When Richland and Ferris meet in the second game of a doubleheader at 8 p.m. Friday at Albi Stadium, expect a heavy dose of defense in the State 4A first-round game.
Ferris (10-0) ranked first in the Greater Spokane League in defense while Richland (9-1) was second among the Columbia Basin Big Nine league’s 4A teams.
Mike Neidhold, a Richland graduate who is in his third year as the Bombers’ head coach, said the school’s rich football tradition is founded on defense.
He played in the mid-1970s for the man largely credited with founding the program, J.D. Covington.
“He set the foundation for Richland football and I draw on how he treated kids,” said Neidhold, a 21-year Bombers assistant before he took over. “We’re very proud of our defense at Richland. We take a lot of pride in it.”
The Bombers limited Gonzaga Prep running back Bishop Sankey to a season-low 149 yards on 33 carries.
Richland’s defense will be sorely tested by the diverse Saxons.
“They’re a very good team,” Neidhold said. “They don’t make mistakes, they pound you and they make you pay for your mistakes. I’m very impressed. We know we have our hands full.”
Richland has a two-prong attack at running back with senior Jake McKinney, a three-year starter who is the Bombers’ all-time rushing leader with more than 3,500 yards, and junior B.K. Robinson.
McKinney is a combination of speed and power. Robinson’s style is a bit unorthodox, Neidhold said.
“I call him our helter-skelter runner,” Neidhold said. “He has horrible, horrible form. His arms and legs don’t go the same direction when he runs.”
In their 21-7 win over G-Prep, the Bombers rushed for 230 yards (McKinney 113, Robinson 84) and passed for 16.
Ferris coach Jim Sharkey likens Richland’s defense to Mead’s.
“They have the athletes like Mead, but Richland is better against the run,” Sharkey said. “They create a lot of problems. Their front seven are real athletic.”