Friday, 14 September 2018 00:23

Till: Richmond football is “where we want to be” despite shortened bye week

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Richmond head football coach Bryan Till discusses his team's shortened bye week due to Hurricane Florence. Richmond head football coach Bryan Till discusses his team's shortened bye week due to Hurricane Florence. Photo courtesy of Kyle Pillar.


ROCKINGHAM - The Richmond Senior High School varsity football team was looking forward to a productive week of practice during its bye week -- and then the imminent threat of Hurricane Florence happened.

On Tuesday afternoon, Richmond County Schools superintendent Dr. Cindy Goodman announced that all RCS activities, including athletic practice and events, would be cancelled or postponed starting Wednesday afternoon.

Hurricane Florence, a Category 1 storm that’s currently battering the Carolinas’ coastlines, threw a wrench into head coach Bryan Till’s off-week plans. Practice was cancelled for the rest of the week, starting Wednesday, and will resume following the passing of the storm.

For Till and company, who are coming off an impressive 30-19 road win to wrap up non-conference play at David W. Butler High School last Friday, the shortened bye week may not have an entirely negative affect as the Raiders prepare to open Sandhills Athletic Conference play at Purnell Swett High School on Friday, Sept. 21.

“I think we’re where we want to be at this point in the season,” Till said Thursday, noting Richmond’s 3-1 overall record. “We certainly would have liked to have won against Wake Forest, but there has been so much improvement each week with kids.

“We obviously don’t want to lose what we’ve gained due to the (shortened) bye week,” he continued. “We’re always trying to improve our skill level on the football field.”

After starting the 2017 season, Till’s first as the Raiders’ head coach, with a 2-2 record, the pounding of the Bulldogs in Week 4 gave Richmond a new breath of life heading into SAC play. And a part of that boost is a result of Richmond’s continued development on the field.

“I’ve really liked the improvement with a lot of areas on our team,” Till commented. “From Week 1 to now, our special teams is doing much better -- we weren’t where we wanted to be early on.

“And our defense after the Wake Forest game has played well the last two games, and really all year -- our first unit didn’t give up any points to Reagan (in Week 1),” he added. “It’s been good seeing the defense play well, and bouncing back from the loss to Wake Forest is huge.

Till explained that his team’s “young wide receivers continue to grow up and contribute” and that he and fellow coaches “expect (sophomore quarterback) Caleb Hood to be who he is, but he continues to develop” as well.

The young wide receivers Till is talking about are sophomores Jakolbe Baldwin and Dalton Stroman, who combined for six catches and 150 receiving yards against Butler. Baldwin, who has been productive all season and was named the Official Richmond County Male Athlete of the Week on Tuesday, snagged a 37-yard dime from Hood for the game’s only touchdown reception. Stroman also had a crucial 44-yard catch against the Bulldogs that set up a Richmond rushing touchdown.

Back to the bye week, or lack thereof, Till’s initial plans were to “work on situations that we don’t always work on.” During the two-week long break between games, focus points would have been to  “get better at things like our two-minute drill and third-and-long situations.”

While the Raider players and coaching staff weren’t able to fulfill all of their wishes on the practice field Monday and Tuesday, Till noted the team “did get to watch film on ourselves Monday, which gives our guys an idea what they need to work on.” The two-day practice week also saw “tougher weight room days to continue to get stronger.”

The lengthy hiatus will also provide Richmond’s players some time “to rest up and get 100 percent healthy” in preparation for the Rams. During their film session earlier this week, Till noted his players seemed locked in and “focused” on getting ready for Purnell Swett.

Something else Till discussed was the football team’s leadership council, which is comprised of 11 players who act as locker room leaders and liaisons between the coaching staff and the players.

“Those guys are continuing to do a great job leading,” Till said. “They have a lot of focus in the weight room. And I made (a presentation of) some highlights on Hudl, and because our leadership council has the demeanor of wanting to get better, I feel confident that everyone is buying in.”

As Richmond County waits out the passing of Hurricane Florence, and RSHS serving as an emergency shelter for the area, the Raiders will also wait to get back on the practice field until early next week. Depending on the outcome of the storm’s damages, the football program may or may not have to wait until after Monday to get back to work.

But Till is proceeding with business as usual.

“It’s really the same as any normal game week,” he explained. “We’ll come up a game plan on Monday, and continue Tuesday by repping that plan. During our practice Wednesday, we like add to that with things we don’t run as our top plays, and we’ll just try to get ready for things we may not have seen (from Purnell Swett) before.”

With the final seven games of the regular season against SAC opponents, Till said his team “has to be tough every week” because the hard-nosed football of the SAC “doesn’t allow for one  injury or one bad play” to set things off course.

“We’ll be ready to play week in and week out,” Till concluded. “And we’ll be prepared so that there won’t be any let downs.”

For more information on the history between Richmond and Purnell Swett, sports contributor Deon Cranford breaks down the storied history in Friday’s edition -- click here.

ROSports will also publish a mid-week preview for the Raiders and Rams (2-1) game next Friday, and provide detailed in-game updates and stats on Twitter -- @ROSports_.

Kyle Pillar

Sports Editor. IUP communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

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