Tuesday, 30 November 2021 17:00

SEASON PREVIEW: Experience key for Richmond bowling programs this winter

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Senior Cameron Way is the lone All-Conference bowler returning for the Raiders this season. Senior Cameron Way is the lone All-Conference bowler returning for the Raiders this season. Kyle Pillar — Sports Editor.

ROCKINGHAM — The high school bowling season begins on Thursday for the Richmond Raiders and Lady Raiders.

Fourth-year head coach Ralph Butler and the two teams have spent the last couple of weeks gearing up for what they hope to be a successful season built on the experience brought to the lanes by both squads.

After last year’s COVID-shortened season, and a successful campaign in 2019-20, the Richmond programs have a wealth of bowlers who have several years’ of experience to compete in the newly realigned 3A/4A Sandhills Athletic Conference.

During tryouts earlier this month, Butler was impressed with the high level of interest, something he credits to the programs’ runs during regular season and postseason competition.

“Practice is going well and we have a lot of new faces this year,” Butler said. “We had a huge turnout for tryouts with nine females and 24 male athletes. Getting down to roughly 10 was difficult. 

“That is what you want though. The more numbers you have, the better,” he added. “It means it is something they enjoy and want to try. The interest has really grown since I began doing this four years ago.” 

Last year’s teams graduated Joseph Grant, Hunter Hancock, Mitchell Massey, Autumn Hoffman and Josie Standrige, but replacing them are several returning players who hope to make a run at the SAC conference title.

Among them are multi-year seniors Cameron Way, Alston Johnson, Colin Wheeler and Dexter Mabe, and juniors William White and Lane Richardson for the boys. Leading the Lady Raiders will be juniors Ashlyn Bouldin, Molly Erwin and Cadence Thompson, all of whom have bowled since their freshman year.

All of the teams’ meets will be played in either Aberdeen or Laurinburg this season since schools from Fayetteville and Lumberton are no longer in the conference. 

Junior Cadence Thompson will be one of three juniors to lead the Lady Raiders this year. (Kyle Pillar/The Richmond Observer)

Bowlers will play following the Baker's format with five players on a team — with each bowler getting two frames and the strongest bowler serving as the anchor. 

When Richmond plays another school, the teams will play four matches in that format for a chance at five total points. Each win will give the team a point and, whichever team has the highest pin total after four matches, gets an additional point.

A season ago, the Raiders finished third in the SAC championship and the Lady Raiders placed seventh. Way was also named All-Conference after finishing 8th overall out of 50 bowlers in the singles competition.

Butler explained both teams are excited about the opportunity with the new conference, although it's hard to predict how the teams will do without knowing a lot about the programs from the newly added schools.

Richmond will compete against familiar foes Hoke County, Pinecrest and Scotland high schools, but will see Lee County, Southern Lee and Union Pines high schools for the first time this winter.

“Playing some new teams will be refreshing, but at the same time I can't imagine the level of competition being any more competitive than against teams like Lumberton and Jack Britt,” Butler said. “I feel like Pinecrest will be good, as well as Hoke and Scotland.

“They really bring out the best in you because you know how they are going to perform. While we have a lot of new faces, we still have a bunch returning with the boys and girls.” 

Newcomers this year include senior Cody Eason, junior Luke McCormick, sophomore Chase McCormick and freshmen Garret Mabe, Landon Taylor and Sam Thompson. 

Senior Dexter Mabe is one of several experienced bowlers on this year’s Raiders team. (Kyle Pillar/The Richmond Observer)

For the girls, juniors Rylie Bohman and Addison Massey, along with freshmen Ava Thompson, Lilly Stubbs and Payton Powell will try to help the girls’ team place higher in the conference standings.

Butler expects the returning seniors for the boys, along with White to see a lot of playing time because “they have the most experience.” With that many seniors, however, he’s going to try and work some of the younger players into the lineup as much as possible this season.

For the Lady Raiders, Bouldin, Erwin and Cadence Thompson have been tabbed part of the starting five, and Ava Thompson “has put up some good numbers so far,” and will join the rotation.

“I'm trying to find those seven or eight bowlers for both boys and girls who will be in the rotation for our first match this week,” Butler said, adding that lineups will be fluid. 

“We will have two days of practice this week along with what I've already seen to figure out who goes. It always comes down to closing out frames. If you can do that, you will be in the lineup.”

Richmond will open its season on Thursday at the Sandhills Bowling Center in Aberdeen. The Raiders and Lady Raiders will bowl matches against Southern Lee and host Pinecrest, with action getting underway at 4 p.m.

“They know the kind of numbers necessary to win each week,” Butler closed. “We have enough experience that if we play like we are capable, I feel like we can compete with anyone.”


Newcomers Payton Powell (left) and Lilly Stubbs (right) are expected to help the Lady Raiders. (Kyle Pillar/The Richmond Observer)

The Richmond Observer will continue its coverage of the Richmond boys’ and girls’ bowling teams this winter.

Below is the complete 2021-22 schedule for the Richmond bowling programs. All matches are conference matches.

Thursday, Dec. 2 @ Sandhills Bowling Center vs. Southern Lee, Pinecrest, 4 p.m.

Thursday, Dec. 9 @ Laurinburg Bowling Alley vs. Hoke County, Union Pines, 4 p.m.

Thursday, Dec. 16 @ Sandhills Bowling Center vs. Lee County, 4 p.m,

Thursday, Jan. 6 @ Laurinburg Bowling Alley vs. Southern Lee, Scotland, 4 p.m.

Thursday, Jan. 13 @ Sandhills Bowling Center vs. Hoke County, Pinecrest, 4 p.m.

Thursday, Jan. 20 @ Laurinburg Bowling Alley vs. Union Pines, Lee County, 4 p.m.

Thursday, Jan. 27 @ Sandhills Bowling Center vs. Scotland, 4 p.m.

Monday, Feb. 7 @ Sandhills Bowling Center, Girls Individual and Team Finals, 4 p.m.

Wednesday, Feb. 9 @ Sandhills Bowling Center, Boys Individual and Team Finals, 4 p.m.

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.

Submit local sports scores to: kpillar@richmondobserver.com

Twitter: ROSports_