ROCKINGHAM — In the team huddle following Monday’s practice, Richmond head football coach Bryan Till made a message very clear — the goal this week, and every week, is to go 1-0.
Unable to change the 1-3 start to the season, the Raiders are focused on moving forward and controlling what they can as Sandhills Athletic Conference play begins on Friday.
In the hunt for its fifth straight SAC title, Richmond will get a chance to start conference play undefeated with a road trip to Southern Lee High School (1-3).
“Once you start conference play, it is a fresh slate and we have won the last four years so we have that as one of our goals and expectations,” Till said. “In order to do that, the most important game is the next one. The final conference standing is an accumulation of those individual weeks.”
Step-by-step and play-by-play, the Raiders have worked through their first four non-conference games to continue getting better as a host of players and coaches adjust to new roles this season.
On the heels of the team’s best offensive performance and first win of the season against South View last week, the Raiders let those good vibes last throughout the weekend.
But with the onset of a new opponent, it’s been all business at practice as Richmond dials in on the Cavaliers.
“(The win) was mainly just a better feeling on Friday night and through the weekend,” Till said. “Once game week gets here, what you did last week really doesn’t matter.
“It is only what you do this week and these guys have been good at coming out to practice the right way after the losses. So that hasn’t been a big difference in the way practice has gone.”
With three of the four days of practice for Southern Lee in the books, Till said the team’s progression across the board in the way it prepares for opponents is starting to show improvement.
“At the start of the season, we had a very inexperienced group,” Till shared. “You are starting now to see the game and practice experience add up so that we are able to add more to practice, have more wrinkles in what we do and execute regularly at a higher level.
“We just have to continue to maintain a level of consistent improvement.”
Consistency has been key for the Raiders during the last four seasons against SAC opponents. Dating back to the 2018 season, Richmond has secured a 23-0 record and has outscored SAC teams 1,027-231, for an average of 44.7 points per game on offense.
Southern Lee, on the other hand, has won just one conference game over the past two years and went 0-6 in its first season in the split 3A/4A SAC last year. The Raiders handed the Cavaliers a 58-0 loss in 2021, the second of three games played in an eight-day span by Richmond.
Till noted that Southern Lee is a “much improved team from last year,” having already scored 35 more points in its first four games than it did in nine games last season. The Cavaliers also started 0-3, but picked up a 41-22 comeback win over Fairmont High School last week.
“Their schemes are more sound and regular than they have been,” Till said of this week’s opponent. “You can tell there is a system in place to try and give these guys a chance of success and Coach (Mike) McClure and his staff are doing a good job with that.”
The Raiders’ defense, which is led in tackles by sophomore linebackers Joe Parsons (25) and Bobby Little (21), will look to hold an aggressive ground game in check against the Cavs.
Sophomore running back Tyrice Douglas leads the teams with 338 yards on 42 carries and five touchdowns. Secondary back Anthony Robinson has added two scores on 30 rushes for 217 yards, while Jorderion Hamilton has also scored twice on the ground.
Through the air, sophomore quarterback Robbie Sims has completed 13 passes for 70 yards with no touchdowns and one interception.The Cavaliers are averaging less than 18 passing yards per game, while the rushing attack is averaging 153.3 yards per contest.
“On offense they have a couple of guys who have made long runs in No. 1 (Robinson) and No. 8 (Douglas),” Till said. “They will run a lot of jet sweep, buck sweep and zone off of the jet motion.
“They also are doing this from the gun and under center, so they give you a few different looks and timing issues.”
Southern Lee’s defense is allowing 27.3 points per game this season, compared to Richmond’s 33.8 points per game allowed. The offenses are also similar, with the Cavs putting up 19.3 points per game to Richmond’s 10.5 points per game.
Sophomore inside linebacker Michael Tate-Blanks has been a ball hawk, recording a team-leading 43 tackles (10.8 per game) and one of six interceptions by the Cavs this fall. Hamilton and Douglas, who are also linebackers, are tied for second with 19 tackles apiece.
Senior free safety Dylan Greene has picked off two passes in four games, the same number of interceptions Richmond senior safety Messiah Shaw has collected.
“Several of their guys play both ways with No. 8 (Douglas) also playing linebacker, along with No. 50 (Kemauri Davis, OL/DL), No. 62 (Marcus Tate-Blanks, OL/DL) and No. 11 playing basically all night on both sides,” Till explained. “Several other skill guys play in multiple positions as well.”
Looking for a successful start to the new SAC slate, the Raiders will travel up HWY 1 North and face the Cavaliers at 7:30 p.m. in Sanford.