Enjoy the win. Strive to be better.
That was coach Matt Holeva’s message Friday night following Richmond’s season-opening 23-7 win over Connersville.
The Red Devils renewed a rivalry in style, battling the Spartans for the first time since 1998 to start 1-0 for the first time in more than a decade.
They did it in front of a huge crowd at a renovated Lyboult Field, too, with several past Red Devil football stars coming out for the field’s re-dedication.
“It was good to get that win under our belt,” Holeva said. “I want to thank the crowd for being out. It was a great atmosphere.
“Honestly, I don’t know if it was the heat or not, but we were kind of flat in practice all week. I think the crowd and the music and everything did a nice job of energizing us.”
The Red Devils were anything but flat on their first offensive possession.
Fullback Nate Trawick broke for a 33-yard run on Richmond’s second play of the game to put the Red Devils at first-and-goal.
Two plays later, Derek Williams scored what was not only the Red Devils’ first touchdown of 2013, but the first touchdown on Lyboult’s new turf when he strolled in from 4 yards out.
“It felt amazing,” Williams said. “Coming out here tonight, giving our all. We did two-a-days, camp. We put it all together. We have a nice facility out here. It was amazing to score the first touchdown tonight.”
It wasn’t the last for the Devils.
The second one came a little later, and was a little longer.
RHS quarterback Tyler Ripperger completed his first pass of the night — a 79-yard scoring strike to junior Brendan Hegg that put Richmond ahead 14-0 with 6:19 left in the second quarter.
“It was amazing, the crowd and just everything,” Hegg said. “It’s unreal. It really is.”
Richmond carried that 14-0 lead into halftime as the Red Devil defense turned away the Spartans.
Connersville drove deep into RHS territory in the first quarter, but a holding call — followed by a Morgun Bragg sack — kept the Spartans far enough from the end zone that a 30-yard field-goal attempt to start the second quarter fell short.
“We made a lot of good plays on defense,” said Trawick, who played a critical role on both sides of the ball for RHS. “We also made some small mistakes. We’re going to keep on continuing to get better.”
Richmond scored the lone TD of the third quarter — while facing a fourth-and-long situation.
Ripperger found Auntonio Brown on fourth-and-18 for a 35-yard score and the 21-0 lead with 23.7 seconds left in the third quarter.
Ripperger completed 5-of-12 passes for 129 yards, while Brown had two catches for 43 yards. Hegg led all receivers with 81 yards.
“We’ve been waiting so long for this opportunity, all those hard practices, hot sun. It paid off tonight,” Brown said.
“We stayed together as a team. … When things went wrong, we backed each other up.”
Richmond’s defense again stuffed Connersville on a Spartan first-and-goal in the fourth quarter.
Connersville made it to the RHS 8-yard line, but that was it. Blair Vanlandingham capped the stand by chasing down Connersville quarterback Grant West for a fourth-down sack.
The Spartans broke through soon after, though. West found Micah Kelley for a 25-yard touchdown — right after Kelley snagged his second interception of the night.
Richmond completed the scoring with a safety after West was flagged for an intentional grounding while in the end zone.
“We still have work to do,” Holeva said. “We talked about how an average team would be content to get the win and get out. We’re striving to be better than average.
“It’s nice to get the win. We’ll enjoy it. But we still have a lot of work to do.”
Connersville workhorse Colton Gonzalez rushed for a game-high 107 yards.
The Red Devils and Spartans last met in the 1998 sectional tournament, with RHS winning 87-46. The last regular-season meeting was in 1997, a 27-13 victory for the Red Devils.
Connersville’s last win in the series came in 1939.
Richmond’s last 1-0 start came as the Red Devils downed East Central 31-21 in 2002.
“We needed to get our season off to a better start this year,” Williams said.
Richmond returns to action next Friday for its first road trip of 2013 at New Palestine.
RHS will then travel to Anderson on Sept. 6 for its North Central Conference opener. The Red Devils finished 8-3 last season, 7-0 in the NCC.
Richmond’s next home game is Sept. 13 against Marion.
“We had a good season last year, and we’re just trying to keep it rolling,” Hegg said.
Added Holeva: “It was a great crowd. I hope this continues on. … One of the things we’re striving to do is give the community something to rally around. I know we weren’t perfect tonight, but hopefully we’re going to give them something to cheer about and they’ll keep coming back.”