Everyone in Richmond County knows that the Fighting Scots of Scotland High School are THE rivals for the Richmond Raiders. However, several Richmond Senior High School athletic programs have looked past their neighbors to the east to find some big matchups that nearly eclipse the hype of their annual showdown with the Scots.
To verify, just ask a volleyball player how badly they want to defeat Pinecrest or a boys basketball player how much they’d like to beat Hoke. One of my personal favorite rivalries between Richmond and any school occurs on the softball diamond when the Lady Raiders and Whiteville do battle.
In football, the Richmond-Scotland game has become one of the premier high school sporting events in the entire state, but there is one gridiron gem that many in Raider Nation have overlooked. When Richmond and Seventy-First clash on Thursday evening, it will be the 30th installment of what has become one of biggest series for the Richmond Raider football program.
Get your pitchforks ready. Here are my five reasons why Seventy-First may actually eclipse Scotland as Richmond’s top football rival.
No. 5 Close battles…
Seventy-First doesn’t trump Scotland in this category, but they are definitely equal. Fifteen of the 29 games between Richmond and Seventy-First have been decided by 13 points or less with 10 games being decided by plays made in the games’ final two minutes. Six out of the last seven games have been decided by a touchdown or less, including last season’s barnburner at Raider Stadium. In that game, Malik Stanback’s 86-yard touchdown reception with just seconds remaining resulted in a 25-19 Raider victory.
No. 4 Throw out the record books…
Even though the Scots are struggling this season, nobody in Richmond County will be overlooking them on Nov. 2. The Raiders have suffered a seven-year drought to Scotland and Raider Nation expects the streak to end next week in the highly anticipated matchup. Each year when the Raiders and Scots square off, coaches and media outlets advise the fans to “throw out the record books” implying that the game could go either way despite the condition of the programs at that time. Does it though?
The 44-year rivalry has seen numerous close games, a few overtime games, some epic finishes, a few come-from-behind victories and many memorable plays. However, I cannot think of a time when the probable winner did not win. The Raiders nearly shocked the heavily favored Scots at Pate Stadium in 2015, but still fell 28-21. Scotland just about upended a highly-ranked Richmond team at Raider Stadium in 2002, but the Raiders managed a 21-14 victory on their home field. There have been many exciting “almost” upsets, but have there been any true upsets? Do we really need to throw out the record books?
It’s a little more difficult to predict the outcome when Richmond and Seventy-First meet. The first occurrence of this was in 1985. Seventy-First was the defending state 4A champion and Richmond was coming off of a disappointing 6-4 season. That game ended with Richmond’s defense stopping Seventy-First in the red zone as time expired, securing a 14-7 victory, and snapping a two-game skid to the Falcons.
It happened again two years later. Seventy-First, which was once again the defending state champs, whooped the Raiders 30-0 in week three of the 1987 season. When they met again in week one of the playoffs that same season, Richmond managed a 20-7 victory over the team that routed them just two months prior.
Seventy-First flipped the script in 2007 when the 3-6 Falcons shocked the 9-0 Raiders in Rockingham by a score of 13-6. The following year, the AP seventh -anked Falcons (8-1) were clipped on Halloween night by a 5-3-1 Richmond team. The Raiders won that one 22-15 on a touchdown run by Alex Ingram with 22 seconds left in the game. Richmond and Seventy-First would go on that season to win the 4AA and 4A titles, respectively.
One could also argue that last season’s 25-19 Richmond victory was a bit of a surprise after the Raiders were toppled by a struggling Jack Britt team a few weeks earlier.
No. 3 Significance of the games…
In 36 of the 41 seasons that Richmond and Scotland have been in the same conference, at least one of them has won or shared the conference crown. This means that their annual meeting has often had conference title implications.
Richmond and Seventy-First have also fought for numerous conference titles. The Raiders are 9-4 all-time against the Falcons in conference play with eight of the 13 Mid-South or Mid-Southeastern titles being won or shared by either Richmond or Seventy-First. This statistic will likely continue in 2018 since the winner of Thursday’s game in Fayetteville should claim the Sandhills Athletic Conference title, or at the very least, a share of it.
However, it’s the importance of the games played outside of conference play that push this series up a notch. Richmond and Seventy-First have combined to win 10 state titles and the two schools managed to clash at some point in nine of those seasons. Twenty six of the 29 games occurred when at least one of the two teams was ranked in the state’s various top 10 polls and 13 meetings (nearly half) occurred when both were among the state’s best 10 teams. They’ve met in four postseason battles including all three of Richmond’s triple crown seasons from 1988-90.
No. 4 Longevity…
Scotland enjoyed a remarkable run between 2011 and 2017. During those seven seasons, the Scots went 92-9, collected seven consecutive conference championships and took three trips to the 4A state title game.
However, prior to that run, the Scots spent four decades being labeled as an average to above average program that occasionally beat Richmond. In the 43 seasons between 1967 and 2010, Scotland only managed to put up double-digits in the win column eight times. They failed to qualify for the playoffs in over half of those seasons (25) and only advanced past the second round three times. During their seven-year reign, the Scots have accumulated 22 postseason victories. In the preceding 43 years, Scotland only recorded 13 playoff wins. So, is Scotland’s recent success a fad, or are the Scots simply rebuilding for another run?
During that same time span (1967-2010), the Falcons journeyed beyond the second round of the postseason on 10 different occasions. They won three state titles and advanced to the three more regional final games. Since their first state title run in 1984, their success has been pretty evenly distributed over time. They’ve also won nine or more games in the past four consecutive seasons and are likely to do it again this year.
While the Falcons have a habit of disappearing into obscurity, they have proven to be a program that can beat the odds and return to form time and time again.
When Seventy-First defeated the Scots 21-6 two weeks ago, the Falcons snapped a six-game losing streak to Scotland. The Scots lead the overall series with the Falcons 17-10.
No. 5 Moving Forward…
Despite its recent success, Scotland has been dealing with some issues with depth. Fortunately for the Scots, they have had some incredibly talented athletes to compensate. So far, the 2018 Scots appear to be struggling to find enough quality to overcome the lack of quantity. This was probably inevitable as the economy and population in Scotland County continues to decline. With a very young varsity roster and some talented young athletes moving up via Carver Middle School, it’s not all doom and gloom for the Scots, but their future is questionable.
Richmond and Seventy-First, on the other hand, show no signs of slowing down. Both will enter Thursday night’s game with matching 7-1 records. Both have excellent youth football feeder programs in place and both have junior varsity teams that are dominating their competition.
Many of the playmakers on Richmond’s varsity team are young with a group of super sophomores making a lot of noise. The JV Raider program has now won 26 straight games. Seventy-First’s JV squad is currently 6-0 and has outscored its opponents 233-7.
Unlike many of its fellow Cumberland County schools that have dropped down to the 3A classification, Seventy-First is still a 4A school and currently has the third-largest average daily membership among the county’s 10 schools. Scotland has steadily declined each year since 2006 and now has 369 fewer students in the classroom than it did just 12 years ago. In fact, Seventy-First officially passed Scotland in the number of enrolled students in 2016 when the Falcons reported a student body of 1,634 and the Scots were at 1,623. The gap widened in 2017 when Seventy-First and Scotland reported 1,679 and 1,621 respectively.
We all know that no matter what these programs look like five or 10 years from now, the ties between these two small, neighboring communities will never allow the Richmond-Scotland rivalry to die. However, whether we have intended to or not, Raider Nation has been guilty of searching for something bigger than Scotland for decades. It was West Charlotte in the 90s, then it was Independence, and now it is Butler.
Ending the streak against the Scots next week will be huge, but then what? If the Scots fail to pull out of their tailspin quickly, it will not take the Raider faithful very long to follow the lead of the softball fans and search for their very own Whiteville to pull against. Do not be surprised if that new rival is Seventy-First.