First Posted: 10/29/2014
ROCKINGHAM — Pinecrest will be looking to accomplish something it has never achieved in its history — beat Richmond Senior in consecutive years.
Richmond holds a 33-3 advantage in the series, but lost 21-7 last season at John Williams Stadium. Pinecrest’s other victories in the series came in 2008, 31-28, and 1992, 27-26.
Last year’s victory propelled Pinecrest to a second-place finish in the Southeastern Conference, while Richmond was third.
The winner of tonight’s contest will put punch their ticket to the postseason as well as put themselves in prime position for a high seed when the North Carolina High School Athletic Association releases the brackets next weekend.
The Raiders will clinch at least second place with a win over the Patriots. Pinecrest, on the other hand, will have the inside track on finishing second in the Southeastern Conference because it will hold a head-to-head tiebreaker on Richmond.
While both coaches and teams will have that in the back of their mind, they all agree the focus for tonight will be on the field at Raider Stadium.
Richmond set a school record last week for most points scored in a game with 75. In addition, the 110 combined points by Richmond and Lumberton were a record as well.
That marked the eighth straight game the Raiders have topped the 41-point mark since being limited to 21 in their season opener.
Pinecrest coach Chris Metzger knows it will be difficult to slow a Richmond offense that is averaging 47.7 points a game, 355.7 yards on the ground and 421 yards of total offense.
Quientel Goodwin leads the Raiders with 897 rushing yards, while Miles Grant is just behind with 895. Grant has a team-high 20 touchdowns, including three in the win over the Pirates last week. Goodwin has found the end zone 12 times.
Shavar Little and Jesse Williams have rushed for 586 and 360 yards, respectively. Both have six touchdowns this season.
“The challenge this week is completely different,” Metzger said to The Pilot of Southern Pines. “They (Richmond) are a smash-mouth team where a majority of their touchdowns have come off the dive play. So that is an emphasis for us…The kids know they have to have their best effort yet.”
Richmond coach Paul Hoggard said Pinecrest has done a good job slowing his offense down in recent games. The Raiders won 12-7 in 2011, earned a hard-fought 27-18 victory in 2012 and were limited to seven points in last year’s loss.
“They do a great job, with them being an option team, they kind of understand what we like to try to do,” Hoggard said. “They do a good job defending it. We’ve got to make plays. You aren’t going to outsmart them. You’re not going to get something over on them because they’re not understanding what you’re trying to do. They understand what we try to do and they do a good job trying to stop it.”
The Patriots’ defense is led by junior linebacker Carson Maples and sophomore safeties Jaylen Dickerson and Zach Martinez. Opponents are averaging 13.5 points per contest this season against Pinecrest. The team surrendered a season-high 23 points in a win over Lumberton.
Hoggard believes Pinecrest’s defense could cause his team some problems because its members are faster than in years past.
“I feel they are much more athletic. The secondary runs well, their linebackers run well,” Hoggard said. “They’re very physical on defense. They get after you really well. They’ve got a quality team. They aren’t 8-1 by mistake, they’re a good football team.
“I’m impressed with their safeties, who are young, they’re both sophomores. Impressed with both of those guys to be sophomores, they’re good players. The Maples kid at linebacker is a two-year starter at linebacker and he plays well. Their front kids play really hard and keep their pads down, they don’t get knocked around very much.”
Hoggard added the Patriots should be able to slow down his offense’s quick-strike ability. In the win over Lumberton, Richmond scored eight times on drives taking five plays or fewer.
“People kind of get lulled to sleep a little bit, ‘Hey, we’re just going to score every third play or something.’ That’s typically not the case,” he said. “We are a ball-control offense, I don’t foresee us scoring as fast as we have been scoring…but it would be nice.”
Even though Pinecrest may not have the “home-run threat” Richmond has on offense, it is averaging 40.3 points a game. The Patriots are averaging 252 rushing yards and another 119.1 in the air this season.
Junior quarterback Christian Ledbetter is the team’s leading runner with 812 yards and seven touchdowns. He has also thrown for another 1,067 yards and 13 scores. The Patriots will use Chance Castillo, Troy Roper and Sam Williams in the backfield.
Bradley Black has been Ledbetter’s favorite passing target. Black has 13 receptions for 248 yards and six touchdowns. Roper has 12 catches for 177 yards and a score. Cameron Brown has pulled in 11 balls for 198 yards and two touchdowns.
“They play very smart. They don’t do anything to hurt themselves and they play very hard,” Hoggard said. “They’re very talented. We have to play responsibility defense. We have to be where we’re supposed to be.
“It’s a little different style, but it’s a similar philosophy offensively that we do. They’re an option team. You’ve got to tackle the guy you’re supposed to tackle.”
Ray Ellerbe, Gus Chambers and Daryus Skinner headline a Richmond defense that will try to slow Ledbetter and Pinecrest down. The Raiders are allowing 22.6 points per contest.
Ellerbe leads the Raiders with 97 total tackles. Chambers is second with 76 and Skinner is one behind with 75.
Metzger knows a win will not come easy for his team, especially on the road.
“They have played some great competition and have come out on top,” Metzger said. “It’s really critical for us to have our best effort.”
Reach sports editor Shawn Stinson at 910-817-2671 and follow him on Twitter @scgolfer. The Pilot’s Tom Embrey contributed to this report.