ROCKINGHAM — After last week’s tough road loss to Pinecrest, any chance Richmond had of returning to the postseason conversation weighed heavily on defeating Hoke County.
Besides Pinecrest and Richmond, the Bucks are the only other 4A presence in the Sandhills Athletic Conference, so defeating them was a must for the Raiders.
To beat the Bucks, Richmond needed to find a way to stop stud running back Ethan Wallace and Hoke’s potent rushing attack that heavily contributed to scoring 50-plus points in victories against both South View and Scotland.
The Raider defense did just that, limiting the Bucks to just 78 rushing yards (only 3 in the first half) en route to a 40-21 homecoming victory.
With the win, Richmond moves to 3-4 on the season and 2-1 in SAC play. The Bucks fall to 3-4, 1-2 SAC.
Early on, it looked as though the Bucks may just run away with it when Wallace hauled in the opening kickoff at the Hoke 7-yard line, dodged a couple of would-be tacklers, turned on the jets and took it 93 yards to the house. With the PAT, Hoke was ahead 7-0 just 15 seconds into the game.
Taye Spencer scored the first of his three touchdowns on the night just moments later. Five plays into Richmond’s ensuing possession, Emoni McBride connected with Spencer on a short pass. After Spencer shook off one defender, wide receiver Raymond Knotts dispatched of the only remaining Buck between Spencer and the end zone and after a 46-yard scoring sprint, the Raiders were within one. The snap on the PAT attempt was mishandled preventing the home team from tying it up.
An illegal procedure penalty and two incomplete passes (one broken up by Richmond’s Messiah Shaw) saw the Bucks move backwards on their first offensive possession of the game. A pair of fumbles kept Richmond’s next two possessions short, but the Raider defense continued to prevent the Bucks from moving the chains.
Hoke punter Ryan Ramirez narrowly cleared the punt away from converging Raiders on his first two attempts, but wasn’t so lucky on his third. Richmond’s Isaiah Lockhart bolted through the Buck blockers and the punt hit him straight in the numbers. The deflected ball fell to the ground and Lockhart covered it up at the Hoke 4-yard line. Three plays later, McBride lined up under center, took the snap, and pushed his way into the endzone.
Billy West’s PAT attempt was true and the Raiders took a 13-7 lead with 11:14 in the third quarter.
Hoke managed its only first down of the first half on the following possession, but when the drive stalled, the Bucks gambled on a fourth-and-three play from the Raider 41-yard line. Warren Avery was only able to get one of the yards the Bucks needed giving the ball back to the Raiders 60 yards away from paydirt.
Junior running back Jaliel Green (9 carries for 76 yards, TD) rushed for 44 yards on Richmond’s next four consecutive plays putting the Raiders in business at the Hoke 16-yard line. The next four handoffs went to Spencer who capped the drive with a 2-yard score. Another West PAT increased the Raider lead to 20-7 with just 3:27 remaining until intermission.
After a negative nine-yard possession for the Bucks, Richmond got the ball back at its own 36-yard line. Three consecutive handoffs to Spencer yielded 29 yards and a pair of first downs, but with only 42 seconds left and no timeouts, McBride spiked the ball stopping the clock with the Raiders at the Hoke 35-yard line.
Despite having to throw against the wind being dished out by approaching Hurricane Ian, McBride delivered a strike to junior wide receiver Linden Garcia. Garcia (three catches for 67 yards) made the grab around the 12-yard line and was brought down at the three. McBride and company once again quickly lined up to spike the ball and the Raiders stopped the clock with just 21 seconds remaining.
The Raiders kept the ball in the air, this time with McBride’s toss finding another junior wide receiver, Jada Zimmerman, in the end zone. The PAT missed its target, but the Raiders went into the break with a three-possession lead at 26-7.
The second half started with more of the same. The Raider offense started the third quarter at its own 36-yard line. On just the second play, offensive linemen Tyson Holloway and Gray Maultsby, along with wide receiver Travion Smith, cleared the path for Spencer on the short side of the field. Spencer sprinted 45 yards down the Raider sideline to the Hoke 21.
From there, Green dodged a tackler and ran 18 yards before being pushed out of bounds at the 3-yard line. Then, Green took the next handoff and ran straight up the middle for the score. West’s point after was good and the Raiders increased their lead to 33-7 with 9:51 left in the third.
Wallace, who had been a non-factor since his kickoff return for the Bucks at the start of the game, began to make his presence known. The senior running back carried the ball five times for 47 yards on Hoke’s ensuing 7-play, 68-yard scoring drive to give the Bucks their first offensive points of the night. With the point after from Ramirez, Richmond’s lead was cut to 33-14.
The Bucks defense held Richmond to a 3-and-out and following a Luke McCormick punt, the visiting team took over at its own 39-yard line.
A Hoke 6-play, 61-yard scoring drive capped by a 23-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Brandon Saunders to Wallace made it a two-possession game with just 34 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
The Bucks once again stopped the Richmond offense, but the Raiders decided that enough was enough. After the Raider defense limited the Bucks to just two yards on its first three plays, Hoke sent out its punting team. In a move that fooled absolutely nobody, Hoke attempted a fake punt on 4th-and-8 and actually lost a yard in the attempt. Junior Marquan Martin and sophomore Joe Parsons led the charge on the stop.
It took Richmond just three plays, a 31-yard reception from Garcia and a pair of runs from Spencer to score again. Spencer reached the endzone on his second carry from 10 yards out and West booted the PAT for the final points of the night with 5:49 remaining in the game.
Hoke managed to advance to the Raider 13-yard line on its final possession but a penalty and a quarterback sack by sophomore Bobby Little ended the Buck threat.
Spencer finished the night with 17 carries for 126 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He also had one reception for 46 yards and a touchdown.
McBride completed five of eight passes for 115 yards, two touchdowns, as well as 14 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
Wallace ended the night with 99 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown. He also had three receptions for 28 yards and a score.
It was just a brief visit to Raider Stadium as Richmond will once again be on the road next week when it travels to Cameron to face the Union Pines Vikings (2-4, 0-2). A win would push the Raiders’ record to .500.