ROCKINGHAM – In its first season in the new Sandhills Athletic Conference, and under the direction of first-year head coach Patrick Hope, the junior varsity Richmond Raiders football team put everything together this year to go undefeated and become the conference’s first ever champion.
“This year’s team had a chance to be special with their commitment to the offseason and summer,” said Hope. “We had over 50 kids make the required days during the summer. We also had a coaching staff that accepted nothing less than their best.”
Richmond opened the year defeating Wake Forest High School 24-23 in overtime on the road (via a blocked extra point), a game that Hope said was not only the toughest, but was one that his team learned the most during.
“We overcame a lot to have a chance to win it in overtime,” Hope said.
At the time, it was the first loss Wake Forest had suffered since Oct. 3, 2013, against Millbrook High School.
Through a balanced offense, a tenacious defense and an opportunistic special teams unit, the Raiders were able to put together a special season. But because of so many playmakers, Hope wouldn’t offer up any individual awards.
“That experience helped us win other big games on the schedule, such as Butler, Jack Britt and Scotland,” Hope noted. “I won’t name an MVP because we won’t even do that within the program, and we had nights where a phase of the game helped us win.
“Some nights it was the offense, some nights it was the defense and special teams was always the edge we needed to win a game,” he added.
The JV Raiders were also able to go 7-0 in the SAC, including beating Scotland High School at home 14-0 to finish the season and take the conference championship. To be the first to win that is something Hope, his staff and his players have been working towards since August and will cherish forever.
“To win the first SAC-8 JV title is critical to our future success,” said Hope. “We had a lot of kids who were on their first championship team this season. Now they must take the lessons and success they had on the JV and apply it to what lies ahead for the next two years on varsity.”
Hope went on to say that he and his staff also challenged the group to do whatever they had to do to come back in the spring and to contribute to a varsity SAC-8 title and a state championship.
The coach also wanted to thank and acknowledge his staff, including Justin Jackson, defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach; Chris Dennis, defensive line coach; Al Reams, linebackers coach; Kevin Alfonso, offensive line coach; and Bryan Hinson, wide receivers coach.
As far as what’s coming next for junior varsity Raider football, the future is bright, and the staff will be looking to go undefeated once again and take home a second consecutive SAC-8 title.
“We are very excited about the new crop of kids that will be coming from the middle schools and ninth grade teams,” Hope concluded.