Saturday, 19 October 2019 00:19

No. 1 Raiders use balanced offense to stymie No. 20 Hoke County and remain undefeated

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Junior running back Jaron Coleman (31) had two rushing touchdowns in Friday's win over Hoke County. Junior running back Jaron Coleman (31) had two rushing touchdowns in Friday's win over Hoke County. Photo courtesy of Ed Clemente.

RAEFORD — A balanced diet of running and throwing the football during Friday’s Sandhills Athletic Conference matchup between No. 1 Richmond and No. 20 Hoke County was the key ingredient to the Raiders’ eighth-straight win to start the season.

Making the trip to Hoke County High School to face a “much improved” Bucks team, the Raiders scored early and often in the 49-14 win. The 35-point win marked the 43rd all-time win against Hoke County in 44 tries, and it was the fifth time in the last six contests the Raiders scored at least 49 points.

Friday’s win made it the 39th time in the program’s 47-year history that the Raiders have won at least eight games. Richmond also started a running clock at the 7:29 mark of the third quarter, which was the fifth time in the past six seasons the Raiders have ended a game with that feature.

After seeing the rushing attack carry the Raiders the last handful of games, the aerial attack returned, seeing junior quarterback Caleb Hood combine for five touchdowns, three of which came through the air. He finished the game 14-of-20 passing for 253 yards and added a team-high 118 rushing yards on eight attempts.

Of their 49 total offensive plays, the Raiders threw the ball 24 times and ran it 25 times.

As a team, the Raiders would cross into the end zone four times on the ground along with a game-high 246 rushing yards. Richmond’s offense would compile a season-high 542 yards of total offense, besting its previous highest mark of 488 total yards (Cardinal Gibbons).

Ahead of the game, head coach Bryan Till tipped his cap to Hoke County and head coach George Small’s early-season success, and noted the key to a win Friday would be shutting down the Bucks’ senior tailback Keonte’ Shaw. Entering the night, Shaw was the SAC’s top rusher with 807 rushing yards and an average of 115.3 yards per game.

Richmond’s defensive line and linebacking corps struggled early against Shaw, but made the necessary adjustments in the second half to keep him out of the end zone. Shaw finished the night as the game’s leading rusher with 156 yards on 18 carries, including three big runs in the first quarter.

“The biggest adjustment our offensive guys made was being able to have different snap counts to change things up,” Till said. “(Hoke County’s) defensive front and linebackers are really good, so I thought our guys did a good job keeping them off balance.

“Defensively, I wasn’t really pleased with some of the breaks, but (Shaw) is really good and he’s going to get some yardage,” he added. “I was pleased with the fact that we came back and kept playing and getting stops. We don’t like giving up a lot of yards or scores, and our guys dealt with the frustration and kept playing.”

The Raiders would score 35 first-half points and find the end zone on five of their seven drives to start the game. Hood would score the first of his two rushing touchdowns with 7:47 to go in the first quarter, keeping the ball to himself and busting through the line of scrimmage from seven yards out. Junior kicker Mack West tacked on the first of his seven point after attempts to give the Raiders a 7-0 lead.

Richmond’s defense forced Hoke County to punt seven times, and held the Bucks to five plays or fewer on eight of their 11 offensive drives. Seniors Javon Little and Gavin Russell, along with junior Kaleel Brown combined to bring down Hoke County quarterback Jada McGill on Hoke County’s second drive, forcing a punt.

That kick saw the Raiders take over at their own five-yard line, but they took just four plays to score. A 24-yard run by senior tailback Jaheim Covington on first down would lead to a 73-yard catch and run from Hood to Covington on third-and-11. 

Covington, who was coming off a career performance with four rushing scores last week, caught the ball at the 50-yard line over the middle and turned up field untouched. Following West’s PAT, Richmond held a two-possession lead.

McGill would score the Bucks’ first of two rushing scores in the game with 8:45 left in the second quarter. Keeping the ball on the run-pass option, he rushed left around the edge and trotted into the end zone. Malachi Harris tacked on the PAT to cut the deficit in half.

Richmond (8-0, 4-0 SAC) tallied three second-quarter scores, starting with a 45-yard catch and run from Hood to junior wideout Jakolbe Baldwin. On first down, Baldwin ran a post route over the middle, catching the ball in stride at the 25-yard line before cutting inside the left pylon for his fourth receiving touchdown of the fall.

Sophomore linebacker Jaleak Gates, who has emerged as a speedy addition the past few games, recorded a pass break up on Hoke County’s next drive to force another punt. That started an eight-play, 47-yard march. A couple of penalties backed the Raiders up, but junior offensive lineman Jaleel Davis kept the drive going when he fell on a Covington fumble at the Bucks’ 39-yard line.

A catch from junior Tremel Jones moved Richmond inside the 25-yard line, and junior running back Jaron Coleman scored two plays on a run up the middle from 10 yards out. It was the first of his two rushing scores.

Little applied pressure on McGill on third down on the ensuing drive, seeing a punt give the Raiders the ball back with 2:10 left in the half at their own 34-yard line. This time, only two plays were needed to pay dirt. An 18-yard run from Covington set up a 48-yard rushing score from Hood, who broke tackle attempts at the 35 and 10-yard lines for his final rushing touchdown.

Out of the halftime break, Richmond received the second-half kickoff and took just 62 seconds to add on. Jones hauled in his longest pass of the game on second-and-two at the Hoke County 22-yard line, snagging a Hood pass at the 15-yard line before muscling past Devin Southerland-Clark for the score, his second of the season.

With a 42-7 lead, Till began putting in second and third string players. Coleman would cap Richmond’s scoring with 7:29 to go in the third when he took a handoff from senior quarterback Noah Altman. Coleman broke the line to his left before shifting toward the middle of the field and an open secondary, dashing 44 yards to the house. West, who missed two PATs last week, drilled his seventh of the game.

Hoke County’s (5-3, 2-2 SAC) Shaheed Artis ended the game’s scoring with a six-yard rushing touchdown with 3:44 to go in the fourth quarter. 

“On blitzes, we changed the perimeter stuff and made it a little tighter so (Shaw) couldn’t kick it out as much,” Till noted. “We worked with our defensive linemen because they were playing too much with their heads up, and on our stunts we made sure we had guys on the outside (to contain).

“We started doing more RPO tonight instead of designated runs,” he explained of the balanced offense. “We gave Caleb some freedom and he read it really well. We put the ball in his hands because we trust him with it.”

Covington would add 76 yards on eight carries, while Coleman racked up 49 yards and two scores on three attempts. Sophomore wide receiver Kellan Hood led the team with five receptions and picked up 59 yards, while Covington’s 73 receiving yards on two catches were a team high. Jones and junior Dalton Stroman added three catches each, while Baldwin had two catches for 56 yards.

McGill was 6-of-17 passing for 54 yards, and added 12 yards on three rushing attempts. Dareonta Leak chipped in 49 rushing yards on seven carries. 

“It’s great to be 8-0, but it’s funny because you’re undefeated but don’t think by how many,” Till closed. “We want to keep fighting so we don’t lose. It’s a lot of fun coaching these guys and it’s a lot of fun coaching with these guys. We’re always looking for the next one until we get to the big one.”

The Raiders will continue their hunt for a perfect season when they host Lumberton High School (2-6, 0-4 SAC) next Friday for Richmond’s homecoming. ROSports will publish a full preview ahead of the SAC contest. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at Raider Stadium.

POSTGAME INTERVIEWS: To hear from head coach Bryan Till, quarterback Caleb Hood and running back Jaron Coleman, and linebacker Jaleak Gates and defensive end Javon Little, click each person’s name or visit the Richmond Observer’s Facebook or Twitter pages.

Last modified on Saturday, 19 October 2019 02:07

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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