FAYETTEVILLE — The fight shown in the second half of the Richmond Senior High School junior varsity football team’s season opener is something head coach Ryan Mercer believes the program can build on.
Kicking off play on the road Thursday at non-conference Seventy-First High School, the JV Raiders came up short in an 18-6 contest.
A couple of miscues in the first half led to all of the JV Falcons’ points, as the JV Raiders settled in and kept Seventy-First off the board in the second half.
Richmond’s touchdown, which came near the end of the third quarter, was the first touchdown given up by the JV Falcons since their season opener in 2022.
On the opening kickoff, Seventy-First returned it to the Richmond 15-yard line. Making the stop and saving a potential touchdown was sophomore Lane Cipriani.
But just three plays into the game, the JV Falcons scored the first of two first-half touchdowns. From two yards out, Jayden Jones ran it in for the score.
Going for the two-point conversion, Cordell Hepburn was successful on the ground and put Seventy-First up 8-0 with 8:10 left in the first quarter.
Freshman kick returner Chance Crowder gave the JV Raiders a chance to get on the board on the ensuing kickoff, taking the ball across midfield to the JV Falcons’ 40-yard line.
Following a 27-yard scramble from freshman quarterback BJ Hinson on the second play of the drive, Richmond had a first-and-goal situation from the 10-yard line.
On second down, however, Hinson threw an interception in the right flat. Seventy-First took over at its own 17-yard line.
That turnover led to a 10-play, 83-yard scoring drive for the JV Falcons. Freshman linebacker Keith Cummings sacked Jones on third down, but Seventy-First converted on fourth-and-15 with a 28-yard pass to get to the 10-yard line.
Two plays later, a five-yard dash up the middle resulted in another touchdown. Going for two again, the JV Falcons punched it in and took a 16-0 lead with 2:07 remaining in the first.
Richmond’s next drive saw the JV Raiders pinned deep in their own red zone, resulting in a punt. The punt was blocked and trickled into the end zone, which was recovered by Richmond for a safety.
That play with 9:59 left in the second quarter would make it 18-0 and be the last time the JV Falcons scored.
The JV Raiders’ final possession of the first half ended in a turnover on downs. Seventy-First got the ball one more time but the clock ran out for halftime.
After the JV Raiders went three-and-out to start the third quarter, sophomore safety David Oliver helped turn the momentum in their favor.
With the JV Falcons driving inside the red zone, Oliver intercepted a pass in the end zone to stall the offense and give Richmond possession at its own 20-yard line.
On second-and-10, sophomore quarterback Caden Nolan handed the ball off to freshman tailback Elijah Ingram. Breaking a couple of tackles at the line of scrimmage, Ingram got loose and raced down the left sideline for an 80-yard rushing touchdown.
With the JV Raiders on the board, the point-after attempt was wide left, but Richmond cut its deficit to 18-6 with 3:52 remaining in the third.
Seventy-First answered by going on a 14-play, 64-yard series that chewed nine minutes off the game clock between the third and fourth quarters.
Helping end that drive without any more damage done were freshman Shamir Jones and sophomore Chamaure Shaw. Jones recorded a sack on second down, allowed no gain on third down and Shaw broke up a pass on fourth-and-goal from the 12-yard line.
Richmond got the ball back and moved it 42 yards on a dozen plays, but three straight incompletions turned it over at the JV Falcons’ 46-yard line.
With 1:21 to go, Seventy-First got a first down and took a knee to end the game.
Ingram collected 95 rushing yards on three carries, while Hinson had 50 rushing yards on four rushes. Crowder added 30 yards on five touches and Cipriani collected four rushing yards on one run.
Crowder had the team’s lone reception, a seven-yard grab from Hinson, who was 1-for-2 through the air.
The JV Raiders (0-1) will get back to work to prepare for another non-conference game next Thursday at home against David W. Butler High School.
The Richmond Observer will publish a photo gallery of Thursday’s season opener soon.