The Richmond and Croswell-Lexington High School football teams know each other very well.
But on Friday night in Richmond, the second match-up between the teams this season came down to only a couple of simple things. Namely turnovers and execution.
Turnovers kept the Pioneers in the game and execution at the end of the game helped the Blue Devils escape with the victory.
“We came up with big plays,” said Pioneers senior linebacker Matthew Kettlewell, who had a clutch second half interception. “We did our best but we have been problems with execution all season.”
Very rarely does a team lose the turnover battle in the playoffs and still win, but that is exactly what occurred Friday as Richmond was minus-2 in turnovers but still found a way to pull out a 27-21 win.
Richmond went up 27-21 after Anthony Tavano hauled in his second touchdown reception of the game in the fourth quarter. Richmond missed the point after attempt but its defense stepped up when it needed to the most.
Cros-Lex senior running back Joe Duff often shredded the Richmond defense on the ground. Duff ran hard, to the tune of 18 carries for 171 yards and a touchdown. On the Pioneers final offensive drive he helped the team advance down the field deep into Richmond territory.
But that’s where the Pioneers actually went away from the running game and after three consecutive incompletion’s, Richmond escaped with the Division 4 district victory.
“I was actually happy they stopped running the ball,” Richmond coach James Bishop said. “We were having a really tough time stopping them. We were mixing up our coverages really well in the secondary and that helped us.”
From the Pioneers standpoint those plays all came down to a failure of execution the plays called.
“The difference was not executing,” Pioneers quarterback Justin Johnston said. “We had errant passes, dropped pass and little plays here and there. Momentum swings are really our fault for not executing.”
Another key was the play of Richmond receiver Anthony Tavano. He was spectacular at several moments of the game and finished with seven receptions for 96 yards.
“I think he is underrated,” coach Bishop said. “He has an uncanny ability to position his body for catches. He really stepped up for us.”
Pioneers coach Garrett Grundman ends his first season at the helm with a 6-4 record. But he said it’s not wins and losses he will remember, but instead the resiliency of his team and the effort they put into the season.
“There are so many good memories,” Grundman said. “Just the kids. It’s all about the kids. They gave 100 percent every play. You love them and hate to see them go. Hopefully they will move on to be good gentlemen.”
Richmond meanwhile has turned its attention already to its next game. They will play a Notre Dame Prep team that easily defeated Marysville 54-13.
“At this point in the season the big factor is heart,” Richmond’s Spencer Trapiss said. “Every team is going to have talent, some times more than the other team, but on those crucial plays it comes down to discipline and will power.”
Contact Joseph Hayes at (810) 989-6268 or at [email protected] Follow him on twitter @jhayes1136.