ROCKINGHAM — There are a lot of questions swirling around the Richmond Senior High School varsity football team’s first regular season game slated for Friday night.
After a summer full of training, 7-on-7s and hours of practice, the Raiders will open their 2019 campaign against Clayton High School at home. The looming question marks mostly surround the Comets, as the Clayton program has undergone a series of changes in the past 72 hours.
Now former Clayton head coach Hunter Jenks announced his resignation from his post on Tuesday afternoon, as reported by HighSchoolOT.com.
Jenks’ departure just over three days ahead of Clayton’s game against Richmond not only creates uncertainty for the Comets, but also the Raiders. However, third-year Richmond head coach Bryan Till says the excitement of Week 1 usually has some lingering questions associated with it.
“The biggest thing it does is makes us unsure of what we will see on either side of the ball Friday,” Till said of Jenks’ resignation. “However, Week 1 is like that anyway, so it doesn’t make a drastic change. I really feel for the kids involved in this situation. Most of them just want to do something they love.”
The Raiders and Comets are both coming off winning seasons in 2018, going 11-2 and 9-3, respectively. A member of the 3A Greater Neuse Conference, Clayton finished second in its standings, while the Raiders took the top spot for the first time in eight years in the Sandhills Athletic Conference.
Till has said before how important game planning is each week for his team’s success, and while the Raiders have prepared the last three days for the Comets, there are more uncertainties than normal. Clayton has several potential players who may line up under center, so Till and the Raiders are preparing for several scenarios.
“We’re not sure who will be there on Friday at this point,” Till said of Clayton’s quarterback situation. “There are some kids who are on their Hudl roster who are not on Maxpreps, so there is confusion.
“Coach Jenks also mentioned they may have had some injuries in a scrimmage,” he continued. “We just have to line up and play whoever is there. On offense, they have been known to be very multiple in their use of both formations and plays. It will depend on who is calling offense as to what they will run. Knowing our checks for Friday will be key.”
Something else Richmond hopes to keep in check Friday is its 33-year opening week winning streak. The Raiders haven’t lost a season opener since falling to East Mecklenburg High School in 1985.
“The streak isn’t important, but winning every week is,” Till explained. “We want to start the season and the school year off the right way. We are at home and a win could set up our community and school with a positive mindset moving forward.
“From a football standpoint, it is the first opportunity to set our standard of discipline, energy and fun for the season. You never get another chance at your first chance.”
Setting weekly goals is also something Till and his coaching staff lay out for their players, noting “the first goal for all of these is win.” That’s listed on the game sheet and players are given helmet stickers and awards, accordingly.
On offense, Till said the main focus is no turnovers and 350 or more total yards. Led by junior quarterback Caleb Hood and senior tailback Jaheim Covington, a powerful one-two punch, the Raiders also hope to score 100 percent of the time inside the red zone.
Other goals include converting 60 percent of third downs and for Hood to have a 60 percent completion percentage, while also seeing rushers average four or more yards per carry.
“We always strive to score on defense and hold our opponents under 14 points,” Till explained of the other side of the ball. “We also want to create three or more turnovers a game, not allow explosive plays or touchdowns in the red zone, make no alignment mistakes and get at least five three-and-outs.”
With special teams, the main objectives for kickers are to make all PATs, keep opponents behind the 25-yard line on kickoffs and net 35 yards or more on punts. In the return game, the mark has been set for 12 or more yards on punts and 25 or more yards on kickoffs.
“We’ve got a bunch of hungry young men who are excited to play their first game,” Till closed. “We’ve got new lights, a new concession set up, and above all, a good football team. Our senate and other students are ready for Friday so I am really hopeful that everyone will come out and see a united community.”
Kickoff against the Comets is set for 7:30 p.m.