Spartans finish 3-0 at home after piling up 593 yards offense, scoring 42 unanswered points
Richfield put an exclamation point on the 2020 season with a 42-28 win over Minnehaha/SPA/Blake at Spartan Stadium on Nov. 12.
The regular-season finale would be the final Spartans game of the season after positive COVID-19 testing was confirmed Monday morning by activities director Jared Ellerson and coach Kris Pulford.
The Spartans wrap up the 2020 season with a 3-0 mark at home, 3-3 overall and overcame a 21-0 deficit less than three minutes into the second quarter to beat the current Class 4A state champions.
“We rallied at the end of the first quarter after giving up 21 [points] to score 42 unanswered points,” Pulford said.
Before the game, Pulford told the team about a similar game from his college days at Bethel. “At the end of the game, be ready to tell your buddies the story about this game – the snowy field, the coldest ever played on, the snow on the sidelines, and be able to make this memory tonight about being victorious at the end of the game.”
No doubt memories were made as Richfield scored six straight touchdowns to not only come back but dominate in what was close to arctic playing conditions at Spartan Stadium.
Scoring twice over the final 91 seconds of the opening half gave Richfield a big boost of confidence and energy for the second half.
“At halftime, they were super juked, we score that long touchdown at the end of the first half ignited the rest of the game because they started to believe,” Pulford said. “It’s easy going into the second half down by seven [points] knowing you get the ball first.”
Senior quarterback Ryan Miles had a career-game, completing 27-of-43 passes for 409 yards with five touchdowns and one interception.
“We knew what we needed to do after a tough loss last year,” Mile said as they practiced through the snow, without the field plowed until game day. “That shaped us up for the game.”
Miles credited the defense for sustaining the positive play and quickly returning the ball to the offense in the second half.
Senior safety Gustavo Segovia led the way with 12 tackles (11 solos) including one for a loss while Nate Berger and Henry Schaefer each had four tackles. Schaefer caught two interceptions.
“That’s how we win the game,” Miles said, crediting the defense. “That just kicks the offense up.”
Miles classmate Tritian Zornes had a big game on both sides of the ball, playing in his first snow game.
Zornes ran for a season-high 181 yards on 24 carries and the first Richfield touchdown of the game from 7-yards out with 1:31 left in the first half.
He caught six passes for 97 yards including a pair of second-half touchdowns including the tying score, 21-21, midway through the third quarter.
On one of the touchdowns, Zornes appeared to be stopped inside the 2-yard line with an SMB player hold onto his leg but a second effort to dive across the goal line showed that determination to score.
“I had that same play against Kennedy and didn’t want to make the same mistake again and make sure I get that touchdown,” Zornes said.
A third member of a stout senior class, Mitchell January, caught 12 passes for 194 yards and two touchdowns including the momentum-changer just before halftime from 50-yards out.
January cut across the field as Miles hit him in stride between the hash marks. January raced to the end zone for the touchdown.
Pulford wanted to use the run to set up the pass which worked as Zornes averaged over 7 yards per carrying as seven different receivers caught a pass.
Henry Schaeffer caught four balls for 55 yards, Kobie Daoheung had three catches for 33 yards and a 3-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter to make it 35-21.
Sophomore AJ Shelley and senior Malachai Peterson each had one grab with Shelly going 20 yards before being knocked out of the game with a helmet-to-helmet hit, tacking on a personal foul penalty to add more yards to the end of the catch.
“Guys caught balls in traffic and it was a lot of fun to watch things click,” Pulford said. “Guys started to realize what the defense was doing and to counter that.”
He liked what the offensive line did to open running lanes and added short passes to relieve the pressure on the line.
Schaeffer had two interceptions including one grab along the Spartans sideline which the offense turned into the go-ahead touchdown.
“It was so much fun to see the joy on their faces after the guys just went nuts because we’ve talked about this year to have that joy of playing more like a kid,” Pulford said.
The culmination of the regular season was great to see for Pulford. “To win in front of our crowd was big and the guys get pumped at home and to go 3-3 is a big step for our program.”
The snow was cleared from Spartan Stadium in time for the Nov. 12 game after the team practiced the day before with a few inches of snow, compacting the snow which made for icy conditions on game day.
“Guys did a good job reacting to change,” he said about practicing in the snow or moving indoors one day. “Staying focused and having the mindset about dominating and I think we did that in the second half, offensively and defensively.”
“They’ll be able to have this memory for a long time and that’s super cool,” Pulford said, standing in the end zone after helping lead the team in the Richfield High School rouser, a tradition after each win.
To finish with a 3-3 record, Miles said, is a result of not only being a good team but knowing how to finish off games as a solid group of seniors.
“It feels great to finish it off because we’ve improved a lot,” Zornes said of the entire team rallying together and the results speak for themselves. “We went from 0-9 a couple of years to 3-3 now, it’s a big improvement,” Spartans senior lineman Ethan Thompson said. “Makes us all feel really good like we can compete. When we figured out our run was working better than our passing game I told the coach to give it to Tritian, he’s gone. He’s too fast.”