By Josh Chapin
Blair Vanlandingham didn’t hesitate.
When he was asked to trade in his normal No. 26 jersey to wear No. 7 on Richmond’s senior night, he was more than happy to make that change.
One thing that didn’t change? Richmond’s position as the top football team in the North Central Conference.
“That was for Nate Flannery,” Vanlandingham said after the Red Devils repeated as outright NCC champions. “He didn’t get to play the last two years, and he asked me to wear No. 7 for him. I’ll definitely do that for him. He’s like a brother to me.
“I felt like I played well enough for Flannery. I felt like I needed to represent his jersey. I’m glad he felt I was the one to wear the jersey.”
Richmond is the one in the NCC. Again.
Vanlandingham and the Red Devil defense came up big time and again Friday night, and Richmond came away with a 28-14 win on Lyboult Field.
That was enough to seal the second straight outright NCC title for the Devils. And, appropriately enough, it was the Richmond defense that sealed the victory.
Nate Trawick recovered a fumble and rumbled in from 1-yard out to give RHS a two-touchdown advantage with 2:09 remaining.
“I came across the line. The ball popped out and I just reacted to it,” Trawick said. “I jumped on it and just ran into the end zone.”
It wasn’t the first time the Red Devils found the end zone.
Jordan Christian threw three touchdown passes – two to Matt Morrow and another to Tyler Ripperger – and Dakota Pennington booted a 30-yard field goal.
Richmond finishes the season 5-1 in the NCC, and improved to 7-2 overall.
The Red Devils are 12-1 in NCC play over the past two seasons.
“It feels great,” said RHS senior John Holland. “Last year we did really well, and this year we came out and we had heart.”
They also have a 25th total NCC championship.
“We played as a team. The defense helped us out, and the offense scored points. We did what we had to do,” said senior Jermayne Sharp.
“It feels great, considering where we were at two years ago.”
Added Jarred Sharp: “This (conference championship) was definitely an expectation coming into the season. It feels great as a senior. We’re moving in the right direction as a program.”
Richmond struck first Friday, when Christian connected with Morrow on fourth down for a 20-yard touchdown with 9:54 left in the opening quarter.
Christian had another fourth-down conversion for a touchdown a quarter later. This time, the sophomore quarterback found Tyler Ripperger for a 36-yard score.
That catch was one of a game-high 10 for Ripperger, who finished with 111 yards receiving. Justin Holland led Richmond’s running game with 128 yards on 15 carries.
Brendan Hegg added 70 yards receiving, with Morrow finishing with 64. Christian threw for 245 yards.
He also found Morrow for touchdown No. 2 for the duo late in the first half. Christian’s pass was tipped in the end zone, but Morrow snatched it anyway, and the senior held on to the ball as he fell to the turf.
Pennington’s field goal as time expired sent the Red Devils into halftime leading 21-7.
“We played a nice game,” said RHS coach Matt Holeva. “When things got a little bit tight, we kept our composure and were able to get it done.”
Logansport applied pressure in the second half.
Isaac Eastburn scored on a 22-yard run late in the third quarter to make it a one-possession game, and the Berries did enough to keep Richmond’s offense at bay.
But, Logansport also had to start a drive on its own 3-yard line late in the fourth quarter, which led Trawick’s game-clinching touchdown.
“I had an opportunity and I seized it,” Trawick said.
Richmond’s Andrew Rice seized an opportunity on the ensuing drive, grabbing an interception that let the Red Devils run out the remaining 2 minutes.
All that was left was the postgame celebration – and for Holeva to ring the Victory Bell as he left Lyboult’s field.
“I’m real proud of the group,” Holeva said. “We’ll enjoy it. As always, it will be short lived. We’ll enjoy it tonight, and at the banquet and later on in the season, but starting (today), it’s all getting ready for sectional play and Anderson.”
Eastburn also scored on a 35-yard pass from Ryan Schrock in the first half.
“Logansport came and played a heck of a ball game,” Holeva said. “They are getting better every week, and coach (Brad) Urban is doing a great job with that bunch, and they played hard.”