RAEFORD – The old adage “when one door shuts, another one opens” is often cliché. But for the Richmond Senior High School varsity football team, perhaps it doesn’t matter, because it may have just found its opening to a successful start to the second half of the season.
On the road Friday night at Hoke County High School, it was all hands on deck for the Raiders, as they demolished the Bucks 56-7 behind a total team effort. The Sandhills Athletic Conference victory was a significant turnaround from last week’s debilitating 41-20 loss to Jack Britt High School.
Between the execution of an exemplary offensive performance, a suffocating defense and several clutch special teams plays, Richmond (5-3, 3-1 SAC) tied its season high in points, while limiting the Bucks (0-8, 0-4 SAC) to a measly 201 yards of total offense.
“We had a lot of different parts and pieces (work well),” head coach Bryan Till said in an exclusive video interview following the win. “We had a punt return for a touchdown, a blocked punt for a touchdown.
“Our offense obviously had a lot of big plays,” Till continued. “It was a total team effort. I’m really proud of all the different faces that came together tonight.”
Outnumbering Hoke in every major offensive category, the Raiders managed to score on six of their eight possessions, while tallying an impressive 391 yards of total offense. Behind the dangerous and elusive backfield duo of senior Dante Miller and sophomore Jaheim Covington, Richmond racked up 277 rushing yards, with five of their eight touchdowns coming via the ground attack.
After taking the opening kickoff, Richmond’s first drive, ironically enough, was its least productive on the night. On the second play of the game, freshman quarterback Caleb Hood dropped back and overthrew his intended target, resulting in his only interception.
The Raiders defense, which over the course of the game forced an interception, a fumble and three turnovers on downs, limited the Bucks’ offense to an early three-and-out.
Junior defensive lineman Isaiah Ratliff (99) and junior linebacker Jonathan Jones, Jr. (58) helped make Hoke senior quarterback Kevin Thorpe’s night long as the Richmond defense penetrated the Bucks’ backfield early and often.
Richmond senior punt returner Kaleb Douglas got the scoring train rolling out of the station when he caught senior quarterback/punter Kevin Thorpe’s punt and weaved his way 44 yards for a touchdown. Senior Victor Lucero’s point after attempt was good to give Richmond a 7-0 lead with 9:00 minutes remaining in the first quarter.
And the Raiders never looked back.
On six of its next seven possessions, Richmond found its way into the end zone. Miller, who earlier this week was selected to play in the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas, led all scorers with three touchdowns. He also racked up a game-high 166 yards on 10 carries, with four runs of 20 or more yards.
“The offensive line played great tonight,” Miller said, crediting his teammates for his three touchdowns. “What else can I ask for? They’ve done everything they’ve been asked to do. In order to be a great running back, there has to be a great o-line. They really bring out the best in me, and I appreciate what they’re doing.”
Complimenting Miller were Covington (94 yards on seven carries) and senior running back Jeremy Wall (33 yards, seven attempts), who each added one touchdown of their own.
On its second drive of the game, Hoke’s Thorpe didn’t help his team’s cause, as he lobbed a pass high over the middle of the secondary that found its way into the hands of Richmond senior strong safety Shane Summey. Thorpe finished the night 7-of-19 passing with 66 yards, with one touchdown and one interception.
Just 1:22 after Summey’s interception, the Raiders capped off a five-play, 68-yard drive when Miller found a gap up the middle for a nine-yard score, his first of the night.
Facing a fourth-and-10 situation, Hoke appeared to find its stride before the first quarter ended, as Thorpe connected with senior wideout Tyler Crowder down the left sideline for a 41-yard touchdown. With 11:09 left before halftime, Richmond led 14-7.
The ensuing Richmond drive only took one play, as Covington blasted through the line and galloped into the end zone from 62 yards out. To finish the first half’s scoring, Miller notched his second touchdown of the night on a handoff from Hood, and broke several tackles before completing the 30-yard haul. Heading into the locker room, Richmond held a 28-7 lead.
Richmond constructed a similar narrative in the second half, as it further applied pressure on offense and defense. The Raiders tallied four more touchdowns in the final 24 minutes of the game: two rushing scores, one throwing touchdown and an exclamation point from the punt coverage team.
Hood, who threw for a career-high 250 yards in week seven’s loss to Jack Britt, followed up with a modest performance, going 9-for13 with 114 yards, one touchdown and one interception. At the 2:31 mark in the third quarter, Hood hit junior wide receiver Malik Stanback in the right flat, and Stanback curled back outside and sprinted 25 yards to the end zone.
Miller completed his hat trick when he plowed ahead for a 32-yard gain in the third quarter. On the drive after Miller’s score, Summey was at it again, this time laying out to block Hoke’s punt. Senior Clint Snipes corralled a bouncing ball and meandered into the end zone from 20 yards out for Richmond’s second special teams score of the night.
Wall broke into the scoring column as the clock ticked away in the fourth quarter, on a two-yard plunge up the middle.
“We played multiple coverages tonight (on defense),” Till noted about his defense’s stronger play. “But I think our kids came out and were more focused. The total effort was a lot better tonight.
“After this, we go back and prepare for Lumberton (High School),” Till continued. “Lumberton is a quality football team, and the big thing is to not get distracted by homecoming. We need to go in and do what we’re supposed to do as a football team.
The Raiders will return home after two weeks on the road for its 2017 Homecoming game. Lumberton (2-6, 1-3 SAC) lost to Pinecrest 34-27 in week eight. The Raiders held off Pinecrest 28-7 earlier this season. Kickoff is set at Raiders Stadium for 7:30 p.m. as the Raiders look to keep that door wide open.