PFAFFTOWN, N.C. – In a night that saw many firsts for the Richmond Senior High School Raiders football team, including head coach Bryan Till’s highly anticipated debut, and freshman quarterback Caleb Hood’s first career varsity start, nothing may be as important as the Raiders earning their first win of the 2017 season.
On the road in Forsyth County to face the Ronald W. Reagan High School Raiders in a non-conference matchup, Richmond rolled to 45-24 victory, gaining 402 yards of total offense to Reagan’s 297 yards.
Utilizing the dangerous backfield tandem of senior running back Dante Miller and sophomore Jahiem Covington, the Raiders amassed a total of 317 rushing yards, compared to Reagan’s 85. Miller finished the night with a game-high 206 rushing yards on 18 carries, and Covington carried the ball 12 times and added 103 yards of his own.
In getting the scoring started early, Reagan’s Thaddeus Thomas fumbled the opening kickoff on his own 24-yard line, and was recovered by Richmond. The Raiders offense opened its first drive with Hood completing his first-ever pass attempt to Miller for a gain of 22 yards. On the third play of the game, Miller exploded into the end zone to give Richmond its first six points of the year. Senior placekicker Victor Lacero notched the extra point for an early 7-0 lead.
“We got off to a great start despite the rain,” Till said, who earned his first win as RSHS’ head coach. “Our guys battled hard tonight, and Miller and Covington ran through anything and everything. The offensive line did a great job of opening things up for them.”
The rest of the first quarter saw no further scoring, and with 3:10 remaining in the first half, Richmond trailed Reagan 15-7. Reagan’s junior quarterback Riley White connected with junior wide receiver Jamon Brown for a 14-yard touchdown strike, before placekicker Sage Costen hit the equalizing point after.
Minutes later after a Kyle Goodwin punt, Reagan’s offense went on a six-play, 77-yard scoring drive that culminated in a 7-yard touchdown run by Thomas. Thomas converted on a two-point play to open the lead to eight points.
With just 3:09 left in the second quarter, and following a delay of game penalty, Hood, Miller and Covington captained a 76-yard scoring drive that finished with Hood’s only touchdown of the night to senior wide receiver Kaleb Douglas, a 30-yard completion. Lacero hit the extra point to bring Richmond within one point heading into the locker room.
“The offense struggled early on, as we had some bad snaps,” Till noted of his team’s first-half performance. “We let Reagan back in it, but our guys fought back and the Douglas touchdown at the end of the half was huge for us. We didn’t relinquish after that point.”
Hood finished the night 7-for-9 passing, with 85 yards and one touchdown. He connected with five different receivers, and recovered three offensive fumbles. Picking up catches for Richmond were junior Bobby Terry (2 receptions, 25 yards) and Miller (1 reception, 22 yards). Miller had a game-high three rushing touchdowns, while Covington tacked on two more.
Receiving the ball at the start of the second half, Richmond picked up right where it left off. The Raiders opened the third quarter by marching down the field on a six-play, 71-yard scoring drive. Miller took a pitch from Hood and dashed in from 14 yards out. Lacero drilled the point after to give Richmond its first lead since 7:49 in the second quarter.
Outscoring Reagan 28-3 in the third quarter alone, Richmond kept Reagan’s defense on its heels as Covington waltzed into the end zone with a pair of 3-yard runs. Miller also scored his final touchdown of the night at the 3:44 mark with a 26-yard scramble.
“Caleb (Hood) did a tremendous job in his first start,” Till said. “He managed the ball really well in the second half. All of our guys grew up quickly in the third and fourth quarters, made a lot fewer mistakes, and I’m proud of their effort.”
Richmond’s defense, like the offense, played a much stronger second half. Sophomore free safety Dereck Barringer and junior defensive back Taveon Ellerbe both picked off a White pass in the third quarter. Barringer stalled a Reagan drive by intercepting a pass in the end zone and returned it out to Richmond’s 19-yard line. The Richmond defense held its opponent to just 10 offensive drives, with six ending in either a punt or turnover. White finished the night 18-for-37 in the air, with 212 passing yards and one touchdown.
“Again, our second half was much better, especially defensively,” Till noted. “Our coordinators did an excellent job at making adjustments and our defense really stepped up. We were able to force three turnovers, and had several more forced fumbles that we didn’t recover. The turnover margin was huge, and that’s a plus for us moving forward.”
Lacero ended Richmond’s scoring by drilling a 30-yard field goal with 7:33 remaining in the fourth quarter. Reagan squeaked seven more points on the board with 0:14 seconds remaining in the game, when White found a hole from seven yards out.
The Raiders will return home Friday, August 25, to host Wake Forest High School (Wake County). Carolina Preps has Wake Forest ranked as the No. 1 team in its North Carolina 4A rankings. Wake Forest defeated Millbrook High School (Wake County) 34-7 to open its season. Kickoff against the Cougars is set for 7:30 p.m.