Saturday, 15 June 2019 12:08

Raiders having 'more fun' as Richmond takes second at UNC's 'Be the One' 7-on-7

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Richmond football took second in UNC's "Be the One" 7-on-7 tournament on Thursday. Richmond football took second in UNC's "Be the One" 7-on-7 tournament on Thursday. Photo courtesy of Richmond football's Twitter page.

CHAPEL HILL — A state championship is on the minds of Richmond Senior High School’s football players this season, and the Raiders competed for their first championship of the summer on Thursday.

Just a week into summer break, Richmond kicked off its summer campaign with a second-place finish at the “Be the One” 7-on-7 tournament at the University of North Carolina. This year’s finish surpassed the Raiders’ second-round playoff round exit last year, in an event that features some of the best football programs on the east coast.

Richmond would rack up a 6-2 overall record, winning four of its five games in preliminary pool play. The Raiders would collect two playoff round wins before falling to Life Christian Academy (Richmond, Va.) 24-12 in the championship game.

The format for each scrimmage saw a quarterback, a center and five wideouts on offense, and a mix of linebackers and defensive backs on defense. Players weren’t dressed in full pads, wearing just helmets, and the games were designed to give offensive and defensive players live reps. Each game was 25 minutes long with a running clock, with 20 minutes of rest between scrimmages.

Running backs weren’t used in their traditional roles, but rising senior Jaheim Covington did catch passes out of the backfield. The offensive and defensive lines didn’t play in the 7-on-7 scrimmages, but participated in a one-day camp on campus.

“The biggest thing we saw was that we had an opportunity to play some really good teams,” third-year head coach Bryan Till said. “We had a lot of guys get in and get reps, and we ran a lot of things on both sides of the ball. The guys are doing and understanding the things we want them to, and they showed they could adjust on the fly.

“The more our system gets in place, the more fun we are having,” he added. “It was a great opportunity to redeem ourselves against Oscar Smith High School, beating them in the playoffs after losing to them in pool play. The whole thing was a great learning experience for our team.”

Till added that Richmond “played on several different surfaces, which is good because it allows players to adapt” to changing elements. One thing he hopes to work on is conditioning, as overexertion led to players cramping as the tournament wore on.

Richmond took its first and second team players on the trip to Chapel Hill, seeing rising junior starting quarterback Caleb Hood and rising senior backup quarterback Noah Altman take reps under center. Joining them in the receiving corps were rising juniors Jalkobe Baldwin, Tremel Jones and Dalton Stroman and rising sophomore Kellan Hood, among others.

Till said that “every receiver who played caught at least one pass.”

Playing both outdoors and in UNC’s indoor practice facility, the Raiders started with a 21-0 win over Southeast Guilford High School. Errol Hood, the father of Caleb and Kellan Hood, live streamed the games, which showed Baldwin and Stroman haul in touchdowns against the Falcons.

In five of their six wins, the Raiders recorded at least 20 points. The 16 points scored against Oscar Smith in the first round of the playoffs was the fewest amount scored in a win.

The Raiders rolled past Southern Durham High School 20-6 in their second pool game, before improving to 3-0 with a 28-6 victory against Robert B. Glenn High School. Richmond’s first loss was a 22-12 decision to Oscar Smith.

Kellan Hood caught his first career touchdown for the Raiders in a 22-6 win over R.J. Reynolds High School, and also caught a 10-yard two-point conversion to help beat the Demons to end pool play.

“Early on we alternated between Caleb and Noah, and both threw several touchdowns,” Till said. “Caleb played most of the playoffs, and there was certainly a competitive mindset between both of them. Both did really well, and it’s a great luxury to have two great kids who are great quarterbacks.

“Offensively we played well and progressed throughout the day,” he added. “We came out really jacked up, and the offense was in a good spot. The guys remembered what we ran last year and adapted with some read changes in coverage.”

Another thing that Till was impressed with from his receivers was their ability to “make some amazing catches” against live competition. He noted that their “physical attributes to catch the ball” should make them tough to deal with during the regular season.

Richmond rebounded with a 16-12 win over Oscar Smith in the opening round of the playoffs, before sending Bishop McGuinness High School home with a 22-6 rout in the second round.

Not to be forgotten was the Raider defense, which Till serves as the defensive coordinator to. The back seven for Richmond allowed just 56 points in its first seven games, before giving up 24 to Life Christian in the championship.

“Our defense ran around all day chasing guys and played with a lot of grit,” Till commented. “Some teams play seven defensive backs to try and win, but we put our linebackers in because that’s what we’ll do on Friday nights.

“We rotated a bunch of guys in and we had just two mess ups the entire tournament,” he closed. “Our defense plays a lot of man coverage, and several guys really impressed me with their play.”

Some of those included rising senior linebackers Joerail White and Gavin Rusell, along with defensive backs D’Marcus Harrington, Dereck Barringer, Xavion Lindsey and Zyier Baldwin. Barringer and Lindsey each scooped up a couple of interceptions, while Harrington “didn’t allow a single completion all day.”

Richmond will return to the playing surface Thursday, June 20, when it welcomes in Cape Fear High School for a 7-on-7 at home. The Raiders will host two more home tournaments on June 25 and July 9, before competing in the Powerade 7-on-7 in Charlotte on July 11-12.

Kyle Pillar

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

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