently – went to the air as Maxwell found a wide-open Mahki White down the middle for a 63-yard touchdown pass just 58 seconds later. Battagler’s kick gave Richmond a 14-13 lead with 10:58 remaining in the half.
The Spartan offense got a boost late in the half with Dylan Seely’s 46-yard punt return to set up a short scoring drive. Despite a holding call on the first play of the drive, Richmond found the end zone with Maxwell connecting with Dominic Nobile for an 18-yard scoring strike on third down to give the Spartans a 21-13 lead with 1:53 left in the half.