Defense key in Lions’ blowout win over Goshen

New Richmond's Gage Kramer hauls in a 27-yard pass, setting up the Lions' first score in the team's 38-6 win over Goshen on Friday, Oct. 16, 2016.

Goshen's Jimmy Strunk leaps for a catch late in the Warriors' 38-6 loss to New Richmond on Friday, Oct. 7, 2016.

By Garth Shanklin
Sports Editor

Two teams ranked in the top-10 of the computer points rankings met on the gridiron in New Richmond on Oct. 7 and, despite the rankings, it was not as close a contest as some would’ve thought.

The New Richmond Lions entered the day ranked 10th overall, two spots behind the Goshen Warriors. When the final whistle blew, the Lions had earned a convincing 38-6 win over Goshen.

The teams traded punts on their first few possessions, with Goshen pinning the Lions at their own one yard-line. That’s apparently exactly what the team needed to move the ball, as they made their way down the field and scored on a one-yard touchdown run by Chandler Kinalt with 4:55 remaining in the quarter.

Goshen’s Adam Slusher was injured on the kickoff and had to be removed from the game in an ambulance with a leg injury. After the delay, Goshen moved the ball to the Lions 42 but had to punt. The Lions blocked the kick, and two plays later Kinalt dove in from five yards out to put the Lions ahead 14-0.

New Richmond's Gage Kramer hauls in a 27-yard pass, setting up the Lions' first score in the team's 38-6 win over Goshen on Friday, Oct. 16, 2016.

Goshen got the ball back and failed a fourth-down conversion. They then intercepted the Lions and began to march down the field, only to fumble the ball at the New Richmond 21. With 2:47 left in the half, Josh Anderson kept the ball for New Richmond, bounced off a tackler and spun his way into the end zone to put the Lions ahead 20-0. The Lions’ missed the extra point.

The Warriors were forced to punt again on their next drive, and again the Lions blocked the punt. Anderson kept it for his second touchdown run of the game, and a converted two-point attempt gave New Richmond a 28-0 lead at the break.

Anderson intercepted a Goshen pass in the third quarter, setting up a 20-yard run by T.J. Gelter for a score with 6:55 remaining in the third quarter. New Richmond would tack on a field goal later in the quarter.

Goshen’s lone score came early in the fourth quarter on a one-yard dive by Johnny Kube. The extra point was no good.

Head coach Ryan George said he believed the team started out well at the beginning, but special teams mistakes again caught up with them.

“I think we started out okay and then we had a few things, a few mistakes we made and it kind of just snowballed from there,” George said. “We’re just not there yet. We’ve got to get better. It’s my job to get us there and I’ve got to do a better job. They’re a good program, they’re well-coached. Every year they play us hard and we have to match that intensity.”

New Richmond’s defense was able to get penetration in the backfield and had enough speed to chase down any runs to the outside. That, coupled with the turnovers, can’t happen in matches between close teams, according to George.

“They play a good defense and get after people,” George said. “We have to match that, but we had some mistakes and turnovers that you just can’t have in those kinds of games to be close. When you go in and think that you’re a pretty evenly matched team, you can’t have the turnovers that we had.”

The Lions forced one turnover on defense and tallied a sack. In addition to his interception, Anderson also carried the ball 15 times for 71 yards and two touchdowns. Kinalt had 12 carries for 49 yards and a pair of scores, while Gelter added seven carries for 45 yards and a touchdown.

Most of Anderson’s damage was done when he scrambled out of the pocket, something George said the team tried to prepare for.

“You work on that, you tell them to stay in your lanes,” George said. “They get out of the lanes, and he’s good. He’s quick, he can run and make good decisions. Once he’s in that open field he’s hard to catch.”

It’s a good thing Anderson was able improvise, because head coach Josh Stratton called the New Richmond offense “stale.” He added the team’s defense had another solid performance that helped the team emerge victorious.

“I thought we were kind of stale on offense, but I really liked the way we played on defense,” Stratton said. “Coming into the game, they were running the ball effectively against just about everyone they played. Our number one plan is to stop the run every week and I think we did a good job of that.”

The Warriors couldn’t seem to get their run game going to the outside especially, partially due to the speed the Lions have on defense. Stratton credited the team’s strength and conditioning program for that.

“I think our strength program is as good as anybody’s around,” Stratton said. “Watching the growth of the strength and speed of our program over the last couple years, the biggest reason why is the kid’s dedication to the program. The structure of our program is bar none.”

In the passing game, Anderson completed seven of 17 attempts for 117 yards and an interception. George said the Warriors’ secondary has played well of late, something he hopes they can keep doing.

“Our secondary has picked it up here lately, they’ve played well,” George said. “We need to continue doing that. We just need to shore things up up front and make sure we’re making good tackles.”

New Richmond only totaled 297 yards as a team, well below their season average. Stratton said part of the reason the team’s yardage total wasn’t as high as normal is the play of the Lions’ defensive unit.

“We’ve been averaging a lot more than that,” Stratton said. “I think we played on a short field a lot of the night too because our defense played so well, which makes the offensive stats look a little worse than they actually were. They have some pretty decent defensive backs that covered well, we never got in a rhythm.”

Penalties were also a problem, as the Lions were flagged 12 times for 115 yards.

“That’s going to cost us a game sooner rather than later if we don’t fix it,” Stratton said.

The Lions now prepare for a trip to Amelia to take on the Barons in the final home game at the school before the merger next year. Stratton said the Lions will continue to prepare the same way they have been, especially with this being the final match between the teams.

“We’re going to practice the same way we always do,”Stratton said. “We’re going to focus on fundamentals and drill the min practice. They’re a little unpredictable in what they do offensively and defensively. We’re going to make sure we’re fundamentally sound, play with great enthusiasm and passion and understand that this was a big rivalry years ago. Back in 80s and 90s Amelia may have been our biggest rival, long before I was here. This game means a lot to our community.”

Goshen, meanwhile has a tough task at home ahead of them. The Warriors will face off against a 6-1 Norwood squad that has scored at least 41 points in every single game this season. Luckily, George said he sees some similarities between the Indians and the Lions that could help the team prepare.

“They’re similar to New Richmond,” George said. “They have a quarterback who can throw the ball well and a good running back. We had a good preview of it this week, we just have to get better. That starts with having a good week of practice and trying to contain what they do.”

Both New Richmond at Amelia and Norwood at Goshen will begin at 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 14.