ROCKINGHAM – There’s an interesting dynamic inside the Richmond Senior High School varsity football team’s locker room. It’s a situation that falls into the realm of Joseph Heller’s “Catch 22,” where the Raiders try to maintain a short memory following a loss, but at the same time refuse to forget about it. Are you following?
That’s the case this week, as head coach Bryan Till’s team looks to rebound from a 41-20 “upset” loss last Friday to the hands of Sandhills Athletic Conference opponent Jack Britt High School. In its second largest loss of the year (by score differential), and a game that Richmond “expected to win”, the Raiders (4-3, 2-1 SAC) failed to stop the Buccaneers’ rushing offense, which gained 210 yards. But Till hopes this week will produce a different narrative.
Richmond will be on the road for the second consecutive week, and will visit Hoke County High School Friday. Despite facing a winless opponent in the Bucks (0-7, 0-3 SAC), Till is adamant that his team won’t sleep on the fact that Hoke’s offense has legitimate ability to put big numbers on the scoreboard.
“We are dealing with the world we’re in right now,” Till said referring to his team’s start to the season. “I want my guys to know that Hoke is a school that can beat us if we don’t play our best football. They need to know that; to us the 0-7 record means nothing.”
Following the script that his team still “controls its own destiny,” Till noted that he and his coaching staff have evaluated all players this week. As the desire to “win out the rest of the season” profoundly resonates throughout the locker room, the Raiders see week eight’s game as a potential way to keep that hope alive.
Hoke, which is coached by David Jorgensen, hasn’t picked up a victory all season. Over the last three games (all of which have been against SAC opponents), the Bucks have been outscored 165-36. Last week against Scotland High School, Hoke fell 61-12, and was shutout 62-0 the week prior against Seventy-First High School.
“Hoke is a very athletic football team,” Till said. “Their skill position kids can flat out run. And they tend to keep things close early on. But then something happens and (the game) snowballs on them.”
Till said that on film the Bucks look to have some key players that could potentially produce big plays. And he hopes that his defense, which gave up a staggering 406 yards of total offense against Jack Britt, can lock itself back down and limit the Bucks’ offense from getting any momentum going.
In an offense that is captained by senior quarterback Kevin Thorpe, Till noted that the Bucks tend to run a triple-option most of the time. Where Jack Britt had nine base formations, plus several others, and ran fewer plays out of each formation, Hoke is the opposite. The Raiders defense, which understands that allowing 41 points is unacceptable if the team wants to win, is preparing to see fewer base formations, but a larger variation of plays from the offensive sets.
Thorpe’s No. 1 target will be senior wide receiver Andre Pegues, who towers over opposing defensive backs with his 6’3”, 200-pound frame. Earlier this year, Pegues verbally committed to attend, and play for, East Carolina University.
In terms of defense, Till, who also serves as the Raiders’ defensive coordinator, said his players are preparing for the triple-option, and says the key to winning is stopping the triple threat. He also expressed that following the loss to Jack Britt, the Richmond defense is working on different coverages.
In practice this week, the coaching staff also pulled up two sophomore defensive backs from the junior varsity team. If they’re the right choice, and are prepared, Till noted, they’ll play Friday.
“I feel like I owe it to all these guys to do everything I can to win ball games,” Till said. “If that means another guy is better guy, and who is younger, he’s going to play. But we don’t know that unless we bring them up to practice.”
Another key chapter that will ensure a victory Friday night will be if the Raiders’ offense can continue to mature, progress and utilize a balanced diet of run and pass. Till and offensive coordinator Brad Denson will look to freshman quarterback Caleb Hood and running backs Dante Miller (senior) and Jaheim Covington (sophomore) to lead the charge to spark another Raiders win.
“We only ran the ball three times in the second half (against Jack Britt),” Till said. “We’re just going to run our offense, and defensively, we need to stop the triple-option. We have to know what our option responsibilities are, so we can hit them in the mouth.”
Kickoff against the Bucks is slated for Friday, October 13 at 7:30 p.m. Let’s hope, for the sake of Richmond County, the Raiders are able to write their own happy ending.