Home Local Sports JV Football Season Recap: Raiders produce ‘fruitful season’ while overcoming challenges

JV Football Season Recap: Raiders produce ‘fruitful season’ while overcoming challenges

The JV Raiders finished the 2019 season tied for second in the Sandhills Athletic Conference standings.
Kyle Pillar — Sports Editor.

ROCKINGHAM — At the start of the junior varsity football season in August, third-year head coach Patrick Hope was looking for the Raiders to take one game at a time. 

The JV Raiders were out to notch their fourth consecutive perfect season and their fourth straight Sandhills Athletic Conference championship. Although neither one of those would happen, Hope’s team overcame some early-season challenges to finish with an overall record of 6-2 (5-1 SAC).

Richmond would end the year tied with Seventy-First High School for second place in the SAC standings, both teams a game behind conference winner Pinecrest High School. The Raiders played only eight of their 10 originally scheduled games, seeing Hurricane Dorian wash out their non-conference game against Butler High School and a power outage at Seventy-First cost them another game.

“The 2019 season was one with a lot of challenges and questions to answer with each game we played,” Hope shared. “Being the program we are, we expected everyone’s best shot. 

“The season did not end the way we’re used to it ending with a chance to extend our streak of JV championships, but it was still a fruitful season as the young players in the program figured out what it takes to win week in and week out,” he added.

Hope noted at the start of the season that extending the team’s winning streak (which was 29 games entering Week 1) wasn’t at the forefront of the Raiders’ mind. While it was a nice accomplishment, Hope was adamant that this year’s team was exactly that — this year’s team. The focus was to put forth its best effort and try to win each game.

After opening the season with a win over Anson High School, Richmond’s 30-game winning streak was snapped in a one-point loss to Cardinal Gibbons High School. The Raiders rebounded with a 33-0 shutout of Purnell Swett,  but saw their three-year SAC winning streak broken a week later in a defensive slugfest against the Patriots.

Following the eventual SAC title deciding loss to Pinecrest, Hope and company finished the season on a four-game winning streak. The Raiders beat Jack Britt, Hoke County, Lumberton and Scotland high schools to finish conference play.

Unlike the past two seasons under his direction, Hope and the JV Raiders saw a revolving door of players fill in skill positions, in particular quarterback. Starting sophomore quarterback Harley Honeycutt began the first two games, but saw a lingering lower body injury sideline him until the latter half of the season.

That put freshmen Emmanuel Gilliam and Emoni McBride in a competition under center, and McBride won the starting job after leading the freshman team to big wins early in the season. Hope noted a lack of veteran players was also an adjustment the JV Raiders had to make.

“The loss of sophomores to varsity was a rare occurrence this year because they became impact varsity players,” Hope explained. “But it opened the door for some new players to get some quality experience and be held accountable for their play.  

“Offensively, we knew it would take some time to get going, breaking in new (running) backs and receivers, but our play became more consistent once we started taking better care of the football with each possession,” he added. “We also played two freshmen on the offensive line (Ethan Clayton and Jeffery Linton), and when they mastered technique and scheme we were able to open things up more.”

The offense averaged 24.4 points per game and used a spread of tailbacks to compliment the passing game. In the mix were freshmen Brandon Askins and Xavier Wall, along with sophomore Nasir Crumpton. 

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Askins, who made the jump to the JV team following the end of the freshman team’s season, led the rushing attack with 357 yards on 34 carries and seven rushing scores. Wall tallied four rushing scores and had 318 rushing yards on 45 touches.

McBride and Honeycutt would also finish with similar passing statistics, seeing the freshman go 29-for-58 for 362 passing yards and three touchdowns. Honeycutt had 24 completions on 45 attempts for 357 yards and six passing scores.

Leading the wide receivers was sophomore Javares Stanback, whose 19 receptions, 345 receiving yards and six touchdowns were all team-highs. His best performance was in the season opener against Anson High School, when he caught five passes for 105 yards and two scores. Fellow sophomore Chandler Orr was No. 2 with 14 receptions and two touchdowns.

“Some of the key offensive players were Harley and Emoni, as they learned the offense and were both able to have a lot of plays available in their arsenal,” Hope explained. “Brandon helped solidify the running back group and our run game, and Javares and Chandler were chain-movers and took a lot of pride in their blocking.  

“Jordan Carlyle and Lance Shepherd were very versatile, and played multiple spots (on the offensive line) until we moved up the freshmen players,” he added.

On the other side of the ball, the defense held opposing offenses to just 6.6 points per game and seven of their eight opponents to nine points or fewer. Against Purnell Swett, Lumberton and Scotland, the Raiders recorded shutouts on defense. Hope said the defense was the program’s “strong suit” this season.

Another “stingy group,” Hope said he was proud of the way the defense took pride in creating turnovers and giving the offense more opportunities to score.  Special teams, he added, was the phase that required “a lot of buy-in.” But when the team understood why special teams plays are important in terms of momentum, field position, and scoring, it was the phase that helped the Raiders down the back stretch of the conference run.

“Jayme Allen and Randy Hailey were strong up front, and allowed guys like Tez Anderson, Mikey Baldwin, Cason Douglas, Jamari Broady and Kelay Lindsey to  make multiple game-changing plays in the secondary and second level,” Hope shared of the key defensive playmakers. 

“Dylan Locklear and Gabe Altman were versatile guys too, as they contributed on offense and defense as linebackers and tight ends,” the head coach added. 

Douglas led the team in interceptions, and Broady was a spark on special teams, returning a handful of kickoffs back for touchdowns.

“Moving up guys from a successful 4-1 freshman team was a game changer for us as well, as they came back to us ready to contribute,” Hope closed. “I’d like to thank the JV and varsity coaches for their diligence towards the kids who will be the future of our program, the parents for getting them to and from practice and the fans for appreciating the process of developing champions.”

Official statistics were provided for seven of the JV Raiders’ games this season, and the stats listed in the article reflect those numbers.