ROCKINGHAM — Extending its winning streak to five straight games, the Richmond Senior High School junior varsity football team sailed past Union Pines on Thursday.
After starting the season with consecutive losses, the JV Raiders and head coach Ryan Mercer have stormed ahead in the winning column.
Scoring in all three phases of the game, the JV Raiders made quick work against the JV Vikings in a 41-2 rout.
Despite collecting just 124 yards of total offense, Richmond relied on its defense to hold Union Pines to -14 yards of total offense.
The JV Raiders also took advantage in the turnover battle, recovering six fumbles and intercepting one pass.
A scoreless first quarter led to a 20-point second quarter by the JV Raiders, a lead they would carry into halftime.
Sophomore nose tackle Tate Simpson started his productive game with a fumble recovery at the Union Pines 41-yard line early in the second quarter.
That paved the way to a two-play scoring drive that ended in a 38-yard passing touchdown from freshman quarterback Evan Hodges to sophomore wide receiver Nicholas Griggs. Freshman Jake Veach added the extra point to make it a 7-0 lead with 5:12 left in the first half.
A three-and-out deep in their own territory on the JV Vikings’ next drive saw a punt blocked by a swarm of Raiders and recovered at the 5-yard line. Despite the good field position, a holding call followed by an interception gave the ball right back.
Not to be outdone, the Richmond defense forced a fumble two plays later that was scooped up by sophomore linebacker Zakeius Martin. Collecting the ball at the 4-yard line, he crossed into the end zone for the defensive score.
The PAT was no good and Richmond held a 13-0 lead with 45 seconds left on the clock.
Adding one more score before the break, the JV Raiders blocked another punt deep in the JV Vikings’ zone. This time, freshman Chris Everett grabbed the ball inside the 5-yard line and ran it in for the touchdown.
Veach’s extra point split the uprights with 13 ticks on the clock to make it a three-possession lead at the break.
Receiving the second-half kickoff, Hodges (7-for-11, 94 yards, 2 TDs) captained a 9-play, 68-yard scoring march.
Several short completions, coupled with a few runs from sophomore Javion Smith, ended in a 35-yard passing score from Hodges to Griggs (3 catches, 74 yards, 2 TDs) on fourth down. Veach’s kick rang true to extend the lead to 27-0 with 4:56 left in the third.
Keeping the defensive pressure on, Simpson was rewarded with his second turnover of the game just two plays into Union Pines’ next drive. An errant pass was picked off by Simpson at the line of scrimmage, who rumbled his way 32 yards to the house.
Just 17 seconds after Griggs’ second score of the game, Veach’s PAT put the game further out of reach. With 4:39 to play in the third, the JV Raiders led 34-0.
Richmond’s final touchdown of the game came early in the fourth quarter, after the defense recovered yet another fumble, this one by freshman linebacker Terande Spencer. Reading a pitch, Spencer jumped the route and swatted the ball away and chased it down field to gain possession. It was the first of his two fourth-quarter fumble recoveries.
Starting at the JV Vikings’ 33-yard line, Patterson (5 carries, 30 yards, 2 TDs) found the end zone six plays later on the ground from 6 yards out. Veach’s final extra point of the night made it 41-0.
Spencer continued his dominant freshman season performance when he chased down another bad snap for a fumble recovery on Union Pines next drive.
Mercer elected to send in backup players at several positions on both sides of the ball, and the defense thwarted a red zone chance when freshman Jaylean Wilson fell on a fumble at the Richmond 5-yard line.
Union Pines recorded its two points of the game following a safety in the end zone two plays into the ensuing drive.
Smith was the game’s leading rusher with 71 yards on 12 carries, and sophomore Ali Tyson added 8 yards on one rush. Domonic Tillman hauled in two catches for 21 yards.
The JV Raiders (5-2, 4-0 SAC) will have their final home game of the season next Thursday against Lee County High School. Kickoff against the JV Yellow Jackets is set for 6:30 p.m.
VIDEO INTERVIEW: Junior varsity head coach Ryan Mercer and sophomore nose tackle Tate Simpson discuss Thursday’s win over Union Pines.