Raiders, Bucks to battle in league opener
by By Shawn Stinson
ROCKINGHAM — It could be typical coach-speak, but Paul Hoggard is worried about tonight’s Southeastern Conference opener.
On paper, Richmond Senior shouldn’t have any concerns with Hoke County.
The Bucks are just 1-5 on the season with their lone victory coming against winless Westover last week.
However, the Richmond head coach fears Hoke is beginning to catch fire at the right time — SEC play.
“They have some good players,” Hoggard said. “I’m not sure if it was turnovers or injuries early in the season, but they seem to have gotten it right Friday night. They have as much talent at every position as anybody and a lot of speed at the skill positions. They are a very talent 1-5 team.”
Despite losing the SEC’s leading rusher the last two seasons Detrez Newsome to graduation, Richmond defensive coordinator Mark Arthur said the Bucks will still look to run the ball between the tackles.
In the win over Westover, running backs Jacob Rushing and Jamal Darden combined to rush for 269 yards and four touchdowns. Quarterback Geoffrey Thompson added 72 yards and a score, while backup running back Isaiah Johnson contributed 50 yards and a touchdown.
“They are definitely run heavy,” Arthur said. “They will look to run the ball outside, but they are definitely a power running team. We have to be able to stop the run.”
Slowing down the opposition’s rushing attack has been difficult for Richmond this season. The Raiders are surrendering 235 yards per game, an average of 6.6 yards per attempt, and allowed 31.5 points a contest.
The last four opponents — Vance, Jack Britt, Butler and Anson — have fared even better, running for 309.3 yards, 7.8 yards per carry and scoring 36.5 points a contest.
Arthur added the open date provided his unit the opportunity to get back to basics.
“We had a good week of practice last week,” he said. “We worked on things we have had deficiencies in. We are all anxious to play and see if they will take effect.”
Unlike the defense, Hoggard is hoping his offense will pick up where it left off before the open date. The Raiders are averaging 518.3 yards of total offense, 402.1 yards on the ground, 10.6 yards per carry and 48.7 points a game.
Quarterback Brent Flowers is the team’s leading rusher with 752 yards and 10 touchdowns. Despite missing the Anson game, Diquon Cox has run for 652 yards and eight scores. Miles Grant has added 600 yards and another eight touchdowns.
Raheem Bowden has grabbed a team-high 16 catches for 378 yards and two touchdowns. Grant has nine receptions out of the backfield and a score.
For the season, Flowers has connected on 34 of 72 passes for 697 yards, six touchdowns and one interception.
Hoggard said the passing game is one area he hopes comes around during the conference season.
“We talked about things we need to improve on,” he said. “The kids understand that, but throwing the first couple of days this week was tough because of the rain.”
Richmond hopes its visit tonight to Raeford goes better than its last. Two years ago, Hoke picked up its first victory in the series in 35 games, 24-21. The Raiders gained a bit of revenge last season, rolling past the Bucks, 49-14.
— 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.
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