On a sunny, but chilly day at Endres Field in Peoria, it could be guessed that all Coach Roland Brown wanted for his birthday from his football team was a well played game with maximum effort expended. The Richwoods Knights gave him all that and more as they advanced to the second round of the IHSA Class 6A playoffs with a 35-22 win over the visiting Bloomington Purple Raiders. The game was a nip and tuck affair that was fought with ferocity by both teams until the Knights took control in the fourth quarter. They forced numerous Raider turnovers throughout the contest that proved to be the difference.
On the Knights’ second play from scrimmage, Kendrick Foster broke loose for a 37 yard touchdown run and Richwoods was quickly up, 7-0. Emerson Evans, however, returned the ensuing kickoff 50 yards and the Raiders were immediately knocking on the door before scoring on a 14 yard scoring toss by Jake Romani. The conversion was missed and it was 7-6 early on. In addition, Richwoods kicker Justin Cole was forced to leave the game with injury after helping with a touchdown saving tackle on the return. Bloomington went up early in the second quarter on an 18 yard pass to Evans, 14-7. The Knights tipped two passes on that drive, both of which fell into Raider hands, including the touchdown grab. Richwoods stormed right back while demonstrating that they, too, can throw the ball. Jeremye Johnson and Nick Parks both made outstanding grabs on throws from Max Berres before Foster took it in from the seven. The two point conversion made the score 15-14 as the teams went to the locker room at halftime.
The Knights drove the second half kickoff to the Raider 30 before fumbling on a fourth down attempt. The Knights fans were getting uneasy when Bloomington converted a third and twenty-plus pass down to the Knights six yard line. Romani then connected with McLean Funk and the visitors were now up, 22-15. However, it was all Richwoods from there. Foster scored from one yard out after a beautiful Berres to Noah Cartwright completion for 28 yards. Foster’s two point conversion gave Richwoods a lead they would not relinquish. In perhaps the key play of the game, senior Nick Parks intercepted Romani early in the final stanza and bulldozed his way to the Raider nine. He later scored on the series with just over eight minutes left, catching a wonderful spiral from Berres in the corner of the end zone. Bloomington was left with nothing else to do but try and throw the ball. The Knights’ defenders were up to the task. They were getting pressure on Romani virtually every time he dropped back. Jeremye Johnson added a 55 yard scoring dash late in the game to set the final tally.
Richwoods looked ready for playoff level competition in this one. Bloomington is a strong team and threw many punches at the Knights who consistently fought right back. The Raider lineman were massive and talented, but the speed and technique of the Richwoods players won out. Holes were opened up the middle and Kendrick Foster took it from there. Quarterback Max Berres played a fine game and showed his ability to pass the ball with some outstanding tosses. Mikail Davis alternated with Berres and played strong as well. Richwoods will now go on the road in Round 2 next week to play top ranked Crete Monee, 41-7 winners over Springfield High.