Saturday, 12 October 2019 00:33

Seven rushing touchdowns, 34-straight unanswered points help Raiders remain perfect

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Senior Jaheim Covington (33) scores his second of four touchdowns during Friday's 59-28 win over Jack Britt. Senior Jaheim Covington (33) scores his second of four touchdowns during Friday's 59-28 win over Jack Britt. Deon Cranford — The Richmond Observer.

FAYETTEVILLE — The strength of the Sandhills Athletic Conference was on full display Friday, as No. 2 Richmond Senior High School and No. 6 Jack Britt High School traded blows in a smashmouth contest at the Boneyard.

In what proved to be the Raiders’ toughest conference matchup this season, the Buccaneers gave the visitors a run for their money, but a streak of 34 unanswered points by Richmond in the second half led to a 59-28 victory. 

With the win, Richmond improved to 7-0 on the 2019 season and extended its regular-season winning streak to 16 games. The 59 points were a season-high for the Raiders, and the second most they’ve ever scored against Jack Britt (62 points in 2013). They were also the most points the Buccaneers have given up since allowing 63 points in the 2013 playoffs.

Jack Britt’s offense, which entered the game with the leading SAC statistical leaders in quarterback Kevin Sentell and wide receiver Anthony Fiffie, gave the Raiders their first deficit of the season with a 21-19 score early in the third quarter. But Richmond used 27 points to close the stanza and didn’t look back.

It was an aggressive running attack that led the Raiders past Jack Britt (5-2, 1-2 SAC), seeing Richmond run the ball on 22 of its 36 offensive plays for a season-best 372 yards and seven rushing scores. In 2013’s win, the Raiders also scored seven rushing touchdowns.

Senior tailback Jaheim Covington tied a career high with four rushing touchdowns, while junior quarterback Caleb Hood added two more. Junior running back Jaron Coleman capped the scoring with a 79-yard burst down the right sideline.

Covington led all rushers with 185 yards on 13 carries (14.23 yards per carry) and had three runs over 20 yards and one dash for over 40 yards. Coleman finished the night with 107 yards on four touches (26.75 yards per rush) and Hood added 79 yards on the ground.

Last season, Covington also scored four rushing touchdowns in a 49-14 win against Seventy-First High School. He now leads the Raiders with 13 rushing touchdowns and 634 rushing yards this season.

“Jaheim was huge tonight and the offense said we’ve got to go score and pick things up,” head coach Bryan Till said of the rushing attack. “I can’t say enough about how the offense responded tonight and the defense fed off of that. 

“We came up with back-to-back turnovers because we fed off the offense’s energy,” he added. “We were very determined after we lost the lead to get it back, and our kids appreciate that.”

Richmond would score on all three facets of the game, using a 35-yard pick six from junior linebacker CJ Tillman in the third quarter and a 21-yard punt return by senior cornerback D’Marcus Harrington a couple of minutes later to pad the lead.

After taking the opening kickoff, Covington would score his first touchdown on a 46-yard burst, his longest run of the night, up the middle. He broke an open field tackle from Marquise Walker and crossed into the end zone just 1:50 into the game. The point after attempt was no good, giving the Raiders a 6-0 lead.

Covington gave his team a 12-point lead on its next drive, a five-yard plunge up the middle to cap a five-play, 45-yard drive. Junior wideout Tremel Jones set up the score with a 25-yard catch and run from Hood. Again, the PAT was wide at the 7:10 mark of the first quarter.

Jack Britt would capitalize twice on muffed punt returns by the Raiders. The first came on the ensuing drive after Covington’s second score, seeing Sentell connect with Maurice Wickware for an eight-yard score. The other time was in the opening minutes of the third quarter, resulting in Fiffie hauling in a 19-yard pass from Sentell.

Leading 12-7, Covington achieved a first-quarter hat trick, muscling his way up the middle from 15 yards out with just 15.5 seconds on the clock. Trevor Moss split the uprights to give the Raiders a 12-point lead.

Sentell closed the gap in the second quarter with a five-yard rushing touchdown on a keeper, ending a 15-play, 80-yard drive that saw two fourth-down conversions. Richmond’s defense would dig in during the closing minutes of the half, seeing Harrington nearly pick a pass and sophomore linebacker Jaleak Gates pick up his first career sack to preserve a 19-14 halftime lead.

Fiffie’s 19-yard score at the 9:44 mark of the third quarter put the Buccaneers ahead by two points, the first time the Raiders played down on the scoreboard this season. Hood answered on the next drive with a quarterback keeper up the middle before splitting to the right for a 22-yard score.

Hood’s touchdown sparked a run during the remaining 8:39 of the third quarter that saw Richmond score 27 unanswered points. That streak would carry over into the fourth frame and reach 34 unanswered points following Harrington’s punt return.

“We didn’t make a ton of adjustments defensively, we just did a better job of staying on our reads,” Till commented on how the Raiders responded to being down. “Jack Britt did a good job of running plays quickly and it was slowing us up getting to the football.

“We did a great job of covering for a long time,” he continued. “Both of the interceptions came when the quarterback was scrambling trying to make something happen. Our guys were determined to keep playing.”

Senior safety Xavion Lindsey picked up one of those interceptions, halting the Buccaneers’ offense in the red zone. Senior defensive end Javon Little and sophomore nose tackle JD Lampley were among a swarm of Raider defenders pressuring Sentell out of the pocket, forcing the errant throw to Lindsey, who returned the ball to the Richmond 40-yard line.

That pick set up another Richmond scoring drive, as Covington ended his night with a 15-yard run. A pass interference call and a Kellan Hood 25-yard catch and run down the sideline put Richmond inside the red zone. With 4:38 left in the third, Richmond opened its lead to 32-21.

Just two plays into Jack Britt’s next drive, Tillman undercut a Sentell pass and caught his first interception of the season. Taking the ball at the Jack Britt 35-yard line, Tillman dodged tackle attempts from Fiffie, Sentell and Shawn Healey down the left edge for his first career pick six.

Hood ended the barrage of third-quarter scoring on Richmond’s next drive, a four-play, 64-yard burst, when he took the run-pass option himself from four yards out. He preluded his ninth rushing score of the season with a 49-yard run on the first play of the drive.

Jack Britt’s second-half woes continued at the start of the fourth quarter when a high snap on a punt attempt saw Jay-Anthony Service’s kick go just 19 yards. While several Buccaneers waited for the ball to stop rolling, Harrington swooped in and returned it untouched to the end zone.

Josh Townsend would score on a nine-yard catch for Jack Britt’s final score, and Coleman ended the night’s scoring with his second-longest rushing score of his career, a pitch to the right from Noah Altman.

Caleb Hood completed six of his 14 pass attempts for 89 yards, with younger brother Kellan Hood catching a team-high four passes for 53 yards. Sentell aired it out 41 times, completing 21 passes for 263 yards and three touchdowns. 

The Raider defense held Fiffie to just 59 receiving yards on five catches, who entered the game averaging just over 100 yards per game.

“Tonight gave us a chance to see what we could do,” Till said of the physical game. “I love our response and it says a lot about our kids’ character and their desire to win.

“We learned how to face adversity and face circumstances that are beyond your control,” he closed. “The game lasts a long time and it was good for our kids to play hard for all four quarters.”

Richmond (7-0, 3-0 SAC) will continue its trek toward a perfect season when it travels to Hoke County High School next Friday. The Bucks are off to an impressive start under second-year head coach George Small, having won five of their first eight games.

Hoke County fell to Scotland High School 21-3 on Friday. The Raiders and Bucks will kickoff at 7:30 p.m. in Raeford.

VIDEO INTERVIEWS: To hear from Jaheim Covington, Brian Bowden, Xavion Lindsey, CJ Tillman, D’Marcus Harrington and head coach Bryan Till, click each person’s name or visit the Richmond Observer Facebook page.

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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