ROCKINGHAM — It’s been a long time since the Richmond Senior High School football team lost a season-opening contest, and the Raiders continued the streak Friday, kickstarting the 2019 campaign with a bang.
Extending the streak to 34 years, the Raiders and third-year head coach Bryan Till welcomed in Clayton High School and iced the Comets 48-2 behind a total team effort from the offense, defense and special teams unit.
Not only was the win the first step in the Raiders’ journey to hopefully repeat as the Sandhills Athletic Conference champion, but it was also a big night for junior quarterback Caleb Hood. In just his 26th start under center, Hood moved into second place on the Raiders’ all-time completion list.
Entering the game tied with former Raider Tedarius Wiley (2009) with 262 career completions, Hood moved ahead of him with his second pass attempt of the game, a touchdown to junior wide receiver Dalton Stroman. After going 7-for-12 with 199 passing yards against the Comets, Hood is now 47 completions away from holding the program’s record himself (Leon Zeigler, 315 completions).
“Coach (Jay) Jones just told me,” Hood said after the game of moving up on the list. “It’s awesome, but at the same time I couldn’t do it without my playmakers. My offensive line did great and so did my receivers.”
The six total touchdowns scored by the Raider offense made it the eighth time in the last nine season openers they have scored at least five touchdowns. Richmond scored three touchdowns on its first seven plays from scrimmage, seeing scores of 41, 55 and 77 yards, respectively.
Richmond would add a touchdown in the second quarter and tack on two more in the third stanza to start a running clock. Hood accounted for three touchdowns (two passing to Stroman, one rushing), while senior tailback Jaheim Covington picked up his first two rushing scores of the fall. Junior running back Jaron Coleman notched his first varsity touchdown in the second half.
“We were taking what they were giving us,” Till said of the quick start on offense. “They played zero coverage on the long pass to Dalton, and Caleb escaped on one to find Dalton. The run Jaheim made after he busted through the first line of scrimmage was absolutely incredible.
“Those guys were showcasing their natural abilities,” he added. “And Coach (Brad) Denson did a good job putting those guys in the position to do that.”
Richmond amassed 330 yards of total offense, seeing Hood’s 199 passing yards and Covington collecting a game-high 71 yards on seven attempts. Coleman added 28 yards on seven attempts and Hood used his legs to pick up 30 yards on the ground.
After a would-be touchdown on Richmond’s first play of the game was called back on a penalty, Hood responded two plays later with his first touchdown to Stroman. The 6-4 receiver ran an in-route, catching the ball on the near sideline before racing 41 yards to the house with 10:21 left in the first quarter. Junior Mack West added the PAT to make it 7-0.
Clayton punted on the ensuing drive, one of seven in the game for the visiting team, and Covington scored on the third play of Richmond’s second drive. He took a handoff up the middle, breaking the line, and spun out of a final tackle attempt by two Comets before trotting past the goal line from 55 yards out.
On the first play of their third drive, the Raiders found the end zone again, this time another Hood to Stroman connection. Stroman ran a go-route down the left sideline and beat the zero coverage by the Comets, charging untouched into the end zone to put the Raiders up 21-0 with 4:32 remaining in the opening quarter.
Stroman would finish the night as the game’s leading receiver, picking up 118 receiving yards on just two receptions, both touchdowns.
With just over two minutes remaining in the first half, Hood kept the ball and split the line to his left, crossing into the end zone for an eight-yard score.
Defensively, the Raiders had a strong game, forcing Clayton to punt on six of their eight first-half drives. Senior cornerback D’Marcus Harrington had a pass break up to force fourth down on the game’s opening drive, and senior linebacker Gavin Russell had a tackle for loss on third-and-two a drive later.
Senior linebacker Desmond Covington mirrored Russell’s play a series later. On Clayton’s final drive of the half, senior linebacker Omarion Mason recorded a solo sack on quarterback Jacob Whittington, while senior linebacker Joerail White and senior defensive tackle Xavier Harrington combined for a sack to end the half.
Richmond locked down Clayton’s offense, holding the Comets to just 101 total yards of offense, 49 of which came on the final play of the game. The Raiders collected 12 first downs to Clayton’s six.
The Comets’ lone points would come as a result of a holding call against the Raiders in their own end zone, seeing the safety called with 23 seconds left in the first half.
Another big storyline in the game was field position and Richmond’s kickers, who recorded two field goals and seven touchbacks. Clayton’s average starting field position was its own 23-yard line, while the Raiders began near midfield, seeing five of their 11 possessions begin on the Comets’ half.
Junior Trevor Moss was responsible for six touchbacks, while senior Drew Davis had one. Junior place kicker Mack West, tacked on all six of his PAT attempts, and connected on his first career field goal, a 35-yarder from the right hash in the third quarter. Moss added the other field goal, splitting the uprights from 36 yards out a quarter earlier.
“I’ve told people we’ve got the three best kickers in the conference on our football team,” Till said. “We’re really proud of those guys. Mack hit all of his PATs and a field goal and Trevor getting the other. We’re very blessed.”
The Raiders would score their final two touchdowns on their first two drives of the second half. On second-and-eight at the 50-yard line on the second play to start the half, Hood hit junior wide receiver Tremel Jones for a 38-yard pick up. That allowed Covington to muscle his way in from 12 yards out on the next play to give Richmond a 38-2 advantage.
Coleman added his score, a five-yard burst, a drive later on a handoff from senior quarterback Noah Altman. With 5:51 remaining in the third quarter and leading 45-2, the Raiders saw the running clock started.
The last big play for the Raiders came from junior cornerback Amir Webb, who picked off a Noah Anderson pass attempt inside the Comets’ 20-yard line.
“It was very big because we had a lot of preparation this week going on for the game,” Webb said. “Coach (Till) said we had to focus. On the previous play, they did the same play and Coach (Dennis) Toney called me over and said to watch it and they might do it again. I just reacted on it and made a play.”
“We’re pleased with the guys’ efforts, effort is the biggest thing we talk about on defense,” Till said. “You’ve got to have fits right, too, and they really fit with a couple of exceptions. The guys’ effort to the ball was fantastic and I think that’s what made us make stop after stop.”
The Raiders will look to add another win to the column next Friday when they rekindle their rivalry with Anson High School. Richmond (1-0) and the Bearcats last played in 2016, a 38-7 Richmond win, and the Raiders have won 12 straight games in the series dating back to 2004.
Anson saw its season opener against Monroe High School postponed until Saturday due to rain. Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m. next Friday in Wadesboro.