ROCKINGHAM – Depending on who you ask, pre-season football power rankings may carry a lot of significance, or none at all. Richmond Senior High School head football coach Bryan Till is set adamantly in the middle.
In a pre-season power rankings poll done by Carolina Preps, the Raiders are ranked as the No. 7 team in North Carolina’s Class 4A competition. Atop the poll is Wake Forest High School (Wake County), whom Richmond will see action against in the second game of the season on August 25, 2017. Noted RSHS rival Scotland County High School is seeded as the second-best team in the state.
Till understands the importance of recognizing power rankings, but also realizes that a long season lies ahead of him and his team and nothing is guaranteed.
“The ranking is really a tribute to the tradition here (at Richmond),” Till said. “Year in and year out, Richmond is so competitive and does so well, so it’s a product of that. Based on how we perform, we could move up or down.”
As official practices begin Monday, the Raiders are getting used to new offensive and defensive systems brought in by Till. In what he described as an “intense” week of workouts after a weeklong state-mandated hiatus, Till and his coaching staff are putting training into overdrive to get the players acclimated and conditioned for week one’s non-conference road trip to Ronald Reagan High School in Forsyth County.
With still no final decision made of who will be under center to start the season, the Raiders will face a tough 2017 conference and non-conference schedule that has five opponents ranked in the top 25, according to Carolina Preps. In addition to Wake Forest (1) and Scotland (2), Richmond will play David W. Butler High School (6), Pinecrest High School (18) and Seventy-First High School (20). Scotland, Pinecrest and Seventy-First all play in the Sandhills 4A Conference, which Richmond belongs to.
The Raiders are slated to play 11 games this season, four of which are against non-conference opponents. Pine Forest High School (Cumberland County) is the last of the four non-conference teams. In regards to the Sandhills 4A Conference, Richmond will face Hoke County, Jack Britt High School (Cumberland County), Lumberton High School and Purnell Swett High School (both Robeson County).
Despite being new to Richmond’s football scene, Till has had a lot of past playing experiences against many of the teams the Raiders will see. Having coached at Terry Sanford High School and Cape Fear High School in Cumberland County, Till has either coached against or seen film of nearly every team on the Raiders’ schedule. He sees this as a major advantage going into the season.
“The (Sandhills) Conference schedule is very similar,” Till said. “I’m also very familiar with Pine Forest, having coached in Cumberland County. A lot of the Sandhills Conference’s 3A and 4A teams end up playing each other quite a bit. I’m really familiar with the schedule.”
Being ranked No. 7 in the state’s Class 4A pool is noteworthy, and Till said his players are aware of the expectations set forth to maintain a winning reputation and move up in the polls.
“Our players expect to be good here,” Till said. “It’s pleasing the kids have expectations for themselves. It’s not a surprise, it just what happens here. The bottom line is to try and win ball games.”
And what about the season finale on the road against the Fighting Scots on November 3, 2017? Till grins as he notes they’re on the Raiders’ radar and that he understands the rivalry. But he expects a lot of things to change between now and then, with the hope that the Raiders are the better team.