Monday, 28 September 2020 12:58

Raider Elite 18U splits first 7-on-7 weekend series

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Senior linebacker C.J. Tillman hauls in an interception during Saturday's action. Senior linebacker C.J. Tillman hauls in an interception during Saturday's action. Photo credits: Griffin Zetterberg.

WEDDINGTON, N.C. — Football is back, in some degree, for nearly two dozen Richmond Senior High School varsity players.

In what would have normally been Week 6 of the high school football season, the Raider Elite 18U team instead dressed for its first afternoon of games in the Blazing 7-on-7 league. Coached by Errol Hood and Gary Tillman, the Raiders split their two contests at Weddington Optimist Park.

The Richmond County 7-on-7 program was started by Hood and John Carter, two local youth coaches who are trying to give local players a chance to play this fall while waiting on the high school season to start in February.

Per the league’s rules, teams play two 22-minutes halves with a running clock, save for the final minute of each half. Playing on a 40-yard field with a 10-yard end zone, offenses have three downs (instead of four) to reach a first down of 15 yards.

Teams can obtain two first downs on a drive by reaching the 25 and 10-yard lines. Once inside the 10-yard line, an offense has three downs to score a touchdown. There is no tackling, as players are down by two-hand contact and don’t wear helmets or pads.

The scoring of a 7-on-7 game is also modified, as offenses and defenses can rack up points. A touchdown awards a team six points, and is followed by either a one-point (5-yard line) or two-point (10-yard line) conversion attempt.

An interception on defense earns three points, while a defensive stop and turnover on downs credits a team with two points. No running backs or linemen are used (except for a center to snap the ball), running back and shovel passes are prohibited, but swing passes behind the line of scrimmage are allowed.

Led on offense by the familiar faces of senior quarterback Caleb Hood, senior wide receivers Jakolbe Baldwin, Tremel Jones and Dalton Stroman, senior tailback Jaron Coleman and junior wideout Kellan Hood, the Raiders rolled past their first opponent, Pure Determination (Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology) 44-11.

The outcome was a little different in the second game against the Purple People Eaters (Porter Ridge High School), as a slow start on offense and miscommunications on defense led to a 41-27 defeat.

“We destroyed the first team, and early on, the offense was awesome,” Coach Hood said. “Caleb was calling his own plays and we got up so big late in the game that Emoni (McBride) got some reps at quarterback.

“The purpose of the program is to help the guys build continuity and get back into a football mindset,” he added. “That showed in the first game, but our second round game had some troubles with continuity and communication with the defense.”

Kellan Hood, Baldwin, Coleman, Jones and Stroman all hauled in “multiple touchdowns” between the two games, while senior receiver Jarod Morrison also got in on the action.

Noting the Raiders won’t return any of their starting defensive backs from a season ago in February, Hood said there were several bright spots throughout the day. Senior linebacker C.J. Tillman snagged an interception, while junior DBs Jamari Broady and Cason Douglas added three points each with picks of their own.

“Porter Ridge was able to watch us play our first game and we didn’t know anything about them,” Hood said. “On offense, they would run two groups with two different quarterbacks. Our offense started slow, but we rallied after being down 24-2. We just ran out of time.

“With no returning DBs, we expect the defense to struggle a little,” he continued. “Those guys will learn from this experience and get ready for February. We were battle tested against Porter Ridge, but I know they will continue to work hard to get better.”

Hood plans to meet with Richmond head coach Bryan Till this week to help sort out some kinks on defense. He reiterated the end game as being able to put all the players “in the best position to be successful.”

The 18U team’s season will run 10 games and feature a playoff bracket. Other high school teams they could potentially play include Myers Park, Vance and Weddington. The schedule for this week’s games will be posted on Wednesday.

Raider Elite 15U squad earns big win over BC Ridge Runners

Also in action Saturday, the Raider Elite 15U team won 50-0 over the BC Ridge Runners (Virginia). Coached by former Raider Laron Ellerbe, the JV team split reps at quarterback between sophomores Emmanuel Gilliam and McBride.

Sophomore defensive backs Xavier Wall and Emerson Wall each had two interceptions and freshman Javian Morgan collected one pick in the win.

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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