Richmond’s D’Sean Hamilton yells as he gets hyped up with teammates in the locker room before taking on Marysville in a football game Thursday, August 27, 2015 at Richmond High School.
RICHMOND – It was easy for both teams to find motivation.
The Marysville High School football team lost to Richmond twice last year by a combined 90 points. Richmond meanwhile was without one of its head coaches all summer as John Kocher battled cancer.
On Thursday at Richmond, Kocher returned to the sidelines and provided more than enough inspiration to lead his Blue Devils to a 20-12 victory.
“We know we are young and there will be growing pains,” Kocher said. “It’s a lot easier to survive growing pains when you win.
“I just got out of a 18-day hospital stay. I got back to my family Sunday and got back with the kids Monday. They really picked me up. This is the best I felt. I’m a little wobbly but the kids had my back. It was the best I felt all summer.”
“It’s always been special having him here,” Richmond coach James Bishop added. “He is one of my best friends. To get him back here is inspiration. It’s good for our team. We are a family again.”
Richmond seemed to be at its best when the game was on the line. Richmond defender Matt Poppe hauled in a pair of fourth quarter interceptions to help the Blue Devils hold off the Vikings late charge.
“I was just making my reads the best I can do like my coaches taught me,” Poppe said. “I love coach Kocher. He is battling for us, why can’t we battle for him.
“It feels great to win. It sucks being the underdog. They are No. 1 in the Times Herald poll. It’s difficult to beat a team like that but we are a strong team and we have a lot of seniors back.”
When Richmond (1-0) wasn’t making timely plays on defense it was its offensive backfield that was taking control.
Stefan Fenwick had 19 carries for 67 yards, Andrew Hamel had 11 carries for 55 yards and a score and D’Sean Hamilton had 11 carries for 90 yards and two scores.
“We played twice as hard for coach,” Hamilton said. “Our key is playing tough and reading our keys. That’s what we practice on. It felt good to score. I got stuffed a lot of times but it feels good when you see the open field.”
Marysville (0-1) got off to a fast start behind a seven play, 75 yard drive. On the drive, Marysville quarterback Phil Griffor found Kyle Cook for a 27 yard pass and Ellul capped the drive with a 10-yard rushing score.
The Vikings attempted to go for two and were stopped. But they still led 6-0.
Richmond also got off to a fast start on its first possession. They got a 34-yard run from Fenwick and Hamilton later found the end zone for a six yard score. The point after attempt gave Richmond a 7-6 lead heading into the second quarter.
The Vikings went back to work on offense but instead of humming along like their first possession, Marysville began to beat itself. The Vikings got called for back-to-back holding penalties which wiped away a drive and would have eight penalties all together in the first half.
“It was penalties and turnovers,” Marysville coach Mark Caza said. “If you take those away, we didn’t have a negative yard offensively. We were pushing the ball and the three turnovers we had were off of two tipped passes and a big run and fumble.
“We had eight penalties in the first half to their one penalty. It’s frustrating. You learn that losing sucks and you find a way to let that fester in your gut overnight and you let that bad taste sit there in your mouth so you can come back and find a way to come back and compete. We have to learn to battle after something like that happens.”
Richmond took a 14-6 lead into the half after Hamel scored on a three-yard run. Marysville continued to struggle on offense until late in the third quarter after Richmond muffed a punt.
The Vikings capitalized as Ellul found the end zone for a second 10-yard rushing score. That brought Marysville within 14-12 after missing the two point conversion once again.
That’s where the score would remain entering the fourth quarter. The teams jockeyed for position throughout the quarter until Hamilton broke free late for a 55-yard score. Richmond however, missed the point after attempt, which gave Marysville new life.
But the Vikings wouldn’t be able to capitalize after the late interceptions from Poppe.
“ We have to come together as a team,” Ellul said of Marysville, which will face Port Huron Northern next week. “We have to think straight and try harder and be positive about it.
“This is going to motivate us a lot. We have it in our heats to keep on fighting. This is going to push us harder and make us tougher. It makes you want to go out there and hit somebody.”
Contact Joseph Hayes at (810) 989-6268 or at email@example.com. Follow him on twitter @jhayes1136.