ROCKINGHAM — Familiar opponents will dot Richmond Senior High School’s non-conference football schedule for the next two seasons.
As the Raiders continue spring practice this week, they’re working to prepare for a new two-year cycle of non-conference games and their third season in the 3A/4A Sandhills Athletic Conference.
The first four weeks of the 2023 campaign, which consist of the non-conference slate, will see the Raiders face two familiar foes and add two more that have been recurring opponents during head coach Bryan Till’s six full seasons with the program.
Richmond will not play Mount Tabor or South View high schools this fall, replacing them with Seventy-First and Myers Park high schools. Remaining on the non-conference schedule are Cardinal Gibbons and David W. Butler high schools.
“We don’t have a lot of options when it comes to scheduling non-conference opponents,” Till shared. “There are only so many people willing to play us, so we call around and who we end up with is mostly just who will say yes and doesn’t require us to drive three hours.”
The Seventy-First Falcons were members of the Sandhills Athletic Conference during Till’s first three seasons (2017-19). During that stretch, the Raiders went 3-0 and outscored the Fayetteville-based school 119-39.
Myers Park was a playoff opponent for Richmond in consecutive seasons in 2018 and 2019. The first meeting ended in a third-round loss, which was followed by a victory that sent the Raiders to the 4AA West regional championship in 2019.
Richmond has played Butler each season dating back to 2013, save for the 2020 season that limited teams to just conference games. The Raiders are 4-5 overall in those meetings and 3-2 with Till as head coach. The team won three consecutive meetings in 2018, 2019 and 2021.
A program that has had the upper hand over the Raiders the last few seasons has been Cardinal Gibbons. Richmond has dropped both regular-season meetings with the Crusaders the past two years, while also being eliminated from the 2021 4A playoffs by them.
Richmond’s only win in the series was a 45-28 decision in week four of the 2019 season on the road in Raleigh.
Last season, three of Richmond’s four non-conference opponents made the state playoffs: Seventy-First (3A East regional championship), Butler (4A West third round) and Cardinal Gibbons (4A East second round).
The Falcons (14-1, 7-0), Bulldogs (10-3, 5-1) and Crusaders (9-3, 5-0) all finished first or tied for first in their respective conference standings last year.
Richmond (5-6, 4-2) finished tied for second in the SAC standings, lost in double overtime in the opening round of the 4A East playoffs and suffered just its second losing season since 1972.
“The teams on our non-conference schedule are talented and show us a variety of offenses and defenses,” Till explained. “So by the time we get into conference play, we should be well versed in the Xs and Os and also have a good idea of what it will take physically to compete against the best in the state.”
Acknowledging there is a lot of recent history with the upcoming non-conference opponents, Till said there is some excitement surrounding the first four Friday nights of the season.
“Hopefully it will mean a great deal to the fan bases and we will see good crowds and the kids will get to play in a good, playoff-type atmosphere,” he said. “That also is good practice for later in the year. You have to be able to handle the excitement and think through the emotion.”
After a 1-3 run through its non-conference schedule last season, Till is also hoping the gauntlet of this year’s slate challenges the Raiders in other areas of the game instead of just on the scoreboard.
“I would like to see growth in toughness and leadership through these games,” he noted. “That has been a strong focus for us in the offseason.”
Sandhills Athletic Conference schedule
A four-year run as the SAC champion came to an end last fall but the quest for another conference crown is already underway.
The Raiders are set to face the same six SAC opponents they have the past two seasons, as the current conference realignment enters the third of its four years.
Richmond will open SAC play with Southern Lee, a team it has outscored 96-10 the past two seasons. The Raiders will look to extend their winning streak against Hoke County to 12 years, having beaten the Bucks by an average of 35.6 points over the past 11 meetings.
Lee County and Union Pines have also been consecutive wins for the Raiders the past two seasons. While both scores were closer in 2022, Richmond has combined to defeat the Yellow Jackets 69-40 and the Vikings 103-29.
Last fall ended a 24-game SAC winning streak dating back to the 2018 campaign when Richmond lost to Pinecrest for the first time in eight years. The Raiders also lost to Scotland in the regular-season finale, ending a three-year winning streak against the neighboring Scots.
Hoping to get back to an undefeated mark in conference play, Till said the program has moved past last year and is focused on maintaining the winning tradition at Richmond.
“They are all well-coached,” Till said of the SAC teams. “Even the teams that have won less than others are prepared every week. This means our approach being the same week in and week out can’t be a cliche, but has to be real.
“The bar is always set with the expectation to win championships at Richmond Senior,” he closed. “It isn’t determined by last year. The other teams in the conference are different and so are we. Our expectations won’t change.”
Richmond will be on the road at Butler, Myers Park, Hoke County, Union Pines and Scotland. Home games will feature Seventy-First, Cardinal Gibbons, Southern Lee, Pinecrest and Lee County.
The Raiders have a full summer slate of 7-on-7 scrimmages and camps before the first day of the season officially begins on July 31.
Richmond will kick off the 2023 season at home on Aug. 18 against Seventy-First High School at 7:30 p.m.
2023 SCHEDULE: Click here to see the Richmond Raiders’ full regular-season schedule.