Monday, 11 October 2021 21:48

PREVIEW: No. 3 Raiders' depth a factor in two SAC games this week

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The Raiders, shown taking the field ahead of last Wednesday's game, will play two conference games in four days this week. The Raiders, shown taking the field ahead of last Wednesday's game, will play two conference games in four days this week. Kyle Pillar — Sports Editor.

ROCKINGHAM — Raider Stadium will be the site of a weeknight football game for the second time in seven days, as the Richmond Raiders look to remain perfect in Sandhills Athletic Conference play.

A make-up game from Sept. 17, No. 3 Richmond will host Southern Lee High School on Tuesday. The game was originally postponed because the Cavaliers were following COVID-19 protocols.

It will be head coach Bryan Till and the Raiders’ second game in a week, and the middle matchup of three games in an 11-day span. 

Richmond is also scheduled to play Lee County High School on Saturday, one day later than previously scheduled because of the NCHSAA requiring three days between games.

The quick turnaround to ensure Richmond and its opponents get both games played hasn’t been without its challenges for the Raiders, Till noted.

“Organizationally, this has been extremely tough,” Till explained. “We have to break down film on two opponents as coaches and then filter through what is most important to let our players know.  

“We really have to only give them the essentials though, due to the fact that they will have very limited reps,” he added. “It will be important to have the guys really understand the rules we have in place on both sides of the ball in order to adjust to anything that might be different.”

Richmond (6-1, 3-0 SAC) is coming off a blowout 69-6 win over Union Pines last Wednesday, a game that was pushed up two days due to the threat of rain. 

In that victory, which saw the entire second half played with a running clock, the Raiders were able to substitute several starters, allowing the team to remain fresh for this week’s slate.

“Creating depth is always a big priority since you are always one play away from being a starter,” Till said. “Those guys getting reps plays into us being prepared for situations we may encounter in the future.”

Winless Southern Lee visits on Tuesday 

Southern Lee (0-6, 0-3 SAC) has been outscored 226-36 this season and has scored just 10 combined points against SAC opponents in its last three games. 

Dating back to the spring season, the Cavaliers have lost 10 straight games and enter Tuesday’s conference game averaging just 6.0 points per game this season. Richmond’s offense is putting up 39.6 points per game and is coming off a season-high in points against Union Pines.

“They have been spread gun, spread wing T concepts, and then split back under center in the last several games,” Till said. “They are very multiple (on offense).

“Defensively they run a 3-4, 4-3 bear front with many different schemes and personnel.”

The Cavaliers have used two different players at quarterback through six games this season — senior Joshua Stone and freshman Brett Tate-Blanks. Stone is 12-for-35 with 151 yards and Tate-Blanks, who quarterbacked the Cavs last week against Hoke County, is 3-for-14 for 35 yards.

Out of the backfield, Stone is the leading rusher with 170 yards on 51 carries and one score. Junior Anthony Robinson has added 130 rushing yards on 42 touches. 

Other backs include Jorderion Hamilton (76 yards, 20 carries), Trent Johnson (58 yards, 16 rushes) and Christian Matthews (35 carries, 51 yards and one score).

Tate-Blanks also lines up at linebacker and leads the team with 43 tackles, followed by John Wilson with 39 tackles. 

Julian Manuel is the team leader with 4.0 tackles for loss, and Tate-Blanks has 2.0 of the team’s 7.5 sacks. Jeremiah Freeman has two of the team’s four interceptions this season.

Kickoff against the Cavaliers is set for 7 p.m. on Tuesday at Raider Stadium.

Balanced Lee County travels to Rockingham for Saturday matinee

When Lee County (5-2, 2-1 SAC) plays Richmond later this week, it will be the first time in four games the Raiders will play a team with a winning record. The Yellow Jackets lost 34-14 to Pinecrest in last Friday’s game.

A much more balanced team on offense, senior quarterback Will Patterson will enter as the SAC’s leading passer. To date, Patterson has thrown 82-for-129 through the air with 1,165 yards and 11 TDs, all atop their respective categories in the SAC.

As a team, the Yellow Jackets have 922 rushing yards, and are led by sophomore running back B.J. Brown (65 carries, 435 yards and 4 TDs). 

Kendal Morris (164 yards, 15 rushes, 2 TDs), T.J. Johnson (19 carries, 98 yards, 2 scores) and Dayreon Jennings (18 rushes, 67 yards, 4 TDs) are all threats out of the backfield.

Tyric Mckendall (27 catches, 392 yards, 4 TDs) and Kenyon Palmer (15 receptions, 247 yards, 3 scores) are Patterson’s primary receivers.

“They really try to take what people give them,” Till said. “Lots of their passing game is like a perimeter run game — short passes, pitch forward jet sweep, etc. 

“So they make you defend the entire width of the field. It is all spread based, 3x1, 2x2 and some 2x1 with two backs.”

Jennings and Johnson also line up at linebacker, and lead the team respectively with 44 and 43 tackles. Ross Johnson, a defensive lineman, has a team-high 4.0 tackles for loss and leads the Yellow Jackets with 3.0 sacks.

Palmer has one interception and Landon Johnson has recovered a team-high two fumbles.

“They are very big and physical at the linebacker and skill positions,” Till said. “This is what we usually say about o-line and d-line, but their skill guys are the ones who stand out. There are several players who are 5-10 to 6-2 and 200-plus pounds.”

Till added that the Yellow Jackets are a 4-3 based defense, with (Landon Johnson) “really being a tough edge rusher at defensive end. These guys will strike you for sure.”

“Several of their really good skill guys play both ways,” he added. “(Palmer) and (Mckendall) are wide receivers who also play in the secondary. (Jennings) and (T.J. Johnson) play linebacker, but also tailback. (Brown) is a good tailback that has several breakaway runs.” 

The Raiders and Lee County will get underway at 11 a.m. on Saturday.

Kyle Pillar

Nine-time N.C. Press Association award-winning sports editor. Indiana University of Pennsylvania communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

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