ROCKINGHAM — Ten players from Richmond Senior High School were selected to the 2023 3A/4A All-Sandhills Athletic Conference football team.
The 50-player roster was released on Monday following the departure of Scotland High School in the third round of the state playoffs.
Headlining the All-SAC team was junior linebacker Joe Parsons, who was voted the SAC Defensive Player of the Year.
Parsons’ selection, his second career All-Conference nod, was the first time a Richmond player earned the defensive accolade since CJ Tillman (Campbell University) did in 2019.
The Raiders had four other defensive players named, four offensive players and one specialist. The 10 total selections were the most for Richmond since 2021 (14).
Senior defensive end Jacoby Martin notched his third career postseason recognition, having also been named as a sophomore and junior. He did so while only playing six games due to injury.
Collecting their first career selections were seniors Javian Drake (wide receiver), Jaliel Green (running back), Jamison Jones (defensive back), Johnny Lunceford (center), juniors Zach Gardner (defensive end), Gray Maultsby (right tackle), K’Mauri Morgan (linebacker) and sophomore Jayden Hamilton (specialist).
The Raiders also had three honorable mentions — senior defensive backs Marquan Martin and David McNair, along with sophomore linebacker Terande Spencer.
Pinecrest High School, which won its second consecutive SAC title this season, had 10 picks. Head coach Nick Eddins was Coach of the Year.
Third-place Scotland High School also had 10 honorees, including senior running back Zay Jones, who was tabbed the Offensive Player of the Year.
Rounding out the roster were eight players from Lee County High School, and four players each from Hoke County, Southern Lee and Union Pines high schools.
“Year in and year out, we are obviously chasing the state championship as our ultimate goal,” head coach Bryan Till said. “In order to have a chance at that, our guys have to work extremely hard at their individual positions.
“While we fell short of the ultimate team goal, it is still very rewarding to see our guys’ hard work and dedication appreciated, especially by those guys who have to prepare for them every week,” he added. “This is exactly what the All-Conference team represents, and it is a great honor for these guys.”
A three-year varsity starter, Parsons has been the captain of Richmond’s defense. His stats were among the best in the conference defensively, but he’s also responsible for a lot of the intangibles during the game.
“It’s a huge honor to be able to receive an accolade such as this that involves votes from throughout the conference,” Parsons said. “I just have to thank God for the ability to play and my family, specifically my mom and dad, as well as all the coaches and my position coach Bryan Till.
“I think what led to me earning it was me trying to make the play at all times, along with playing well consistently against a lot of teams.
“Being able to lead the defense is a privilege because it is a big responsibility and a lot of mental preparation,” he continued. “During practice on weeks where there is a lot to learn, my teammates never got frustrated with me and helped. Without them we would not have gotten two shutouts or had a good defense. Every play we depend on each other as a defense and a lot of guys have to sacrifice and do things that maybe aren’t noticed as much for me to be able to play at a high level.”
Parsons led the Raiders with 93 tackles, which put him third in the SAC. His 72 solo tackles were second best in the conference and he averaged 8.5 tackles per game to pace the Raiders, which was also fourth in the SAC.
Usually the first line of defense for the Raiders, Parsons also got into the backfield. He recorded 9.0 tackles-for-loss and 2.0 quarterback sacks (one each against Pinecrest and Lee County). His TFL tied him with Morgan for ninth best in the SAC.
In five different games, Parsons recorded 10 or more total tackles — Southern Lee (10), Pinecrest (10), Lee County (13), Scotland (10) and Leesville Road (12). Against the Yellow Jackets and Pride, he had 10 solo tackles.
At Myers Park in Week 4, Parsons had a carry on a fake punt for 26 yards.
“It is additionally a great honor to be named Defensive Player of the Year as Joe was,” Till shared. “He does so much for our defense other than just lead us in tackles, but you don’t know if that is always recognized.
“He gets us lined up and checked into different alignments versus different offensive sets, he plays with tremendous effort, and his tackles aren’t always glamorous, but he is always where he is supposed to be. When (Joe) is recognized for this award, you can tell other coaches also see how good of an overall football player he is.”
Offensive Players: Drake, Green, Lunceford, Maultsby
Playing football for the first time since his freshman season, Drake emerged as Richmond’s go-to wide receiver. A deep threat, Drake used his quick hands and speed to pick up big chunks of yardage.
Drake led the SAC in receiving yards per game (71.4) and also had the longest reception in the conference this season (91 yards). His seven reception touchdowns were tied for second, and he had 100+ receiving yards in a game two times — Butler (107) and Scotland (168).
His 643 total receiving yards was third in the SAC, his 37 receptions ranked fourth and his 17.38 yards per catch put him sixth in the conference.
Stepping up into Richmond’s No. 1 running back role this season, Green was shifty and powerful, especially late in the season. Green totaled 1,065 rushing yards on 178 rushing attempts, which put him third in the SAC.
Averaging 5.98 yards per carry, Green finished fifth in yards per game (96.8) and rushing touchdowns (11). He also produced the bulk of Richmond’s scoring with 60 total points (5.5 points per game).
Four different times Green surpassed the 100-yard mark in a game — Hoke County (135), Union Pines (127), Lee County (152) and Scotland (154). He found the end zone twice against the Bucks, Vikings and Yellow Jackets.
The position group that most gets overlooked due to its lack of stats, the offensive line is often where games are won and lost. Lunceford and Maultsby, both two year starters along the Raiders’ front five, guided a younger, less experienced group this season.
With Lunceford at center and Maultsby at right tackle, they provided protection, time and space for the offense to score. This season, the Raiders averaged 22.9 points per game.
Lunceford, who battled injury, and Maultsby, who played nearly every snap in 11 games and was the Raiders’ long snapper, cleared the way for Richmond to collect 1,611 rushing yards (146.5 yards per game) and 22 touchdowns.
The two offensive linemen also gave sophomore quarterbacks Domonic Tillman and Evan Hodges room to combine to throw 1,322 passing yards (120.2 yards per game) and 12 TDs.
Defensive Players: Gardner, Jones, Martin, Morgan
Setting the edge along the defensive line as a second-year starter, Gardner provided pressure in Richmond’s pass rush and helped stop the run game. He totaled 47 tackles this season (5.2 tackles per game), fifth on Richmond’s stat sheet.
Gardner’s 13.0 tackles-for-loss and 5.0 quarterback sacks were both second for the Raiders. He ranked tied for fourth in total sacks within the SAC and was tied for sixth in TFL. Gardner had four hurries, caused a fumble against Southern Lee and returned a pick-six at Scotland.
Twice this season Gardner recorded eight tackles in a game (Seventy-First, Southern Lee) and five of those tackles against the Cavaliers were for a loss. Against Hoke County, Gardner sacked the quarterback four times.
Building a reputation as one of the hardest-hitting and best open-field tackling defensive backs, Jones wrapped up his third varsity season for Richmond. He was fourth on the team with 57 tackles (5.2 tackles per game).
Quick out of the secondary, Jones racked up 10.0 tackles-for-loss, third for the Raiders and tied for eighth in the SAC. He registered 2.0 TFL against Myers Park, Hoke County and Scotland.
Jones’ 10 tackles against Scotland were his most in a game this season. He also defended six passes to lead the Raiders, while also recovering one fumble in a win over Union Pines.
One of the storylines early in the year for the Raiders was playing without Martin on the opposite end of Gardner due to an Achilles rupture he suffered in the offseason. Making his return in Week 6 against Pinecrest, Martin returned to his old form quickly.
Playing in six games, Martin played with a high motor to get his third straight All-Conference nod. He had 19 tackles (3.2 tackles per game), but he impressed with 9.0 tackles-for-loss, which was tied for ninth in the conference.
Against Lee County he had a season-high six tackles, and in a win over Hoke County he had 4.0 TFL, with two going down as a quarterback sack. His four total sacks were third on the team and fifth in the SAC.
Martin, who recently received a preferred walk-on offer from UNC Charlotte, also recorded a safety against Union Pines.
Lined up next to Parsons at inside linebacker, Morgan brought energy and grit to the Raiders’ defense, his second season as a starter. His 74 tackles (6.7 tackles per game) were second most for Richmond and he ranked sixth in the SAC.
He was in the top 10 in the conference with 9.0 tackles for loss (tied ninth, fourth for Richmond) and 5.0 sacks (tied fourth, second for Richmond). In two wins over Hoke County and Lee County, Morgan recorded two sacks.
Morgan notched 12 tackles against Scotland and 15 tackles in Richmond’s playoff game. Twice this season he had 3.0 TFL (Hoke County, Leesville Road). Additionally, Morgan had a fumble recovery against Southern Lee and an interception against Pinecrest.
Playing his second varsity season as a sophomore, Hamilton proved to be an asset in the kick return game and as a wide receiver. He hauled in 23 catches for 351 yards and had three touchdowns, most notably the game-winner over Scotland.
Returning eight punts this season, Hamilton led the SAC with 14.8 yards per return and had 119 yards of total punt returns. His longest punt return went for 39 yards against Southern Lee.
Ranking third in the conference in kickoff returns, Hamilton averaged 23.5 yards per run back. He had 455 total return yards on 19 attempts, which were the second most yards in the SAC. His longest kick return of 65 yards also against the Cavaliers.
Three times this season Hamilton had over 99 yards of total return yards — Myers Park (99), Southern Lee (140) and Leesville Road (157).
Sports editor’s note: Stats used in this article were provided by MaxPreps.