By Russ Green, The Richmond News
The night began promising for the Excelsior Springs Tigers Friday night at Tom Adams Field in Richmond. The Tigers got a 47-yard touchdown pass from Nick Masoner to Sam Webb on the second play of the game, but coach Josh Buford’s Tigers could not keep the momentum going and dropped a 23-20 decision to the Spartans.
The loss was the second in a row for the Tigers after opening the season with a win at Warrensburg, while Richmond improved its record to 2-1. Although disappointed by the final score, Buford was proud of how his team played for the entire 48 minutes.
“We started off and scored on the second play and thought we really had something going, but kind of dug ourselves a hole in the first half,” he said. “We had a penalty that called a touchdown back and had two penalties on third down that gave them a first down and kind of buried ourselves. The kids came back and battled and showed tremendous effort and played to the end.”
The Spartans answered Excelsior Springs’ opening salvo with touchdown drives on back-to-back possessions. The first came on a 5-yard pass from Quinton Maxwell to Dylan Seely, and the second on a 7-yard scoring strike to Brock Stokes. The second scoring drive was aided by a pass interference and defensive holding call against the Tigers.
After Richmond’s first touchdown, it appeared the Tigers would have a quick response as Masoner found running room to his right and raced 65 yards for an apparent touchdown, only to have it called back due to a holding penalty. The drive would stall out on the Richmond 31-yard line.
Masoner provided most of the offensive load for Excelsior Springs. The Tiger senior carried 26 times for 107 yards and also caught one pass for 22 more yards.
“Nick is a tremendous talent,” Buford said. “He’s getting healthier and feeling more comfortable. We had our backup out tonight, so he knew he was going to have to carry the load. In my opinion, he’s one of the best players in the metro. He was our workhorse tonight and did a great job.”
Maxwell’s third touchdown pass of the night was good for a 30-yard hook up with Reece Milligan to give Richmond a 21-7 lead at halftime, but the Tigers would not go away quietly.
With the Spartans moving the opening possession of the third quarter, Tyler Pugh scooped up a Richmond fumble in the backfield near midfield and took it to the 5-yard line. Excelsior Springs took advantage as Mason covered the final 3 yards two plays later for the touchdown, and Austin Creason’s kick pulled the Tigers to within 7. Pugh’s play provided a big boost for the Tigers, and Buford said his senior lineman has been a standout early this season.
“He’s been kind of an unsung hero for us,” he said. “A lot of times, those guys up front don’t get a lot of credit, but he’s our rock right now. He’s probably played the best for us through the first three games on the offensive and defensive line. He’s a great leader. That was a great play and that kind of started our momentum and gave us some emotion from there for the second half.”
Excelsior Springs mounted a late third-quarter drive that moved the ball 73 yards on 14 plays with Masoner plunging in from the one-yard line to pull the Tigers to within a point, but the conversion kick sailed right of the uprights. The following Tiger possession ended with the punt snap sailing over Creason’s head. The Tiger punter chased the ball down in the end zone, where he was brought down for a safety to give Richmond a little more breathing room with 4:46 left in the game.
The Tigers return home Friday night to host Springfield Central. The Bulldogs are winless in three games after last week’s 47-0 loss at Hillsboro.
By Standard Staff • StandardStaff@leaderpress.com