Thursday, 07 November 2019 17:20

Preview: No. 1 Raiders travel to rival No. 4 Scotland for SAC bragging rights

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Senior tailback Jaheim Covington takes a handoff during scout team ahead of his third and final Richmond-Scotland rivalry game. Senior tailback Jaheim Covington takes a handoff during scout team ahead of his third and final Richmond-Scotland rivalry game. Kyle Pillar — Sports Editor.

ROCKINGHAM — Pressure is an accepted component of rivalry week in the halls of the locker room and on the practice fields of the Richmond Senior High School football team.


It’s no secret the No. 1 Raiders and head coach Bryan Till will make the trip to Pate Stadium Friday night and look to hand No. 4 Scotland its second loss in as seasons to Richmond. The storied rivalry, set for its 53rd all-time meeting, is garnering attention from football fans all over the state.

But that attention and pressure to do well by the fans isn’t something Till is and the Raiders are fretting — despite there being the outright Sandhills Athletic Conference title on the line.

“If we’re going to be great, we have to deal with things other people can’t,” Till explained in his office. “It’s not just this week, but this game gives us an opportunity to win the conference championship. 

“People are going to talk about the pressure to win, and that’s okay,” he added. “I know it sounds cliché, but I’ve never felt pressure to win. No one is going to put more pressure on me than myself, I intrinsically want to compete.”

And the third-year head coach added his team mirrors that same mentality, noting the best thing to do Friday is win.

“We want to show up and compete when everything is on the line,” Till explained. “We had four goals at the start of the season, and two of them are contingent on Friday’s game. We want to beat our rival and win conference.

The Raiders (10-0, 6-0 SAC) enter the contest looking for their first undefeated regular season since 2006. It’s also been a decade since Richmond has won on the road at Scotland, a 35-7 win in 2009. That was before current head coach Richard Bailey took over in 2012. 

Scotland’s lone loss this season came two weeks ago when SAC opponent Pinecrest High School upset the Scots in Laurinburg 36-28.

During Till’s tenure, the Raiders have split the two games against the Scots. Richmond ended an eight-year drought to Scotland with a 23-8 win at home last season in a game that was only a two-point difference in the third quarter. Back on the road this fall, the Raiders will also have to prepare for a full stadium that is expecting a sellout crowd.

“A lot of people around the state respect this rivalry,” Till said. “The size of the crowd is what makes it special, and the stadium is very unique. I think it’s impressive to see the people lined all around the fence and in the stands — that really builds the atmosphere.”

Friday is senior night for the Fighting Scots, and that’s something Till said the Raiders have to take into consideration. 

“Coach Bailey has been doing this a long time and they’re well coached,” Till said of his opposite number. “They’ve played well and done what they're supposed to do in most of their games.

“The big thing about (Scotland) is its defense holds teams down to low point totals,” he added.

Through 10 games this season, the Scots are allowing just 13.2 points per game on defense and are led by East Carolina University commit Jason Romero. Scotland has tallied 32 sacks (3.2 per game), which are the most in the SAC. 

Leading the team and the conference is junior defensive end Zymere Reddick, who has 12 sacks (1.3 per game). Romero has three sacks and sophomore Ladarius McNeil has a team second-best four sacks. 

To counter the powerful and shifty 4-3 defense of the Fighting Scots will be the front five of the Raiders’ offensive line, comprised of veterans Brian Bowden (left guard), Jaleel Davis (left tackle) and Austin Hart (right guard). Also on the line are senior right tackle Trent Simpson and sophomore center Braxton Butler. 

The strong group of five offensive linemen have provided junior quarterback Caleb Hood and senior running back Jaheim Covington ample time this season to find the end zone. The Raiders enter as not only the SAC’s No. 1 defense, but also the No. 1 offense. 

Currently, the Raiders are averaging 44.3 points per game, which is slightly above the program’s all-time best for a single season (44.1 points per game). Covington will look to add to his impressive SAC-leading 18 rushing scores, while Hood will look to use his arsenal of wide receivers in Kellan Hood, Tremel Jones, Dalton Stroman and Jakolbe Baldwin to get past the solid front seven of Scotland.

During last season’s game, the Scots were without starting quarterback Bruce Wall (injury), who was then a wide receiver. This year, however, Till noted “he has figured out” how to captain a “run-heavy offense.”

The Richmond defense is preparing for a handful of tailbacks including recent transfers Savion Leak (553 rushing yards) and leading rusher Kyshaun Galberth (651 rushing yards). Till noticed both have “really had breakout years” in a new system, and said Leak is a threat on punt returns as he’s scored twice on them this season.

“They can run just as good as anyone in the conference,” Till said. “There’s such depth at running back, so there’s always a fresh back ready to go. No. 4 (Jhamari Smith) and No. 7 RJ Nicholson) are also guys who can pound the ball.”

Richmond’s run defense will have to step up, but it can’t overlook Scotland’s passing game. Till pointed to Trey Chavis and Mandrell Johnson as being guys “who can catch the ball and get upfield.” Tyler Barfield leads the team with seven passing scores.

Scotland’s high number of playmakers allows it to have different guys in different formations and positions, which will keep Richmond’s defense on its toes. But Till said his players will have “a way to combat that.” 

“It’s been a good week of practice and the kids have been focused on the field and in meetings,” Till said. “Our players are hungry and I know we’re looking forward to it.

“Whoever can weather the storm emotionally and continue to play on after the initial adrenaline dump, will be the winner,” he closed.

 

Kickoff at Pate Stadium is set for 7:30 p.m. and full capacity crowds are expected.

Kyle Pillar

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

Submit local sports scores to: kpillar@richmondobserver.com

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