Friday’s annual rivalry meeting between the Richmond Raiders and Scotland Fighting Scots will be my fifth time watching the two storied programs duke it out on the football field.
It will be the third game I’ve covered since the Richmond Observer began in July 2017, but having been to a handful of games on both sides of the fence, as a teacher supporter and a sports reporter, I can promise one thing — it’s a special rivalry.
Every time these two rural communities play against one another in any sport, be it volleyball or baseball, I’m left in awe by how intense and how close each competition is. One thing I’ve learned since moving to Richmond County is there is a lot of pride in the way the Raiders, the Scots, and several other teams around the state, go about handling their athletic business.
With rivalry week upon us and major playoff implications on the line, including the Sandhills Athletic Conference title, I started to think about my high school rivalry game and the atmosphere surrounding it. I didn’t play football, but as a senior in the fall of 2009 at Chambersburg Senior High School, I remember our football team went 5-6 and made the Pennsylvania state playoffs for the first time during my high school career.
As a matter of fact, those five wins were the most the Trojans had put together in a single season than the previous three years combined. Needless to say, my high school wasn’t a Richmond-caliber program. We were just excited as high school seniors to be in the mix for once.
I was a member of the “CASHS Crazies,” our student section similar to Richmond’s Bleacher Creatures. We really didn’t have a clear cut rival like Richmond and Scotland, so every year it was a toss up between Carlisle and Cumberland Valley. That in itself should tell you our rivalry games didn’t hold a lot of weight.
To be honest, a lot of us would go to our football games for the sole purpose to hang out and to watch the band’s halftime show and the drumline perform on the sideline during the third quarter. But that’s clearly not the case for Richmond and Scotland counties, albeit the bands are pretty good, too.
I could tell you that we won our “rivalry game” my senior year 20-18 over Carlisle on the road, but only because I looked it up on Maxpreps. And that’s the difference in football where I grew up and football in the Sandhills.
Fast forward to Nov. 6, 2015, which was my first taste of the rivalry. It was my first fall in Richmond County and I remember having several people ask me if I was going to the Richmond game at Scotland. With all the talk, a couple of us decided to go to see what the hype was about.
Although Richmond lost a 28-21 decision, I’ll never forget my first real taste of Richmond-Scotland football. We had to park in a neighborhood off campus and walked to Pate Stadium. Once inside, we spent the majority of the game sandwiched in a crowd of people between the bleachers and the fence separating the playing field, something that really only happens during games when these two teams play each other.
Scotland went up 21-0 in the second quarter, but Richmond powered back in the second half to make it interesting. The crowd was electric on both sides all game long, and the halftime show was unique — but most importantly, the whole experience was something worth remembering.
It’s hard to forget the high-scoring game in 2017 that saw Richmond’s freshman quarterback Caleb Hood get his first exposure against Scotland senior running back Zamir White, who now players for the University of Georgia. And then last year, the Raiders snapped their losing streak with a 23-8 win at home to earn the SAC title for the first time in eight years.
And that’s my point — this rivalry is something really special, especially from an outsider’s view who is gearing up for his fifth game. I’ve spoken to people in both communities who’ve recalled pivotal plays and key moments in the 52 previous meetings that live on in rivalry lore.
I love my high school, but I promise you no one talks about our program decades later the way Raider and Fighting Scot fans do.
To the student-athletes who get the chance to play in the “best rivalry in the state,” as so many people coin it, it’s something they’ll remember win or lose for a lifetime to come.
I’m just as excited as everyone else for when I’ll be on the sidelines Friday when Bryan Till’s Raiders take on Richard Bailey’s Fighting Scots. And I can’t wait to see what special moments happen this year.