Richmond welcomes Connersville to Lyboult Field tonight for the first football meeting between the Red Devils and Spartans since the 1998 sectional tournament.
It’s also the first football game on the renovated Lyboult Field, which features new turf, bleachers and press box.
“I think the atmosphere is going to be great,” said RHS senior Dillan Delucio. “There are going to be a lot of fans.
“Coach talks about it all the time. We don’t want to leave our legacy as our first game on the turf as a loss. It’s going to give us a bigger confidence boost to come out here and get that W.”
Richmond is coming off an 8-3 campaign in 2012 that saw the Red Devils go a perfect 7-0 to win their first North Central Conference championship since 2001, and their 24th overall.
Connersville, too, had a successful 2012. The Spartans finished 7-4 for their first winning season in several years.
“Connersville, in some regards, is a lot like us,” said RHS coach Matt Holeva, who, like Connersville’s Adam Kelly, is in his second season leading a new program. “They had a new coach, coach Kelly, come in. He has ties here. He was a player there, and he’s come in and really changed the culture and mentality of Connersville football.”
Richmond won the 1998 sectional matchup 87-46. The last regular-season meeting between the teams came in 1997, with the Red Devils winning 27-13.
According to Palladium-Item records, RHS leads the all-time series with Connersville 21-3-3. The Spartans’ last win in the series was in 1939.
The two teams met for the first time in 1930 for a 13-13 tie.
“They’re expecting some big things, similar to us,” Holeva said. “They come in, they’re kind of a power run football team. They get after you a little bit, be physical.
“Their skill guys are pretty good. They’re capable of throwing the ball, but their strong suit is running the football. We’re going to have to be able to stop the run.”
RHS had three compete for the quarterback spot in the summer –Tyler Ripperger, Josh Thalls and Jordan Christian — and Holeva said earlier this week the junior Ripperger will start under center tonight.
“Right now, Tyler Ripperger is our guy. We feel real good about Josh Thalls and Jordan Christian. They made a good battle of it,” Holeva said. “(The quarterback) is going to have to prove they can compete on Friday night.
“We just feel fortunate having some quality guys there should something happen.”
Richmond traveled to Pendleton Heights for a scrimmage last week.
Holeva aims to see improved play tonight.
“I thought we ran the ball pretty well at times. Our pass blocking was not very good,” Holeva said. “Defensively, I thought the guys were in the right spots. We weren’t tackling as well as we’d hoped. Those are the kinds of things we’re working on. We expect to see a hard-nosed, disciplined football team reading their keys and getting after it.”
The Red Devils also hope to see a large crowd at Lyboult.
There will be a reception for all former Richmond High School football players at 6 tonight, followed by the 6:45 re-dedication ceremony of Lyboult Field.
The game begins at 7.
“It ought to be an electric evening,” Holeva said. ” … There is nothing like being out there under the lights Friday nights, brand new crisp field, honoring the great teams against a rival school.
“We’re going to have to be ready to go. We have a great opportunity here with the re-dedication of the field and honoring the great teams and great players of the past, while trying to bring them back and carving out our own piece of the pie as far as history goes.”