Thursday, 14 November 2019 20:14

Trio of juniors create buzz during breakout season for Raiders

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Juniors Jakolbe Baldwin (WR), Dalton Stroman (WR) and Jaron Coleman (RB) have enjoyed breakout seasons this fall. Juniors Jakolbe Baldwin (WR), Dalton Stroman (WR) and Jaron Coleman (RB) have enjoyed breakout seasons this fall. Kyle Pillar — Sports Editor.

ROCKINGHAM — There are a lot of moving parts to the Richmond Senior High School football team’s explosive offense, but three players have put their names in lights during what has become breakout junior seasons.

Wide receivers Jakolbe Baldwin and Dalton Stroman, and running back Jaron Coleman, have become weekly contributors for Richmond. As the top-ranked Raiders enjoy a bye week during the opening round of the NCHSAA 4AA playoffs, the trio of eleventh graders are still putting in the work ahead of what could be a rigorous playoff run.

Baldwin and Stroman, the team’s top two receivers, are in their second season at the varsity level, while Coleman just wrapped up his first regular season. While Raider Nation has gotten used to the flashy play of junior quarterback Caleb Hood and senior running back Jaheim Covington the past two and a half seasons, the trio of Baldwin, Coleman and Stroman are quickly becoming household names.

The Raiders capped a perfect 11-0 regular season and clinched their second straight Sandhills Athletic Conference championship last week in a 35-point blowout of rival Scotland High School. All three players contributed to the win, with Baldwin finding the end zone twice and Stroman and Coleman each adding one score.

“They’ve all put a lot of work in during the offseason, and we knew how good they could be,” third-year head coach Bryan Till said. “They had potential, but now we’re seeing the fruits of those labors on Friday nights.”

Baldwin and Stroman each lead Richmond in an assortment of statistical categories, seeing Baldwin’s eight receiving scores just edge Stroman’s seven touchdowns. Stroman, who stands 6-4 and towers above opposing defensive backs, has reeled in a career-high 614 receiving yards on 25 receptions (24.6 yards per catch).

Baldwin’s numbers aren’t far behind, as he’s caught 23 passes for 502 yards (21.8 yards per catch). With at least one more game left on the slate, Baldwin could surpass his previous career bests in those categories (548 yards, 35 receptions) which he set as a sophomore.

Against the Fighting Scots, Baldwin had a career night, eclipsing the century mark for the first time in his career with 108 receiving yards on four receptions. Two of those catches went for scores, the first was a rolling catch in the back of the end zone from 34 yards, and the second was a basket catch over a defender from 39 yards out.

“I’m just trying to get better and better and improve my game,” Baldwin said of his consistency. “My goal this year has been to have better route running skills and hand-eye coordination. I’m just trying to score, and when my name is called, I just focus on making the play.

“Our offense is pretty balanced, and we know defenses can’t guard both of us,” he added of Stroman and himself. “So they double team one of us and it leaves the other guy open. We are really explosive since we have Caleb, Jaheim and Jaron. Defenses don’t know what coming at them.”

Stroman caught the first touchdown of the game against Scotland, a 15-yard strike over the middle of the field from Hood. During the team’s first five games of the season, Stroman was electric, hauling in a team-high six receiving scores for 404 yards on 14 catches (28.9 yards per catch). 

Against Clayton High School in the season opener, Stroman had two receptions, both touchdowns, for 118 yards. His best performance of his career came against Cardinal Gibbons High School three weeks later when he snagged a team-high six receptions for 148 yards and a touchdown.

Of his breakout performances, Stroman said it all goes back to working hard and having good teammates.

“My job is to catch the ball and score, and help our team win,” he shared. “Caleb is a great quarterback. I’ve really improved my speed, my hands, my footwork and knowledge of the game this year. My height (over defenders) helps, too.

“I really don’t think about who lines up against me, I just play my game,” he added of getting more attention from opposing defenses. “I believe in my skillset and I know I am better than the guys I face. We’re a special group because we have a lot of speed, chemistry and good communication.”

Out of the backfield, Coleman adds an extra punch to a strong running game from Covington. The two backs use different styles, with Covington using his power to barrel over tacklers and Coleman uses his shiftiness to move through traffic. Coleman has taken 55 carries this fall, about half the amount of Covington, but has compiled 651 yards (59.2 yards per game) and 10 touchdowns.

Against Anson High School in Week 2, Coleman had just one carry and rewrote the program record book when he dashed 95 yards to the house. That marked the longest touchdown run in Richmond’s 47-year history. He’s had several other explosive runs, including a 58-yard burst against Scotland that helped put the game out of reach.

Last season on junior varsity, Coleman collected over 1,200 yards to help the JV Raiders go undefeated and clinch a Sandhills Athletic Conference title. 

“Compared to JV, varsity is faster, but I felt like I adjusted to it during our first two games,” Coleman said. “I worked hard in the offseason, and the biggest benefit has been being able to read the flow of the defense. Varsity defenses always run to the ball, and it’s good to see the blocks set by receivers, guards and tackles to help open up holes.

“I feel like (the three of us) give our offense more diversity and we’re more of a threat,” he continued. “Dalton and Jakolbe are two really good receivers, but we can run the ball too. Our chemistry is great, and our coaching makes sure we all get the ball in our hands to score.”

Till noted that Coleman “is such a compliment to Jaheim’s running style” and a “threat out of the backfield.” He said the whole team, but these three players in particular, “have made plays in big moments” and he loves seeing their success.

“Dalton is catching curl and hitch routes and turning short routes into touchdowns,” Till continued. “It’s fun to let everyone else see what we knew they were capable of. 

“Jakolbe was so consistent last year, and he proved his consistency with big catches against Scotland,” he closed. “He keeps stretching his abilities and he’s 100 percent healthy now.”

No. 1 Richmond will face the winner of No. 8 Hough and No. 9 Olympic high schools in the second round of the 4AA playoffs on Friday, Nov. 22. ROSports will continue its playoff coverage next week.

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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