Wednesday, 27 January 2021 14:42

Raiders return to outdoor workouts 1 month ahead of season

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Junior Kellan Hood hands the ball off to sophomore Brandon Askins during Tuesday's workout. Junior Kellan Hood hands the ball off to sophomore Brandon Askins during Tuesday's workout. Kyle Pillar — Sports Editor.

ROCKINGHAM — Cooler temperatures on Tuesday gave the Richmond Senior High School football program the feel of working out later in the season.

But it was the team’s first outdoor workout since the fall, and instead of preparing for a playoff run, the Raiders are in the early stages of gearing up for an unprecedented spring schedule.

Fourth-year head coach Bryan Till and the Raiders used all three practice fields to kick start their preseason workouts. Per the North Carolina High School Athletic Association, teams cannot officially start practice until Feb. 8.

For Till and his players, getting the opportunity to be back on the field after an extended time off was welcomed.

“It almost seemed surreal to be back on the practice fields in the cool weather,” Till said of Tuesday’s workouts. “During this time many of us have become so guarded with our optimism that we are almost afraid to feel good about how things are going.  

“However, there was no doubt in this instance it just felt good to see the guys and work together.”

Members of the offensive line practice under the watchful eye of Kemp McSween.

Following local health guidelines, each player and coach was required to have his temperature checked ahead of entering the practice field. The NCHSAA mandates that all personnel are required to wear a face mask during the entirety of workouts.

Players were broken up by position group and rotated through a series of stations and drills. The team was without two playmakers, Caleb Hood (QB) and Jakolbe Baldwin (WR), who have both since graduated high school and reported to college early.

Taking snaps at quarterback and working with the running backs was junior Kellan Hood, who is the likely frontrunner to take over the role as the Raiders’ signal caller. He served as the junior varsity quarterback as a freshman and Till said Kellan Hood was No. 2 on the depth chart prior to Caleb Hood’s departure.

Bryan Till instructs defensive backs during Tuesday’s workout.

Between now and the start of the seven-game regular season, Till explained the focus will be for the Raiders to work on getting back to speed in all facets of the game. Aside from acclimating to a new quarterback, Richmond also lost key starters at several positions on both sides of the ball from the 2019 season.

“We will really be able to start working on the Xs and Os of our offense and defense for the first time consistently,” Till said. “So we have to install schedules that will allow us to do that as we also continue to acclimate our bodies to the physical stresses the game requires.”

The Raiders are slated to open their season on Friday, Feb. 26, at Purnell Swett High School. Richmond will only play against Sandhills Athletic Conference opponents and will try to make it to at least the third round of the 4AA state playoffs for the third consecutive year.

The linebacking group works on explosiveness drills on Tuesday.

Of course, the Raiders’ eyes are set on winning a state championship. But more importantly, in the short term, Till said getting student-athletes back to a semi-normal schedule is beneficial on several fronts. 

One of them is ensuring players are engaging in social interaction, albeit safely.

“Our students need interactions with other people,” Till commented. “I think the impact of social interaction is maximized when you are working together with others to achieve an actual goal.  

“Add that this is an activity that our kids enjoy, and you really have a lot of positive education and emotional value with our kids getting together.”

The Richmond Observer will continue its preseason coverage of the Raider football team in the coming weeks.

Kyle Pillar

Three-time award-winning sports editor. Indiana University of Pennsylvania communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

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