ROCKINGHAM — The old adage of “it doesn’t matter how you started, it matters how you finish” rings true for the Richmond Senior High School football team this year.
The final week of regular-season football brings with it several important factors for the Raiders, including senior night, a chance at a shared conference title, playoff implications — and of course, those Fighting Scots.
For the 55th time in the storied rivalry between Richmond and Scotland High School, the two teams will meet on the gridiron. The Raiders have won the last four meetings and hold a 38-15-1 all-time record against the Scots.
This year’s meeting carries a different weight because of split playoff classifications, but at the end of the day for head coach Bryan Till and the Raiders, it’s still rivalry football rooted deep in the foundation of the sandhills.
Till, who is coaching in the clash for the sixth time as Richmond’s head coach, believes the annual meeting between the two schools is something special.
“This is when this game should be played, at the end when it matters most,” Till said. “This game is one of the best things in high school football in North Carolina to be a part of.
“Those of us who have the honor of being a part of this history are blessed to be able to add our names to the list of players and coaches who have participated in this game.”
Heightening the importance of the match up, the Raiders (5-4, 4-1 SAC) will look to extend their season-long win streak to four games. Prior to its bye week, Richmond earned Sandhills Athletic Conference victories over Hoke County, Union Pines and Lee County.
With a win, and a little bit of help, the Raiders could clinch a share of the SAC regular season title. Richmond trails Pinecrest in the standings by one game, and should the Patriots fall to sixth-place Union Pines in the finale, the Raiders would be crowned co-champions.
Fresh off the bye week, Till said it was much-needed ahead of trying to finish the regular season with a pivotal win.
“I think we got a much-needed refresher and of course our guys are excited about playing Scotland,” Till shared. “I also think it was productive to work on some Scotland stuff and plays that we usually wouldn’t have a chance to work on.”
When head coach Richard Bailey and the third-place Fighting Scots (5-4, 3-2 SAC) visit Raider Stadium on Friday, they bring with them a balanced offense that relies on its running game and passing attack.
Averaging 35.3 points per game, and having won four of its last six games, Scotland uses the backfield duo of senior Patrick Primus (786 yards, 106 carries, 13 touchdowns) and junior Zay Jones (531 yards, 56 carries, 7 TDs).
Junior quarterback Carter Revelle adds to the offense, having thrown for 65-of-112 this season for 1,022 yards, 7 TDs and 7 interceptions.
Senior wide receivers Izeem Graham (24 catches, 457 yards) and Cadyn Graves (11 catches, 288 yards) are Revelle’s top targets. Both have hauled in 4 touchdown catches.
“They are very similar to us and Pinecrest with the fact they run spread and h-back (tiger) sets,” Till explained. “They run the ball very effectively both inside and off tackle. Both tailbacks can go to the house at any time, but the offensive line is really what makes this thing go. They are extremely physical and move very well.
“They pass about 30% of the time, but those are usually big plays made off play-action in the run game. All of their wide receivers can really go get it and the QB can get it there. The thing that has held them back has been turnovers, and last week they only had one, so they scored 40 points.”
On defense, Scotland plays a 4-2-5 or 4-4 defense that Till said “runs well to the ball.” Junior linebacker Malcolm McGirt leads the defense with 30 total tackles, and the Fighting Scots allow an average of 26.0 points per game.
“They are particularly strong on the d-line and will use No. 4 (Graham), their most productive wide receiver, at defensive back as well,” Till said. “Overall, they are a typical hard-nosed Scotland team that is playing their best football at the right time.”
Friday will also serve as senior night for the Raiders, who will recognize the players in the class of 2023 ahead of kickoff.
“This group of seniors is small in number, but have been through so much to make it here to this point over their four-year careers,” Till said. “There are five guys in this class who are first-year players, so the number of guys who have made it through the whole way is even smaller.
“They also started with tons of adversity at the beginning of the year and lost one of their leaders, Emerson Wall, during the Pinecrest game (to injury),” he closed. “With all of that, they still have worked extremely hard on and off the field to hold the standard of this program. I am very proud of them.”
The 1972 Richmond football and cheerleading teams will also hold a 50-year reunion during the rivalry game. Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m.
Note: The statistics used for Scotland were taken from MaxPreps and were through seven games this season, not the nine played to date.