Bobcats Blank Richlands to Earn Playoff Berth

#4 Kamaree Tanner recovers the fumble by Richlands QB caused by #12 Zane Rupe. (Elizabeth Kanipe/The Patriot)

After a delay due to Covid, the Bobcats were looking for an opponent to fill the last weekend in their schedule.  Carroll County was the original opponent for Friday, but the Cavaliers would not re-schedule after it was cancelled.  The Bobcats got lucky when the Richlands-Graham game was cancelled due to Covid cases on the Graham team.   This setup a rematch from the previous season where the Bobcats were beaten soundly in Richlands.

The Blue Tornados took the first possession and drove the ball to mid-field where the shotgun snap was deflected and Kamaree Tanner was able to beat the diving QB to steal the possession for the Bobcats at their own 49 yard line.  Radford moved the ball to the Richlands 13 yard line before Zane Rupe connected with Xavier Cobbs for a 13 yard TD reception.  Mason Spoule connected on the PAT.

#7 PJ Prioleau breaks through up the middle to rush past Richlands and score a TD. (Elizabeth Kanipe/The Patriot)

On the ensuing kickoff, Richland’s Dylan Brown ran the ball from his 15 and, after breaking a few tackles, made it to the 43 where Marcell Baylor was able to strip the ball. Landen Clark recovered the ball at the Richlands 40 yard line.  The Bobcats failed to convert the turnover to points when Rupe threw an interception at the Blue Tornado 13 yard line.

Richlands gained a first down before Gavin Cox connected with Logan Steele for a 4 yard completion.  Zane Rupe knocked the ball free and it was recovered again by Tanner at the Blue Tornado 34 yard line. Eight plays later the Rupe pushed his way across the goal line for the second TD of the game.  The PAT failed on an incomplete pass.  Bobcats led 13-0 with 1:39 left in the first quarter.

Once again Richlands was able to work the ball to mid-field but the drive stalled and they were forced to punt.  The Bobcats took over at their own 38.  On the next play, Rupe took the ball around the left end and was able to cut back across field for a 62 yard touchdown.  Sproule’s kick was good giving the Bobcats a 20-0 lead with 10:52 in the second quarter.

On the ensuing possession the Blue Tornado’s Sage Webb ran the ball to the Bobcats 46 before several Cox passes fell incomplete and the ball was turned over on downs.  On the first play, PJ Prioleau was stopped for a 2 yard loss.  The next play, however, Prioleau found a seam and rocketed up the middle of the field for a 56 yard touchdown run.  The extra point gave the Bobcats a 27-0 lead with 8:43 left in the half.

Sproule’s kickoff ended up in the end zone for a touchback forcing the Blue Tornados to start deep in their own territory.  On the second play, Cox threw a deep pass that was picked off by Baylor on a leaping grab at the Bobcat 48.  On this possession, the Bobcats drive stalled after an offensive interference penalty negated a completion to Cobbs at the 15 yard line and they were forced to punt.

Richlands took over and drove the ball to the Bobcat 19 yard line on several key plays including a 4th and 6 conversion on a pass from Cox to Webb for 20 yards.  After a block in the back penalty brought up 2nd and 25 the Richlands drive stalled and Radford took over on downs at their own 27.  The Bobcats failed to move the ball and the Sproule 55 yard punt pinned the Blue Tornados at their own 11.

Richlands was unable to convert a first down and was forced to punt.  Cobbs caught the punt at the 41 and returned it to the Richlands 22 yard line with under a minute left in the half.  Darius Wesley-Brubeck carried for three yards, which set up a Rupe to Baylor 19 yard touchdown with 16 seconds left.  Prioleau attempted to throw for the 2 point conversion but with the receivers covered, he made a couple quick cuts and was able to reach the end zone to give Radford a 35-0 lead at halftime.

Radford Bobcats defensive pressure to sack the Richlands QB by #59 Dawson Martin, #55 Brandon Thompson & #22 Tyrel Dobson. (Elizabeth Kanipe/The Patriot)

The Bobcats received the second half kickoff and were forced to punt.   On the next play, Cox threw another interception to Baylor where Radford took over on the opponents 40.   Again the drive stalled and Radford was forced to punt, pinning Richlands on their own 18.  After getting sacked on second down by Tyrel Dobson and Brandon Thompson, Cox threw his final interception of the game in which Landon Clark crossed the field and returned it for a pick 6.  Sproule hits the extra point and the Bobcats led 42-0 with 3:59 left in the third quarter.

Both teams substituted in their back up players and the game ended with no further scoring.  The game was marred with lots of personal foul and unsportsmanlike penalties.  Many of the penalties were offsetting.  The Bobcats were able to take advantage of 6 turnovers by the Blue Tornados which often left Radford with a short field to score.  Rupe finished with 9 carries for 86 yards and 2 TDs and Prioleau finished with 8 carries for 80 and 1 TD.    Defensively Baylor ended up with 2 interceptions and Tanner had 2 fumble recoveries.

With the win over Richlands, the Bobcats earned the 4th seed in Region 2C and will travel to Appomattox on Friday, April 9 to take on the Raiders; a rematch from the 2018 Regional final in which the Bobcats won giving the Raiders their only playoff loss in the last 5 years.

By ELIZABETH KANIPE, The Patriot