Home Local Sports Week 3 Preview: Raiders set to face reigning 4A state champion Cardinal...

Week 3 Preview: Raiders set to face reigning 4A state champion Cardinal Gibbons

Head coach Bryan Till and members of Richmond's special teams unit prepare for Cardinal Gibbons during Wednesday's practice. (Kyle Pillar, sports editor)

ROCKINGHAM — This week’s road trip is all business for the Richmond Raider football team, which will square off against the reigning NCHSAA 4A state champions.

Inb the first of four straight road games, the Raiders and head coach Bryan Till will travel to non-conference Cardinal Gibbons High School on Friday.

Both teams are currently 0-2 to start the season, as the Crusaders dropped games to Chambers High School and No. 19 nationally ranked Bergen Catholic out of Oradell, N.J. Head coach Steven Wright’s team has been outscored 77-28 in those two losses.

Richmond is also trying to enter the win column for the first time, hoping to get its offense going. Through two games, the Raiders have scored just two touchdowns (one rushing and one passing).

The Raiders and Crusaders have become annual foes the last few seasons, meeting three times. During the 2019 regular season, Richmond won the first meeting 45-28.

The next game was in the second round of the playoffs in the 2021 spring season, followed by a home non-conference regular-season game last fall. Both of those games resulted in wins for the Crusaders.

In last season’s meeting at Raider Stadium, the Crusaders earned a 30-22 win, part of a 16-0 record that led to a state title over Chambers.

While on paper the two teams are the same in overall records, and have seen each other three times in recent years, Till said it’s not something Richmond’s players or coaches are putting a lot of weight on. 

“It really doesn’t alter our process at all,” Till said of preparing for a winless opponent. “We have some familiarity with them,but we can’t let that affect what we see them doing. 

“Sometimes you start thinking you know what they are going to do based on past experience and when you are scouting they are actually doing something else. Also, each week we are trying to improve and that is what’s most important as compared to who our opponent is.”

Senior quarterback Emoni McBride works through a drill during Wednesday’s practice. (Kyle Pillar/The Richmond Observer)

As players and coaches for Richmond continue to grow and gain experience in new roles, the primary goal is to use each game to better themselves. Another cornerstone of Till’s coaching style is to approach each game play-by-play and try and finish the week 1-0.

In Richmond’s first two games, the offense made it inside the opponent’s 30-yard line on seven different drives, with four of those crossing into the red zone. But all seven possessions ended without finding the end zone or scoring points.

After last week’s loss to David W. Butler High School, Till said there was a lot of improvement across the board, and that fixing small mistakes like lining up properly and getting calls correct are manageable changes.

An area of focus in practice this week, Till said the scoring will come as a result of being ready and executing everything, big or small, on Friday night.

“We are continuing to try and execute better,” Till explained. “And maybe add a wrinkle here or there to help with this. Scoring in the red zone is always important.”

Cardinal Gibbons is a pass-heavy offense that has collected 394 passing yards and three touchdowns between two quarterbacks this fall — senior starter Connor Clark and junior Whitt Newbauer. 

Clark has tallied all three touchdowns on 28-of-50 passing for 286 yards, while Newbauer has added 108 yards on nine completions as a backup.


The Crusaders’ running game has gained just 35 total yards through two games, losing a total of -48 yards on the ground to busted plays. Newbauer has 58 rushing yards on seven carries and one score to lead the team.

Two wide receivers have already grabbed over 100 receiving yards this season. Senior Landen Lawrence has 139 yards on nine catches and Chet Yardley has recorded 100 yards on eight snags.

Other favorite targets for Clark are senior wideout Nick Lemon (six catches, 49 yards, TD) and senior tight end Brock Chappell (six catches, 42 yards, TD).

“Offensively, they are similar to Butler in that they are extremely multiple,” Till shared. “They have a huge tight end (Chappell) and QB (Clark) who are on the same page and their kids are extremely well coached and do what they are supposed to on every play.  

“You have to constantly be prepared for formations and shifts to keep from being put in a bad situation.”

On the other side of the ball, Cardinal Gibbons’ defense starts with a pair of defensive linemen who lead the team in tackles. Senior defensive end Donovan Dozier has 14 tackles and senior nose tackle Joshua Stoneking has 10 tackles.

The pair of linemen each have two tackles for a loss and Dozier’s two quarterback sacks lead the team.

Freshman Jay Hamilton returns a punt during practice, as Richmond prepares for Cardinal Gibbons. (Kyle Pillar/The Richmond Observer)

Richmond’s offense has also been preparing by watching film on linebackers Ryan Ziegler and Blake Raphael. Ziegler has recorded four tackles, Raphael is third on the team with nine tackles, and both backers have one quarterback sack.

Sophomore safety Corban McDaniel has a team-high two interceptions, while Dozier has one pick. McDaniel and Pierce Johnson have also recovered one fumble each.

“Their defense is very good,” Till stressed. “It starts with a very good defensive line that is anchored by No. 99 (Stoneking)  and No. 45 (Dozier). 

“The linebackers are big and fast, especially No. 24 and No. 5 (Ziegler and Raphael), and they give you multiple coverages. All of their players run to the ball every play.”

Several Raiders have made significant plays during the first two weeks, including senior running back Taye Spencer. He leads the team with 130 yards on 27 carries, and has one rushing and one receiving touchdown.

Spencer also leads the team in receptions with six from senior quarterback Emoni McBride, and sophomore Raymond Knotts has added five catches for 39 yards. Senior Jamarion Bryant has hauled in four catches for a team-leading 61 yards.

On defense, sophomore linebacker Joe Parsons has a team-high 10 tackles through two games. Fellow sophomore linebacker Bobby Little is tied for second with senior Zyion Baldwin with nine tackles, and Little’s three QB sacks lead the team.

Four different players — Jacoby Martin, Messiah Shaw, A.J. Speach and Tate Simpson — have recorded one turnover on defense.

Kickoff between the Raiders and Crusaders is set for 7 p.m. in Raleigh on Friday. Tickets to the game can be purchased using TicketSpicket.com.

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Kyle Pillar is a 22-time North Carolina Press Association award-winning sports editor with The Richmond Observer. Follow the sports department on X @ROSports_ for the best in-depth coverage of Richmond County sports.