Saturday, 05 October 2019 00:52

No. 2 Raiders' defense shuts out Pinecrest, use balanced attack to remain unbeaten

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CJ Tillman (24) and JD Lampley (95) combine for a tackle for loss in Friday's 36-0 win over Pinecrest. CJ Tillman (24) and JD Lampley (95) combine for a tackle for loss in Friday's 36-0 win over Pinecrest. Jimmy McDonald — The Richmond Observer.

ROCKINGHAM — Any premonition that Friday’s Sandhills Athletic Conference game would be a defensive battle between two of the conference’s unbeaten teams quickly went out the window for the Richmond Raiders -- in a good way.

Playing at home for the second-straight week, the No. 2 Raiders played host to No. 16 Pinecrest High School, defeating their Moore County neighbor 36-0. In what would prove to be the second-straight season that Richmond (6-0, 2-0 SAC) shutout the Patriots, the Raiders extended their regular-season winning streak to 15 games.

The shutout by the Raider defense marked the fourth time in six games this season the defense hadn’t let its opponent to cross into the end zone. Richmond held Pinecrest (5-1, 1-1 SAC) to just 211 yards of total offense and created seven failed tries on 13 third-down conversion attempts.

It was a big night for the Richmond defensive unit as a whole, but junior linebacker CJ Tillman had arguably his best game of his career coming off a multiple-week hiatus following a concussion. The 5-11, 210-pound linebacker played both inside and outside Friday, collecting three sacks on Pinecrest quarterback Ben Garbark on three consecutive plays, and forced a fumble alongside teammate Zyier Baldwin inside the five-yard line.

“CJ was all over the place tonight,” head coach Bryan Till said. “He said he wanted to set the career tackles in a game record. We knew they were going to run the ball a lot, so we moved him around and put him inside and outside. He did a great job tonight.

“A lot of guys rotated in on the action,” he added of his defensive players. “We had some injuries and those guys stepped up big tonight to do their job for this team regardless of the reps they had in practice. I’m really proud of that.”

The Raider defense saw several other splash plays happen during Friday’s 48 minutes of action, as senior defensive end Javon Little recorded one and a half sacks on Garbark. Sophomore nose tackle JD Lampley was responsible for a tipped pass at the line in the closing seconds of the first quarter, and added a tackle for loss against Garbark in the third quarter.

Aiding the Raiders’ shutout were three missed field goal attempts by Pinecrest’s Jeff Yurk. He attempted field goals of 46, 40 and 32 yards respectively, but wasn’t able to split the uprights.

Richmond’s stifling of the Patriots offense, which had been averaging 41 points per game entering the night, allowed the Raider offense to set the tone when it was on the field. Behind 268 rushing yards and 137 total passing yards, the Raiders put points on the board on six of their eight drives.

Junior quarterback Caleb Hood, who finished the night 8-of-12 passing for 123 yards and one touchdown, got the scoring started with his legs. On the first play from scrimmage following the opening kickoff, Hood kept the run-pass option for himself and found a hole in the line, racing up the field 80 yards untouched for the score. Junior kicker Mack West tacked on the point after attempt to give Richmond a 7-0 lead just 14 seconds into the game.

A three-and-out on the Patriots first drive that saw a Tillman tackle for loss, resulted in a Yurk punt. Sophomore kick returner Kellan Hood helped set up the Raiders’ next score with a 56-yard return, tiptoeing past tacklers along the near sideline to the Pinecrest five-yard line.

Senior running back Jaheim Covington, who finished with 75 yards on 11 touches, took back-to-back carries up the middle, seeing the second one from three yards out find the end zone for the first of his game-high two scores. West missed the PAT, but Richmond took a 13-0 lead with 8:29 left in the opening frame.

On Richmond’s fourth drive, Hood would toss his lone passing score of the night, and his 11th of the season, to junior wideout Dalton Stroman. Using a short field and following a Covington 18-yard burst, Stroman hauled in his team-leading seventh receiving touchdown on a post route along the left third, before cutting across the middle of the field and into the end zone for a 32-yard catch and run.

Making it 20-0 with 11:29 left in the half, the Raiders had already scored more points than Pinecrest had allowed in any of its previous five games.

Head coach Chris Metzger’s Patriots would be forced to punt on their first three drives, but found success driving the ball on their fourth go-around. Pinecrest entered the red zone for the first time with just over six minutes left in the first half.

The Raider defense’s biggest test of the game came on this drive, backed up at its own two-yard line. On second-and-goal, Garbark handed the ball off to Nicholas Marella, who coughed up the ball up when Tillman and senior cornerback Zyier Baldwin made contact with him at the five-yard line. 

Senior safety Dereck Barringer picked up the bouncing ball and returned it to the Richmond 30-yard line. That turnover started a seven-play, 64-yard march that resulted in a West 23-yard field goal from the left hash to put the Raiders up 23-0 with 18 seconds left in the first half. 

Junior wide receiver Jakolbe Baldwin, also back from injury, caught a 40-yard pass to move the chains and set up West’s kick.

“It’s huge (to make plays like that), especially when you get down close to the end zone and keep them from scoring,” Till said of the forced fumble. “It gets our guys fired up and they hate for other teams to score.”

All three of Pinecrest’s second-half possessions resulted in a missed Yurk field goal. The opening drive lasted 14 plays and milked 7:27 off the clock, and ended in a 46-yard attempt that was short of its target.

It was during this drive that Tillman recorded his three consecutive sacks, dragging Garbark to the ground twice individually and once more with the help of Little. The three sacks dropped Pinecrest 18 yards, effectively putting the Patriots out of field goal range.

Getting the ball back at their own 20-yard line, Hood, Covington and junior running back Jaron Coleman got to work. The trio matriculated the ball down the field in 10 plays, resulting in Covington’s second rushing score of the night, this one a six-yard push up the middle. With 48 seconds left in the third, Richmond opened its lead to 29-0. Through six games, Covington has a team-high nine rushing touchdowns.

Another missed field goal on the next Patriots drive put the Raiders at their own 20-yard line again. Entering the game was senior quarterback Noah Altman, who led a nine-play, 80-yard trot that ended in Coleman bashing ahead from one yard out, his fourth tally of the season.

“The way (Pinecrest) played coverage over the top so much trying to take away some of the deeper stuff, we decided to throw the ball underneath,” Till explained. “I’m really proud of the two-headed monster of our quarterback and tailback, and I don’t care if it’s Jaron or Jaheim with Caleb. It’s really tough to pick your poison up front.”

With his 123 passing yards, Hood surpassed the 1,000-yard mark on the season, while adding a game-high 98 yards on the ground to put his season total to 385 yards. Coleman was second behind Hood in the ground game, collecting 93 yards on nine carries, including a 48-yard gain.

Junior wide receiver Tremel Jones caught a team-best three catches in the win for 37 yards, while Baldwin’s lone grab of 40 yards went for a team-high. Junior kicker Trevor Moss used his left leg to boot six touchbacks on seven attempts, limiting the Patriots’ starting field position.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Till smiled of coaching his team to six-straight wins. “I worry about them because I love them so much, but they’re a lot of fun and a good group of guys to be around.”

The Raiders will gear up for their first road game in nearly a month when they head to No. 23 Jack Britt High School (5-1, 1-1 SAC) for its first away SAC contest of the fall. Although the Raiders handed the Buccaneers a 31-8 win a season ago, Till’s all-time record as a head coach at the Boneyard is 1-3, including a 21-point loss in 2017.

Kickoff in Fayetteville will get underway at 7:30 p.m. with Richmond looking to stay undefeated. ROSports will publish a full game preview ahead of the SAC contest.

VIDEO INTERVIEWS: To hear from Jaheim Covington, Kellan Hood, CJ Tillman and head coach Bryan Till, click each person’s name.

For news, in-game updates and videos of all Richmond Senior High School athletics, follow us on Twitter at @ROSports_.

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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