Home Local Sports JV Raiders earn share of conference title, edge Lee County

JV Raiders earn share of conference title, edge Lee County

ROCKINGHAM — Thursday’s junior varsity football game came down to the final seconds and ended in at least a share of the conference title for the Richmond Raiders.

Hosting Lee County, the Richmond JV Raiders used a late special teams stand and recovered an onside kick attempt to earn a 21-20 win.

Mounting a come-from-behind victory, the JV Raiders notched their sixth straight win. 

That, coupled with Scotland’s loss to Pinecrest on Thursday, cemented at least a share of the Sandhills Athletic Conference title in head coach Ryan Mercer’s first season at the helm.

“It was a true battle and we showed a lot of resilience, especially without two starters on the offensive line,” Mercer said. “We had injuries on defense and some guys playing out of position.

“We fought hard in what was a heavyweight fight. We were fortunate to come up on the right end of it. Any time we got hit, our kids would punch right back and showed a lot of growth tonight.”

The JV Raiders took a 7-0 lead in the first half when sophomore running back Javion Smith (15 carries, 118 yards) scored the first of his two rushing touchdowns from 40 yards with 2:54 left in the second quarter. Freshman kicker Jake Veach added the extra point.

Lee County answered with its first touchdown before the half and added another score on its opening drive of the third quarter.

Richmond trailed 14-7 entering the fourth quarter, but would tie the game just seven seconds into the final stanza. Smith rushed into the end zone from two yards out with 11:53 left in regulation and another Veach PAT made it 14-14.

Sophomore linebacker Fred Isaac helped keep the game close when he recorded a strip sack and fumble recovery two possessions later to give the JV Raiders the ball back.

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The defense registered the eventual game-winning touchdown when freshman defensive lineman Timothy Sloan intercepted a pass and returned it 35 yards to the house. Following Veach’s third PAT, Richmond led 21-14 with 2:16 left to play.

Lee County returned the ensuing kickoff into the red zone and made the game interesting by finding the end zone one more time with 16.7 seconds on the clock.

The JV Yellow Jackets went for two points, but sophomores Tate Simpson, Gage Stewart and Jackson Hamilton stacked the ball carrier for a three-yard loss to maintain a one-point lead.

Icing the win was sophomore Nicholas Griggs, who recovered an onside kick attempt as the game clock expired.

Freshman quarterback Evan Hodges threw 12-of-16 passing for 174 yards. Hitting four different receivers, Griggs led the way with 5 catches for 114 yards. Amer Morrison had 3 grabs for 25 yards, Domonic Tillman added 2 catches for 12 yards and Keonta Pegues hauled in one catch for 23 yards.

“The share of the conference title is huge for us,” Mercer closed. “To do this in my first year is great to carry on the tradition of Coach (Patrick) Hope, who has been a big mentor and helped me a lot.

“More importantly, it’s a big deal for our kids. I hope they take this into their varsity seasons and use that taste of winning to help the program and stay hungrier for more.” 

Note: Head coach Ryan Mercer and Deon Cranford contributed stats and game information to this article. This article was updated to correct a touchdown and add additional stats.

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Kyle Pillar is a 16-time North Carolina Press Association award-winning sports editor with The Richmond Observer. Follow the sports department on Twitter @ROSports_ for the best in-depth coverage of Richmond County sports.