ROCKINGHAM — Familiar non-conference foes will line up against each other on Friday night when the Richmond Raiders play the Butler Bulldogs.
Having met nine of the past 10 seasons, with the exception of the shortened spring season in 2021, Richmond and Butler will battle one another for either team’s first win of the new campaign.
Featured as the Bahakel Sports “Game of the Week,” Richmond and head coach Bryan Till will look to maintain the lead in the season series since Till started coaching the Raiders in 2017.
The green and gold has won three of the past four meetings, with the series lead leaning 3-2 in Richmond’s favor.
Last season’s game at Raider Stadium, which ended a three-game winning streak for Richmond against the Bulldogs, saw the Raiders fall 40-7.
In addition to the regular ebb and flow of game week preparations, high school football teams across the state have had to contend with high temperatures.
As a result, kickoff for Friday’s game has been pushed to a later start and officials and game administrators will have players “take additional water breaks as they deem necessary,” Till explained.
In response to beating the heat, the Raiders have also moved their practices at the high school back to a later start this week, while also wearing just helmets for the first 30 minutes. Richmond’s coaching staff has also built in necessary water and cooling breaks.
In Week 1, the Raiders lost to Seventy-First High School and the Bulldogs fell to Mooresville High School. Butler was edged 21-19 while Richmond dropped a 41-13 decision.
Another week of development is in the books for the Raiders, who hope to pick up their first win of the season against a Bulldog team that’s ranked as the No. 25 team in the state, according to HighSchoolOT.
After its loss to Rolesville, Butler dropped from No.6 to last place in the top-25 poll.
Part of Richmond’s growth is centered around a mixture of veteran players and newcomers understanding both sides of the ball.
“I think we will continue to get better week in and week out on our base offense and defense due to reps,” Till said. “We can start adding some wrinkles in each week at this point.”
Areas of focus in practice have been to continue all player development, including the quarterback situation. Richmond’s rush defense, which allowed 314 rushing yards and 4 rushing TDs against Seventy-First, has also been addressed.
In their loss to the Falcons last Friday, the Raiders started sophomore quarterback Domonic Tillman (0-for-2 passing, -8 rushing yards on 4 carries) before he left the game near the end of the second quarter due to injury.
Fellow sophomore Evan Hodges played the rest of the game under center, going 2-for-5 with 75 passing yards, a touchdown and -7 rushing yards.
“The QB change that was made in the game last week was due to Domonic sustaining a lower leg injury,” Till said. “We have continued to prepare both guys for game situations as much as possible.
“The run defense wasn’t due to schemes or reads,” he added. “We have to defeat blocks better and tackle better. We have worked through seeing those issues and are practicing to be better.”
When looking at the Butler Bulldogs and head coach Brian Hales on film, Till said much is the same when it comes to the Charlotte-based competitor.
“They are Butler,” Till shared. “They have strong play calling, strong QB play, a good running back, a big offensive line and a fast and physical defense.”
Although no season statistics for Butler were available on MaxPreps at the time of publication, Till and defensive coordinator Chris Campolieta are expecting a versatile Bulldog offense which is captained by quarterback Zach Lawrence and running back Jayden Williams.
“Butler, year in and year out, is one of the most multiple offenses we face,” Till said. “They can be in spread, wing-t, inverted bone, power I and unbalanced. The QB and running back are a potent one-two punch.”
Defensively, the Bulldogs line up in a 4-2-5 and 3-4 combo. Till said they have a strong defensive line and linebacking corps that’s led by defensive tackle Jadyn Farmer up front and linebacker Tyquan Rankin.
Kickoff between Richmond (0-1) and Butler (0-1) is set for 8 p.m. with two-minute commercial breaks built into each quarter and at the end of the second and third quarters.