ROCKINGHAM — A win on Friday would be another stepping stone forward in the Richmond football program’s season of growth.
As the rollercoaster of a campaign nears the final of three Sandhills Athletic Conference games to close out the regular season, Richmond and head coach Bryan Till are trying to stay focused one game at a time.
Week eight features a road trip for the second Friday in a row for the Raiders, who will also visit Union Pines High School for the second consecutive season.
A matchup between a pair of two-win teams, Richmond will look to extend its winning streak against the Vikings (2-4, 1-1 SAC) to three games since conference realignment began.
Also it’s an opportunity for the Raiders to win its second game in as many weeks, something that hasn’t been done since beating Union Pines and Lee County High School last October.
But for Till and the team, they’re looking at it through a different lens.
“I don’t think it will be about winning two in a row as much as just winning period,” Till said. “In order to do that, we would ideally follow last week’s formula of good field position from special teams and defensive stops, along with a very efficient and effective offense.”
A 41-0 shutout victory over Hoke County on the road last Friday was Richmond’s biggest statement win this fall. As Till alluded to, a swarming defense and productive special teams play paved the way to Richmond’s offense moving the ball with some gusto.
From that victory, the Raiders have taken their experience and hope to expound upon it in their first game of October.
“The main thing we would like to see carry over is growth,” Till explained. “We have continued to play better each week in conference play and I would like to see our growth as a team continue so that our mistakes continue to be less.”
Both sides of the ball clicked for Richmond at Hoke County, arguably the best outing for the team this season. The offense ran more smoothly as offensive line protection yielded time and space for a more comfortable Domonic Tillman at quarterback.
The double-edged blitzing duo of senior Jacoby Martin and junior Zach Gardner, the first time the two have played in the same game this season, caused havoc in the backfield. That disruption was accompanied by solid play from the linebackers and secondary.
Now three games into the conference schedule, Till noted that the team’s confidence is up, another powerful tool they hope to implement against Union Pines.
“I think their understanding that they can play and win versus anyone in our league (has been a result of growth,” Till said.
“Our guys had some doubts in themselves coming out of non-conference since we didn’t play well. I think they are growing in their knowledge of our schemes and belief in themselves as a group.”
The Vikings and head coach Jason Trousdale gained some confidence of their own two weeks ago by defeating Lee County in double overtime, but were blanked 45-0 by Scotland last week.
An offense that has scored nine rushing and nine passing touchdowns through six games is captained by junior quarterback Anthony Goswick (55-of-104, 139 passing yards-per-game) and junior running back Caleb Milton (52 carries, 77.4 rushing yards-per-game).
Senior running back Ethan Biggs is a threat in the passing, rushing and special teams game. He has three total offensive touchdowns (one rushing, two receiving), while sophomore wide receiver Hayne Tobias leads the team with four receiving touchdowns.
Till admitted that the Vikings’ offense, which averages 22.5 points per game, is a little bit of a wildcard and that Richmond has spent a lot of time preparing for any number of looks.
“(The Vikings) have lined up in a new set to start the game in every film we have on them over the last two years,” Till shared. “We have to know our defensive rules and adjust to whatever it is we will see.
“In whatever scheme, they will most definitely try to get the ball into (Biggs’) hands at some point. He is a speedster and difference maker and he returned the opening kickoff last year on a throwback.”
Till noted that Milton, Tobias and wide receiver Eric Jernigan “have all also made some big plays for them.”
Defensively, the Vikings have allowed opponents to average 31 points per game.
“On defense they have also given different looks, but have consistently been a four-man front,” Till said. “They have brought tons of pressure and also backed off and rushed three, so it could be interesting what we see on that side of the ball as well.”
The Raiders (2-5, 2-1 SAC) will get underway against the Vikings at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.
Per Union Pines athletic director Chad Hill, tickets are available online at GoFan and will be sold at the gate. Richmond fans will enter the stadium by the baseball field and concession stands take cash or cards.