By ANTHONY STEVENS
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
LEBANON, Va. —
It’s 10 Southwest District titles in a row and counting for the Blue Tornado.
Richlands (6-3, 4-0) claimed the 2013 SWD football championship with a 41-10 win over Lebanon at Tommy Bryant Stadium at Harry Stuart Field on Friday night.
“It’s sweet, it’s hard to win anything much less 10 consecutive Southwest District championships,” Richlands coach Greg Mance said. “It’s a credit not only to the kids tonight but the kids and coaches in the past. We just couldn’t be happier to win this thing again.”
The Blues appeared to be clicking on all cylinders. Lebanon couldn’t stop the Richlands offense. They amassed 524 yards of total offense. The Blue Tornado scored six of the first eight times they had the ball.
The two times they didn’t score they stopped themselves with an interception and a lost fumble.
“We were very upset with how we played last week (a last-second win against Abingdon),” stated Mance. “That wasn’t Richlands football. We were sloppy, turned the ball over and didn’t execute. We challenged the kids all week long and they responded and had a great week of practice.”
Junior quarterback River Michaels certainly had an outstanding game. Michaels was 11-of-12 passing for 174 yards. Michaels also rushed for 51 yards and scored two touchdowns.
“We played real good tonight on both sides of the ball,” remarked Michaels. “The offensive line fired off and did a great job with pass protection.
“Colten Staten ran the ball extremely well, everyone just did a great job. I felt real confident coming in, I knew the line would back me up.”
Lebanon (4-5, 1-2) made it interesting with a couple of early scores, but Richlands never trailed in the contest. Staten unofficially went over 1,000 yards for the season with 184 yards on 21 carries against the Pioneers.
Staten carried the ball every time in the Blues first possession, a six-play, 72 yard drive. Staten weaved his way into the end zone on a 16-yard run. With the Ben Brown PAT, Richlands led 7-0.
The Pioneers tried to answer. They had their most impressive drive of the game. They moved 70 yards in 13 plays but had to settle for a 30-yard field goal by Trevor Owens to pull within 7-3.
Richlands scored their next possession. Michaels connected with Brown on a 33-yard gain to the Lebanon one, but Brown fumbled the ball into the end zone and it was recovered by Chace Collins for a TD as the Blues went up 14-3. Richlands then attempted an on-side kick but Brown almost missed the ball and it traveled only three yards giving Lebanon the ball at the Richlands 43. The Pioneer capitalized in three plays with fullback Brent Rasnake scoring on a 32-yard quick run up the middle. Owens booted the extra point to cut the Richlands lead to 14-10.
That would pretty much be Lebanon’s offensive output for the game. In their next six possessions, they punted four times and turned the ball over on downs twice.
“We knew we would have to play really solid,” Lebanon coach Phil Henley said. “You can’t let this bunch get up on you they just keep pounding it and pounding it.
“Some teams have been playing Richlands close but you know what…they didn’t beat them. That’s the sign of a good football team, they were able to win although they didn’t play their best game.”
Junior Griffin McCauley played a lot late for Richlands and finished with 113 yards on the ground.
Lebanon will travel to Tazewell next Friday. Richlands will host Grundy.
At Harry Stuart Field
Richlands....................7 20 14 0 — 41
Lebanon......................3 7 0 0 — 10
RIC—Staten 16 run (Brown kick)
LEB—FG Owens 30
RIC—Collins fumble recovery in end zone (Brown kick)
LEB—Rasnake 32 run (Owens kick)
RIC—Michaels 1 run (kick failed)
RIC—Michaels 1 run (Brown kick)
RIC—McCauley 10 run (Brown kick)
RIC—McCauley 14 run (Brown kick)
First Downs: RIC 24, LEB 10; Rushes-Yards: RIC 47-350, LEB 32-167; Passing Yards: RIC 174, LEB 18; Comp-Att-Int: RIC 11-12-1, LEB 5-16-0; Fumbles-Lost: RIC 3-2, LEB 1-0; Penalties-Yards: RIC 6-40, LEB 2-20; Punts-Average: RIC 1-33, LEB 5-41.6.