Thursday, 25 February 2021 00:46

Spencer, Green propel JV Raiders to comeback win in season opener

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Sophomore Taye Spencer breaks loose for a 25-yard run during the first quarter of Wednesday's win over Pinecrest. Sophomore Taye Spencer breaks loose for a 25-yard run during the first quarter of Wednesday's win over Pinecrest. Deon Cranford - The Richmond Observer.

ROCKINGHAM — The first high school football game played in Richmond County in 14 months and 19 days didn’t disappoint Raider fans on Wednesday.


Following a last-minute decision to play this week after several days of uncertainty surrounding their schedule, the junior varsity Raiders clawed their way back to win an exciting contest over Pinecrest High School.

Using the legs of a two-man rushing attack, the Raiders eclipsed a fourth-quarter deficit to defeat the Patriots 24-20.

When the team found out Tuesday that it would be hosting Pinecrest, head coach Patrick Hope said that was a feeling of honor for the JV Raiders.

“We actually talked about this when we found out the game was coming that we were going to be the group that got to bring football back to Richmond County,” Hope said. 

“Obviously with the way things are now, we wanted to give a great show to let (fans) know Raider football is still successful and has worked hard. Throughout the pandemic, these kids have done an outstanding job getting ready for this game.”

Richmond’s offense was powered by sophomore running back Taye Spencer and freshman Jaleil Green. Spencer collected 164 rushing yards on 20 carries and one touchdown, while Green grounded out 19 yards on three carries and scored the game-winning touchdown.

Sophomore quarterback Emmauel Gilliam balanced the Raiders’ offense, going 6-for-11 with 68 yards and one interception. He connected with five different receivers in the win.

They were Jamarion Bryant (one catch, two yards), Randell Neal (one catch, nine yards), Cincere Wall (two catches, nine yards), Jadden Jenks (one catch, eight yards) and Tristan Wall (one catch, 40 yards).

The Raiders opened the game with a drive deep into Pinecrest’s territory, but turned the ball over on downs. Spencer got a quick start on the first two plays of the game, rushing for 25 and 38 yards. The Raiders stalled at Pinecrest’s 19-yard line.

On Pinecrest’s first play from scrimmage, quarterback Luke Tew was intercepted by freshman David McNair at the Pinecrest 37-yard line. Despite getting the ball back and entering the red zone, Richmond failed to score when Gilliam threw a pick.

The Patriots would score first, capitalizing on a 10-play, 83-yard drive early in the second quarter. A 32-yard passing score put Pinecrest up 6-0, but the two-point conversion attempt was no good.

Richmond’s ensuing drive ended in a punt, with punter Jacoby Martin pinning the Patriots at their own five-yard line. Neither team could get their offense going the rest of the first half and the Raiders entered the locker room trailing by six points.

“We knew we were having success early and at the half we just talked about having to finish drives,” Hope explained of making adjustments at the break. “I think it was a full team effort with that. The receivers blocking down the field, we talked about that with them.” 

Two big plays by the Raiders’ defense early in the third quarter shifted the game’s momentum. On first down, Dejuan Hooks sacked Tew for a two-yard loss. Two plays later, Martin hit Tew to force a fumble.

There to scoop it up was freshman Jamison Jones, who scampered 49 yards to the house to flash the lights of Raider Stadium for the first time this season. Spencer forced himself into the end zone on the two-point try and put the Raiders up 8-6 early in the third.

The Patriots were quick to answer, finding the end zone on just four plays and going 65 yards. The two-point conversion was good and the visitors held a 14-8 lead.

Entering the fourth quarter with the same score, Pinecrest punted early in the frame. The Raiders needed only two plays to regain the lead. Taking over at the Patriots’ 49-yard line, Gilliam ran for an 11-yard gain.

On the next play, Spencer broke loose for a 41-yard sprint to the end zone and tacked on the two-point conversion. Richmond jumped ahead 16-14.

Making the game exciting, a seven-play, 53-yard response by the Patriots saw the visiting team go back ahead. All seven plays were on the ground and Nahjiir Seagraves collected 43 of those yards, including an 11-yard touchdown run, but he was stopped on the two-point conversion attempt.

With the clock winding, and Richmond trailing 20-16, the Raiders started their game-winning drive at their own 24-yard line. Gilliam hit Neal for a nine-yard gain and Spencer added three yards on the ground for a first down.

Runs of seven and three yards by Spencer moved the chains again for Richmond. On first down at their own 46-yard line, Gilliam took the snap, rolled right and shook off one defender, and heaved it downfield to Wall, who pulled it in at the Pinecrest 14-yard line for a 40-yard gain.

That’s when Green entered the game, picked up five yards to get down to the nine-yard line, and punched in the game-winner on the next play with 54 seconds on the clock. For good measure, Spencer converted the two-point try.

Pinecrest managed to get to the Richmond 22-yard line in the final moments, but following a penalty, Tew fumbled the ball on second-and-20 and Richmond recovered with five seconds left to ice the win.

“All 11 guys doing their job was a big part of Spencer being able to spring some of those big runs,” Hope said. “Green is a freshman and he surprised us. We had to play him in the second half to give (Spencer) a break and he showed us some heart and got the game winner. What a way to start his career.”

“We knew it would be a fast-paced game because we both run the ball well,” Hope closed. “It was a deal where we had the ball last and the last team that had the ball won the game.”

The JV Raiders (1-0) will play the Patriots (0-1) again next week.

ROSports contributor Deon Cranford helped with stats, game details and quotes for this article.

Kyle Pillar

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

Submit local sports scores to: kpillar@richmondobserver.com

Twitter: ROSports_