ROCKINGHAM — Homecoming and Purnell Swett hasn’t always been a good mix for Richmond Senior.
Normally the homecoming opponent is supposed to be like a lamb being led to slaughter, but the Rams have put up a pretty good fight through the years, especially recently.
Two years ago, Purnell Swett were an inch or less away from taking a late lead on a 2-point conversion against Richmond before falling 42-41. In 2009, the Rams took a 30-28 lead into halftime before the Raiders rallied in the second half for a 47-36 win.
Richmond coach Paul Hoggard knows the festivities surrounding homecoming can be a distraction to his team.
“You don’t know know what frame of mind they are going to be in,” Hoggard said. “I just hope we are going to play well.”
In addition, Hoggard plans on repeating his talk he gave before the Hoke game last week when he warned his team of looking at the opponent’s record. Purnell Swett comes into tonight’s contest with a 2-5 mark.
“I told them they’re a very good football team and it’s going to be a new season for them,” Hoggard said. “I expect Purnell Swett to be a typical Mark Heil team that fights until the end. Hopefully last week’s game woke us up a little bit.”
Purnell Swett is in the midst of a rugged three-game stretch against the top teams in the conference — Scotland, Richmond and Pinecrest. The Fighting Scots rolled past the Rams 48-6 in the SEC opener. For the season, Purnell Swett’s opponents have a combined 32-18 mark. It has faced one undefeated team and two one-loss squads.
“We opened with Pine Forest and they are 7-1,” Heil said. “We have faced Hoggard and New Hanover and they are both pretty good teams. We have had a very tough schedule.”
And add Richmond to that mix now. The Raiders are 6-1 and are ranked fifth in the Associated Press poll.
Despite having this daunting task in front of his team, Heil said they are ready.
“The Raiders are still the Raiders,” he said. “I’m glad to be playing there because we seem to play better there.”
Heil admits his offense is struggling to put points on the board. After years of featuring a pounding rushing attack, Heil has switched tactics.
“We’re a passing football team,” Heil said. “We are so small on the offensive line we can’t play smash mouth football. We look like a junior high team out there. We’re like little kids playing with big kids.”
The Rams are second to last in scoring average, 18.6 points a game. Quarterback Thriston Lowry has thrown for 887 yards, six touchdowns and nine interceptions. His main targets in the passing game are Tyler Maynor and Jordan Chavis. Maynor, who has made visits to Elon and UNC Pembroke, leads the team with 35 receptions for 436 yards and three scores. Chavis has 18 catches for 223 yards and two touchdowns.
“Their No. 5 (Maynor) is a good player,” Richmond defensive coordinator Mark Arthur said. “They will run him on slot reserves and throw it to him. They also have a bigger sized receiver (Chavis) and they like to get the ball to him, too.”
Things haven’t been much better on the defensive side of the ball for the Rams, surrendering 29.1 points a game.
“We started out playing well in the first couple of games,” Heil said.
Hoggard hopes his offense can get back into its rhythm which he thought was disrupted with the open date.
“We were off a little bit at first last week,” Hoggard said. “In my opinion, the worse thing for an option football team is to have a week off, but we needed it to heal up.”
Among the players needing that time to get healthy were starting running backs Diquon Cox and Miles Grant. Cox rushed for 154 yards and three touchdowns after missing the Anson game, while Grant added 43 yards and a score. Grant left the Hoke contest with back spasms, which kept him out of practice this week. Jesse Williams ran for 116 yards against the Bucks. Williams is expected to earn the start if Grant is unable to play tonight.
— 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.