RIVERTON, Kan. - Despite the fact that Commerce took a major hit from graduation, Derrick Rider knows his Riverton Rams will be in for a battle tonight when they host the Tigers in an interstate football battle.
“I know they graduated a lot of kids from last year, but from watching them on film, I know they are going to extremely tough,” Rider said. “Our main thing is we want to improve each week. We will be playing a very good team. We want to improve and do some things better than last week.”
Both teams are 2-0 heading into Friday's 7 p.m. Battle.
The Tigers - who returned only three starters - topped Springfield (Mo.) Lighthouse Christian 36-29 while Riverton rolled to a 30-14 victory over Erie, Kan., in a CNC League game last Friday night.
The Rams spoiled Donnie Bigby's debut as head coach at Baxter Springs, Kan., when they rolled to a 48-0 victory. Bigby is former head coach at Northeastern A&M.
“We didn't think we played to the expectations that we have, but I don't want to take anything away from Erie ... they played hard and did some things that gave us some problems,” said Rider, who is in his second season here.
The Rams return eight offensive and seven defensive starters from a team that went 7-3 a year ago. They lost to Neodesha, Kan., 43-40 in the first round of the Kansas 3A playoffs.
“They are pretty much a carbon copy of the team they were last year,” Commerce head coach Steve Moss said. “They run the same offense. They have switched the defense a little bit, but they are definitely balanced. They use three different tailbacks and will throw the ball around to several different receivers.”
Junior quarterback Greyson Spriggs has been one of the offensive leaders for the Rams. He had 98 yards rushing and three touchdowns in the win over Baxter.
He does a lot of things well,” Rider said. “He worked extremely hard in the weight room. He leads by example, but he would be the first to tell anyone the success he has at the quarterback position is because of the guys around him. He gives a lot of credit to other guys, but he does put in a lot of hard work on his own time.”
The Tigers jumped out to a 28-0 lead at the half then coasted to a 42-8 victory in last year's meeting at Commerce.
"They returned some very good players even though they graduated a good handful of them," Rider said. "The kids they have back and some of the young kids they have, I am really impressed. I know we will have to play well."
Brothers Tyler and Parker Crane teamed up on a 29-yard touchdown just before the half. Brandon Staley’s conversion run pulled Lighthouse Christian to within five points, 19-14.
Commerce opened up a little breathing room in the third quarter when Smith hit Jerrod Kirtley with a 1-yard TD strike, then Smith broke loose on a 35-yard touchdown romp. That made it 33-14.
A 1-yard run by Parker Morgan ballooned the Tiger lead to 25 points.
Lighthouse Christian accounted for the final two touchdowns of the night, getting a 16-yard catch from Michael Megelsh and a 3-yard run from Staley in the fourth quarter.
Tiger quarterback Braden Smith has rushed for 174 yards and three touchdowns while throwing for 205 yards and three more scores.
"From watching him on film, it looks like he has good confidence in what he's doing and his teammates believe in him," Rider said.