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Richmond-Burton started slow, turned it up offensively and then held on late for a 41-32 victory over Harper in the opening round of the Class 4A state playoffs Saturday at Gately.
"We didn't play well in the first half but in the second half we took control with our ground game," Richmond-Burton coach Patrick Elder said.
Richmond-Burton scored first to take a 7-0 lead. But the Cardinals answered with a one-yard Antoryo Barton touchdown run, followed by a 40-yard scoring run by Lorenzo Herbert to take a 12-7 lead with 2:52 remaining in the second quarter.
Then as Harper coach Maris Carroll stated, "the bottom fell out." It started with a Richmond Burton punt to the Harper 3-yard line. One play later Nathan Hanzel recovered a botched snap from the shotgun in the end zone to put Richmond-Burton up 15-12 with less than a minute remaining in the second quarter. Harper's next miscue came on an interception that was returned to its 31-yard line that led to a 29-yard field goal by Sergio Hernandez.
The Rockets dominated the second half and held a 41-12 advantage with just over three minutes remaining in the game when Barton and Sandillo Wright ignited a comeback.
Harper scored three touchdowns in less than two minutes that led to the Richmon-Burton starters returning to the field. An 11-yard touchdown touchdown run by Barton cut the lead to 41-18 with 3:18 remaining. Then Barton stripped the ball from a runner before making a lateral to Wright, who ran 54 yards to the end zone, cutting the lead to 41-24. On the next series, a hit by Barton caused a fumble that Wright picked up and returned 70 yards to the Richmond-Burton 1-yard line. Barton scored on a one-yard dive with 1:28 remaining in the game to cut the lead to 41-32, but that was as close as the Cardinals (7-2) would get.
''This is the same thing that happened to us last year in the state playoffs,'' Carroll said. ''We had a team come in and underestimate us. We knocked them back on their heels, let them off the hook and gave them time to regroup.
''The one thing I did know is that we would not stop playing and I am proud of the effort and the way we fought back."