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Robinson running back Jason Richart finds open field for one of his three touchdowns in the win against Newton on Friday.

ROBINSON – Robinson coach Tim Nolen didn’t try to claim a brilliant change in strategy for his team’s 25-point second-half outburst during Friday’s Class 3A first-round playoff game against Newton.

“I’m a pretty good coach,” he said, “when Jason Richart is carrying the ball.”

Richart exploded for 256 yards rushing and the Maroons overcame a 7-6 halftime deficit to beat Newton 31-7 and advance to the second round.

The Maroons (9-1) will face the winner of today’s Fairfield at Marshall game next weekend.

Richart had a solid first half, rushing for 106 yards and a touchdown. But Richart lost a fumble, and two other promising drives stalled – one with poor execution in the passing game and the other by an ill-timed holding penalty.

But in the second half, often using the counter play, Richart ran past and through Newton defenders. After Robinson took the lead, Richart only got stronger. His final two carries resulted in touchdown runs of 41 and 39 yards.

“Our line does a great job of getting me past the first level,” Richart said. “After that it’s break a few tackles and I’m off to the races. I’m no burner by any means, but if they get me past that first level I can pick up some yards.”

Newton (5-5), meanwhile, struggled to move the ball. On a cold, windy night, the Eagles couldn’t establish any running game against Robinson (27 total rushing yards) and quarterback Brock Mammoser was forced to pass it. At times, he was effective, throwing for 124 yards that included a 42-yard touchdown pass to Joe Stone in the second quarter that gave the Eagles a 7-6 lead.

But just 29 of Mammoser’s passing yards came in the second half, when Robinson had constant pressure on him and his receivers.

“Their four down linemen are tough – they gave us some problems tonight,” Newton coach Jason Fulton said. “Their pressure was better this time than the first time, and they did that with their four down lineman and one backer rushing. They made Brock check down and by then he had people in his face.”

Justin’s take

The difference

Even though Robinson was down at half, it felt good about the game going forward.

“We’d shot ourselves in the foot a couple times,” Richart said.

Richart said he was kicking himself for taking a hand off the ball on a fumble – “I should have kept two hands on it,” he said -- but there was no panic in the halftime locker room.

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“We were moving the ball on them,” Richart said. “We were only stopping ourselves. We just had to eliminate the stupid things.”

What stood out

Robinson’s offensive line was a concern entering the season and there were times this year the unit struggled.

But at this point of the season offensive line coach Mike Richart – Jason’s dad – has them playing at a high level. There were times in the second half, during which Robinson notched 14 of its 23 first downs, a group that included Landon Johnson (5-10, 220 pounds), Landon Hayes (6-4, 260), Lucas Roth (6-0, 220) and Justin Goodwin (5-10, 248) was pushing Newton’s defense down the field.

“We had a tough time for a while getting the pieces of the puzzle together,” Nolen said of Robinson’s offensive line. “We weren’t bad, but we weren’t what we wanted to be until these last few weeks.

“In the second half, there weren’t any strategic adjustments. It was, ‘Let’s cinch up those chin straps and get this done.’ ”

Good timing

Robinson’s passing game struggled in the first half. Bucky Stevens was 1-of-5, with a combination of poor throws and dropped passes.

The Maroons only threw one pass in the second half, but it was perfectly timed. With Newton still leading by one on Robinson’s first drive of the third quarter, the Eagles began throwing more and more defenders at the line of scrimmage with Richart and the Robinson backs piling up yards. At the Newton 23, Stevens faked two handoffs, then dropped back and hit a wide-open Connor Griffin for the touchdown that gave Robinson the lead.

They’ll be back

Newton’s first postseason since 2007 didn’t last as long as the Eagles hoped, but the future remains bright.

Mammoser is a junior and next year will be his third year as the starting quarterback. Stone, who caught the TD pass, is a sophomore, and Mitch Bierman (sophomore), Kaleb Wittgam (junior) and Nate Meinhart (sophomore) are among the slew of players who will be back next year.

“I like the nucleus we have coming back and our goal is to be up toward the top of the conference next year,” Fulton said. “We have a lot of kids playing who are still young and a good freshman class that will be sophomores next year and help us out.

“And Brock should be that much better having two years under his belt. We expect big things out of him.”

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​jconn@herald-review.com|(217) 421-7971

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Sports Editor

Sports editor for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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