ROCKINGHAM — Take a deep breath, relax and get ready for the upcoming Southeastern Conference battles.
This was the thinking of Richmond Senior coach Paul Hoggard this week. He and his coaching staff weren’t forced to prepare for an opponent this week, although they have started to lay the ground work for Hoke County. Instead the staff could concentrate on getting players healthy and work on areas which need improvement.
At the midseason point, the Raiders are 5-1 and have played a stronger schedule than they have faced in recent years. This season’s opponents are a combined 21-13 and only one team — Myrtle Beach — is below the .500 mark at 2-3. Richmond has handed both Rocky River and Vance their only loss of the season.
The offense continues to post unbelieveable numbers despite the strength of its opposition. The Raiders are averaging 48.7 points, 402.2 rushing yards and 518.3 yards of total offense a game.
“I’m pleased with our running game,” Hoggard said. “We are able to do a lot of things because they understand what we are trying to do. We are able to make adjustments in a game because of their understanding.”
Quarterback Brent Flowers has a team-leading 752 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. Flowers is averaging 12.3 yards per carry. Diquon Cox, who sat out the win at Anson, is second with 652 yards and eight scores. Miles Grant is third with 600 yards and eight carries. He also leads the Raiders with a 12.8-yard per carry average.
Richmond has scored 34 touchdowns on the ground and had eight players find the end zone at least once.
One of the positions which was a question mark heading into the season was the offensive line. The team lost four players which were starters at some point last year, including Tyrone Crowder, an ESPN Top 150 player.
“They’ve done a good job,” Hoggard said of this year’s unit. “They were the unknown because they hadn’t played much together. They fit together really well.”
If there is one part of the offense Hoggard wants to see get better, it’s in the air. Hoggard said he wants to compete at least 60 percent of the attempts, but right now Flowers is just under 50 percent. Flowers has connected on 34 of 72 attempts for 697 yards, six touchdowns and one interception.
Raheem Bowden has been Flowers’ favorite target, reeling in 19 receptions for 378 yards and two touchdowns. Grant is second with nine catches for 141 yards and one score.
“We have to get to where our passing game has to improve,” Hoggard said. “It’s not always the quarterback’s fault, it could be the protection, it could be the spacing in the routes or it could be a bad throw. We have to keep working on it and keep getting it better.”
Things have been up and down on the other side of the ball for Richmond. The defense is surrendering 31.5 points a game and an average of 444 yards a contest.
“We have to get better every week,” Richmond defensive coordinator Mark Arthur said. “I don’t look back at the score, all I care about is did we help the team win.”
Arthur added he has seen flashes of his unit’s ability to shutdown the opposition. For example, Arthur mentions the beginning of the Anson game when the Bearcats had 18 total yards of offense in their first three possessions.
“We start the game playing the way we are capable of,” Arthur said. “Then we don’t keep it going. It’s frustrating. It’s not the lack effort. The kids haven’t quit.”
Richmond will begin its five-week march through the SEC at Hoke County. The last time the Raiders visited Raeford, the Bucks pulled off the 24-21 upset in 2011.
That year the SEC sent all six schools to the playoffs. The conference will not repeat that feat this season. Usually one of the best leagues in the state, it is top heavy this year with only Pinecrest, Richmond and Scotland having winning records. The Patriots are 6-0 and the Fighting Scots are 5-0 (not including Friday’s game with Goldsboro). Of the other three schools, only Purnell Swett has walked off the gridiron as a winner this season. The Rams are 2-4, although both wins came against 2A schools. Lumberton is 0-6 and Hoke is 0-5 (not including its contest at Westover Friday).
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @scgolfer.