Saturday, 30 November 2019 01:26

Hood's career-high 4 rushing TDs help Raiders gallop past Myers Park

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Quarterback Caleb Hood (5) pushes past Jordan Brown (20) for one of his career-high four rushing scores in Friday's 35-32 win over Myers Park. Quarterback Caleb Hood (5) pushes past Jordan Brown (20) for one of his career-high four rushing scores in Friday's 35-32 win over Myers Park. Jimmy McDonald — The Richmond Observer.

ROCKINGHAM — In a showdown between two of North Carolina’s best high school football teams, the Richmond Senior High School Raiders proved to be the better of the two against Myers Park during Friday’s heavyweight third round 4AA West rematch.

The top-seeded Raiders rode the legs of junior quarterback Caleb Hood and his career-high four rushing touchdowns to a 35-32 victory over the No. 4 Mustangs to advance to the West finals for the first time since 2008.

Maintaining a perfect record on the year, the win proved the first time all season the Raiders (13-0) had to comeback from a halftime deficit. Richmond outscored Myers Park 22-11 in the second half to redeem a 23-point loss from the same round of the playoffs last year.

Richmond will now move on to face No. 10 Vance High School, which is the reigning West region champion. The Cougars defeated West Forsyth 35-7 in the third round to advanced to play Richmond.

In front of a packed stadium nearing 10,000 fans, and a frenzied home section that head coach Bryan Till tipped his cap to for its support, the Raiders used the energy to spark the second-half rally. The turning point, Till noted, was when Richmond’s defense limited the Mustangs (12-1) to a 33-yard field goal with 2:22 left in the third quarter, which put the visitors up 24-13.

“Holding them to a field goal was huge,” Till explained after the game. “To me, we were already playing pretty well in (a lot of) aspects. But holding them to that gave us a lot of confidence moving forward that we can make some things happen.

“(Tonight) makes a statement of the hard work these kids are willing to put in to beat a top quality opponent,” he added. “It makes the statement we can play with anybody. But more than that, it means we won the third round and we better get ready for next week.”

Preceding the 33-yarder from Matthew Dennis, Richmond’s defense got into gear when junior linebacker CJ Tillman nearly picked a tipped pass attempt from Drake Maye. A couple of plays later, a goal line stand saw senior cornerback Zyier Baldwin make a pass breakup on Muhsin Muhammed, III in the end zone.

One final push from the three-yard line saw Maye stuffed short, and an unnecessary roughness penalty following the play backed the Mustangs up to their 16-yard line, setting up Dennis’ kick.

Out of the gates, however, it was Hood and company who would strike first to take an early lead. On Richmond’s third play from scrimmage, Hood kept the ball to himself and scampered 73 yards to the house just 1:13 into the game. Trevor Moss’ point after attempt was good.

Maye, who is an Alabama commit, responded on the Mustangs’ next drive. Using a short field, he took the ball himself on fourth-and-two for a two-yard rushing score. 

A drive later following a Richmond punt, Maye threw the first of his two passing touchdowns, hitting senior running back Tim Newman on a rollout to the right from five yards out. With 4:30 left in the first quarter, Myers Park was in control 14-7.

Newman gave Myers Park a 14-point advantage following two more Richmond punts, scooting in from seven yards out with 9:16 left to go in the half. The scoreboard started to look vaguely reminiscent of 2018’s meeting, when the Mustangs also held a two-possession score in the first half.

After seeing Drew Davis punt the ball on four straight possessions, Hood, senior running back Jaheim Covington and junior wide receiver Jakolbe Baldwin moved the Raiders closer before the end of the half.  

Richmond would march 76 yards on eight plays, resulting in Covington plowing ahead for a one-yard score, his team-leading 23rd of the season. Hood and Baldwin connected twice on the drive, including a 31-yard catch and run over the middle to the one-yard line. The PAT attempt would be no good, and the Raiders would trail 21-13 at the break.

Myers Park, which had been averaging 51.5 points per game on offense entering the night, took the second-half kickoff but failed to do anything with it on its first drive. Senior linebacker Gavin Russell had back-to-back sacks on Maye, the latter being a strip sack the quarterback managed to fall on.

The Raiders’ offense wasn’t far off from the Mustangs’ average, putting up just over 43 points per game this season. On their drive following Myers Park’s field goal, the Raiders found the end zone again, starting a 22-8 run to close the game.

Hood, who finished 12-of-24 for 203 passing yards and with 112 rushing yards on 11 carries, used completions to Kellan Hood (24 yards) and Dalton Stroman (36 yards) to get down to the Mustangs’ four-yard line. With 58.7 ticks left in the third stanza, Hood kept the ball and notched his second rushing score.

A little trickery from offensive coordinator Brad Denson’s playbook saw Richmond convert the two-point conversion to make it a 24-21 ball game. With his 46 yards on three catches, Stroman eclipsed the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the first time in his career.

The touchdown marked the first of three consecutive possession the Raiders would make easy work of the Mustangs’ defense and find the end zone.

Defensively, Till’s Raiders started to put things together in the second half, pressuring Maye into tough passing situations. Following a delay of game penalty by the Mustangs, Maye connected with Muhammad, a Texas A&M commit, on a dart over the middle, but Tillman stripped the ball and saw it recovered by fellow linebacker Dre Bethea at the Raiders’ 22-yard line.

Dre Bethea (right) reaches down for a fumble recovery during the third quarter of Friday’s win.

That play, the only turnover of the game, proved to start a seven-play, 78 yard scoring drive for Richmond. Covington began the series with a monster run of 32 yards, barreling over defenders to get to the Myers Park 46-yard line. He would finish the game with 108 yards on 23 attempts.

Baldwin hauled in another long catch and run, this one a 28-yard gain, down to the two-yard line. That set Hood up for another quarterback keeper, again using using the right side of his offensive line to maneuver into the end zone to give the Raiders a 28-24 lead with 9:16 left in regulation.

Richmond stunted Maye and the Mustangs’ offense on the next drive, seeing another Zyier Baldwin pass breakup, this time on Logan Mauldin. A second delay of game penalty backed up Myers Park, and Tillman sacked Maye for an eight-yard loss on third down to force a punt.

Receiving the ball at its own 26-yard line with 7:50 to play, the Raider offense went to work to sustain a long drive that ultimately ended in another Hood rushing touchdown. This one would go 74 yards on 10 plays and take 4:16 off the clock. 

Baldwin, who caught six of his seven targets and finished tied with Myers Parks’ Jordan Bly with a game-high 124 yards, picked up 22 more yards to move the Raiders near midfield. The 124 receiving yards were also a career-high for the junior wideout.

Junior running back Jaron Coleman added 27 rushing yards on two attempts to move the ball dow field, and Hood went up the middle on back-to-back plays to forge ahead into the end zone for his fourth and final time of the game. Moss’ PAT rang true and the Raiders led 35-24 with 3:34 left in the game.

Maye and Bly would strike back moments later after a blown coverage play led to a 54-yard score with 2:17 left. The two-point conversion was good and the Mustangs were within three points. 

Baldwin picked up a 26-yard gain on Richmond’s ensuing drive for a first down that ultimately helped put the game away for good. Although the Raiders wouldn’t covert again, a timeout with 24.6 seconds left saw a Davis punt pin the Mustangs at their own 22-yard line.

In a last ditch effort, Maye aired out three hail mary passes but saw two batted away, as Richmond secured the win. Following the final buzzer, Richmond players and coaches celebrated as the home side burst into a frenzy of elation.

“It was a mix of excitement, relief, exuberance,” Till smiled after the game of when the clock hit zero. “There were waves of emotions in all honesty.

“Obviously if somebody beats you last year and you don’t feel like you played well, you want a shot at redemption,” he added. “That’s something that was on our mind. Not because it was Myers Park, but because it’s the way we want to play. We wanted this rematch to see if we could do a better job and take pride in what we’re doing.”

Maye finished as the game’s leading passer with 286 yards on 18 completions, and connected with seven receivers in the process. The Richmond defense tallied four total sacks against Maye.

Following the game, Till told his players it was a “fantastic job” and that they “need to celebrate” this win. But he also reminded them a state championship is the goal, as the Raiders will now prepare to host Vance (11-2) next Friday in the West regional championship.

ROSports will provide coverage leading up to the game against the Cougars on Friday, Dec. 6, at 7:30 p.m.

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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