Friday, 21 September 2018 00:01

Till: Florence hiatus should show if Raiders are “serious” about winning a state title

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Richmond head coach Bryan Till discusses his team's extended break from Hurricane Florence and what he'd like the NCHSAA to do. Richmond head coach Bryan Till discusses his team's extended break from Hurricane Florence and what he'd like the NCHSAA to do. Photo courtesy of Kyle Pillar.

ROCKINGHAM - The Richmond Senior High School varsity football team has been on a wild roller coaster ride over the last two weeks.

Head coach Bryan Till and the Raiders crested their highest hill with their biggest win of the season in a 30-19 thrashing of the David W. Butler High School Bulldogs on Friday, Sept. 7 -- but that was two weeks ago. And in that span, football has become all but nonexistent thanks to the blows of Hurricane Florence.

Since the storm became an imminent threat to the region in the middle of last week, the Raiders (3-1) have seen not only their scheduled bye week come and go with little progression, but also had Friday’s game against Purnell Swett High School postponed for a date to be named later.

With many conference schools east of Richmond County, including Purnell Swett and Lumberton high schools (Roberson County), as well as Jack Britt and Seventy-First high schools (Cumberland County), recovering from major storm damage, all eight Sandhills Athletic Conference football programs have been put into limbo while the North Carolina High School Athletic Association works on making its decision on how to handle the rescheduling of games.

Football, unlike other high school sports such as soccer and volleyball, doesn’t have a conference tournament following regular season play that the NCHSAA can remove in order to make up missed games. With the need for physical conditioning and more planning time serving as a necessity for football, it currently remains unclear if the Raiders will get the opportunity to face the Rams.

And in an 11-game season, with state championship expectations on the line, Till is understandably frustrated with the uncertainty that surrounds his team’s playing time on Friday nights.

“I’m not frustrated with the schedule so much as I’m frustrated with the state,” Till said at practice Thursday, referencing the NCHSAA’s lack of making a formal ruling. “They (the NCHSAA) are taking so long to make a decision -- this is an emergency, and we could have had an emergency meeting.”

Till expressed that there are things bigger than football during a time of crisis, and he understands that, but also said that a definitive decision made sooner rather than later could benefit football programs during recovery efforts.

“If they had already extended the season by a week, coaches wouldn’t have to worry about calling each other to figure out what we’re doing -- that’s really callous,” Till noted. “We shouldn’t have to worry about football during a time like this. South Carolina already extended its season a week, and I think (North Carolina) could have done the same thing.”

In 2016, following Hurricane Matthew, Till explained that the NCHSAA wasted no time in extending the season one week to allow affected programs time to make up missed conference games. If Florence’s situation would pan out like Matthew’s, the state playoffs would be bumped back an additional week, and Richmond would play Purnell Swett (the game it missed) to cap off the regular season.

If multiple weeks were to be missed, by Richmond or otherwise, Till alluded to the idea that teams would play two games per week, giving the example of a Tuesday and Saturday schedule. He said that would be “doable because the plan is already there.” Ideally for Till, he’d like to see the NCHSAA make a decision to extend the season by a week as soon as possible.

Back to Thursday’s practice, the second day that the Raiders were able to hit the field following the stoppage, Richmond is gearing up for Pinecrest High School next Friday, Sept. 28, on the road.

“The guys are working hard, but they’re out of shape,” Till observed of his team. “You go from two days of lifting last week and six straight days of not doing anything -- and you can watch them get gassed so quickly because they’re not acclimated to having their pads on in the heat.

“I like the state’s idea of making you go three days (in practice) before playing a game,” Till continued. “But I think that’s another reason why the season should be pushed back -- the guys are working hard, but they’re lethargic.

“The break does slow down our progression,” Till admitted. “But at the same time, we’re going to find out if our kids really want to play or not. I know they do -- but the bye week and the long break will show if we’re serious about winning or if it was just an emotional high. If we’re serious about it, then it doesn’t matter -- obstacles get thrown in our way all the time.”

ROSports will publish a Pinecrest preview story midweek ahead of the game in Southern Pines. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

Last modified on Monday, 24 September 2018 08:43
Kyle Pillar

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

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