by Calli Newberry
It’s what every high school coach wishes for: to beat his rival in front of a stadium full of hundreds of fans.
That’s exactly what Armada head football coach Kyle Rowley got when his team defeated Richmond 34-10 on Friday night. Despite the excitement, however, Rowley said he and his team aren’t getting ahead of themselves.
“We’ve got to take it one game at a time. We’re going to enjoy this one, but we’ve got next week to focus on,” Rowley said. “Everything’s going in the right direction, but it’s one at a time. It’s what we preach every day.”
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The 4-0 Tigers are now tied with Almont and Croswell-Lexington, who remain undefeated in the BWAC. That will all change in early October though, as the three are scheduled to finally face off. Richmond is now fourth with a 3-1 overall record, 2-1 in the league.
“We started off slow, they played really good defense,” Rowley said of the Blue Devils. “That’s a tough team, really tough, but like I said, we tried to keep that momentum going forward. Our philosophy is that if we keep pounding you enough, we’re going to break one and eventually it starts to loosen up a bit. We got comfortable and we could move the ball down the field.”
That happened in the middle of the first quarter when the Tigers scored their first touchdown on a pass to senior wide receiver Easton Vyt, thrown by junior receiver Vincent Fodale. Armada was up 7-0.
Richmond got the ball back and with three and a half minutes to go, Armada quarterback senior George Hebb snagged an interception. His team was unable to convert the catch into enough offensive momentum to get another score before the quarter ended, however, and the battle of the defenses continued.
Both teams took turns punting the ball, and when they weren’t punting, they were stealing it back. Armada’s senior tight end Cole Mahaffy caught the second interception of the game which ended in a similar result to the first, another punt. The Tigers finally gained enough momentum for a solid drive that ended in a touchdown by Hebb who kept the ball and dashed into the endzone: 14-0.
With less than a minute remaining on the clock, it looked like Richmond would end the half scoreless, but that all changed once the Blue Devils marched into field goal range. From there, senior kicker Drew Matyunas sailed the ball through the uprights for Richmond’s first three points. He then led his team to a successful onside kick.
Richmond kept the ball until the 15-second mark when junior wide defensive back Tristian Erb caught yet another interception. Erb and Mahaffy each had two interceptions combining with Hebb for a team total of five for the Tiger defense, something Rowley said he takes great pride in.
“They were lights out. We call them the dogs for a reason. They’re gritty, they’re tough, and they just get after it. We let them play ball,” he said. “They swarm the ball, put pressure on the quarterback, and they do their job. It’s huge.”
In addition to his two interceptions, Mahaffy racked up 10 tackles and two sacks, and Erb chipped in with six tackles. Junior defensive end Lukas Sleboda posted 10 tackles and one sack as well.
Armada’s offense came alive in the second half as junior running back Kyle Coenen scored three consecutive touchdowns.
“My mentality is what my coach told me: I just gotta run the rock,” Coenen said. “I grab it and nothing’s on my mind but just go and run as far as I possibly can. I’ve got to keep that mentality so I don’t let my teammates down.”
Coenen rushed for 115 yards on 25 carries by the end of the game, and his quarterback did a fair share of running too. Hebb kept the ball for 12 carries to total 106 yards of offense.
“We run the ball a majority of the time, we just pound the rock. We’ve just gotta keep getting better,” Rowley said. “We’ve got a couple things to fix, which is great because they’re fixable, and just keep moving forward.”
Richmond finally found one of those fixable things: a hole in the Tiger defense with less than a minute to go in the game. Junior fullback Cole Murphy caught the ball just outside the endzone and rushed it in for the game’s final touchdown.
For the Tigers, Friday’s victory meant more to their team than just another win in the record book, according to Coenen, who gets to celebrate another year of having the rivalry jug in his team’s hands.
“To us, this is a cultural thing. In past years, the town hasn’t been in such high spirits and this is much more of a community thing now,” he said. “We’re bringing hope to our town. And to beat Richmond, it’s a big accomplishment. I’ve just got to think, my team, my linemen, everybody who’s pushing me toward greatness, they really bring everything together.”