ROCKINGHAM — One way or the other, one football team will leave the field Friday night with its first win of the season.
As the fourth week of high school athletics nears its end, the Richmond Raider football team will have one final non-conference opportunity to break into the win column.
Starting 0-3 for the second straight season, the Raiders are set to play Myers Park High School, which is also winless to begin the campaign.
When asked if two winless teams meeting a third of the way through the season has had any impact on Richmond’s psyche, head coach Bryan Till said he didn’t know that it does.
“I think we are striving to win each week, even though we haven’t, and we know they are a good football team just like we have been facing,” Till said. “I think our guys understand we have to continue to get better each week.”
Last week’s outcome against No. 5 Cardinal Gibbons High School was a 17-point loss for Richmond, but Till noted afterward he was encouraged by the progress shown by the Raiders.
As the Raiders’ youth develops, so do the team’s chances and belief of being able to end the early-season skid. A season ago, Richmond earned its first win in Week 4 against South View High School.
The meeting between the Raiders and Mustangs will be the third matchup since the 2018 season and fifth overall meeting dating back to 2004.
The two most recent games were in the postseason, with the 2019 meeting resulting in a 35-32 victory that sent Richmond to the NCHSAA 4AA western regional championship.
“The recent familiarity with playing each other in both football and basketball is a good thing when it comes to preparation,” Till explained. “There is a base of knowledge about an opponent that you are building off of as opposed to starting from scratch when laying out things for our players.”
In March, the Richmond boys’ basketball team met Myers Park in the NCHSAA 4A state championship.
Like it has all summer, Richmond got back to work to continue its grind at practice this week. As new starting players in key positions get another week of practice under their belts, Till is pleased moving forward.
“It has yielded a lot of hot players,” Till said of the past several days of practice. “Our coaches and players continue to come out and work to improve daily. We are also working on trying to stay healthy with the heat and the toll of tough early games starting to add up.”
Myers Park, coached by Christopher James, has also fared the same way as Richmond during the early going. The Mustangs have lost to Charlotte Christian, Hough and Sun Valley high schools.
Each of Myers Park’s three losses have been decided by a field goal or less. The Mustangs have lost two games by three points and let a late-game lead go last week at Sun Valley to lose by a point.
Richmond, however, has been outscored 117-35 through the first three games. The Raiders have lost by an average of 27.3 points per game.
The Mustangs are averaging 26.7 points on offense per contest, while Richmond has scored just 11.7 points per game.
Offensively, Till said Myers Park will look “a lot like Cardinal Gibbons” did last week from a spread offense standpoint because “they will get into a lot of sets and motions.”
“They have some very explosive playmakers in No. 10 (Jahari McDonadl), probably the fastest kid we have played against,” Till said. “And there’s No. 2 (Brody Keefe), who has offers from UGA and Ohio State, I believe, at wide receiver.
“The running back No. 6 (RJ Alexander) is also a very good high school player,” he added. “The quarterback No. 5 (Wendell Thompson) can get them the ball and run, much like the last two QBs we have faced.”
On defense, the Mustangs run a 4-2-5 and 4-3 defense with multiple coverages.
“They held a very talented Hough team to 13 points, but gave up 30-plus points in their other games, so it is a little hard to get a bead on them,” Till shared. “In the games that they have given up those points, they have faced some very good wide receivers who have made some big plays.
“And they also had some big turnovers by their offense that gave up points,” he closed. “We have seen a variety of kickers and punters who all have been able to kick it deep and No. 10 (McDonald) is always at returns with a chance to take it the distance.”
Kickoff against the Mustangs is at 7 p.m. in Charlotte. Click here to purchase tickets.