ROCKINGHAM — The sting of Friday’s loss to Jack Britt was still hanging in the air as Richmond Senior coach Paul Hoggard began his off-season duties Monday morning.
In between moving equipment into storage and other activities, Hoggard talked about the Raiders’ season and how he saw a team make giant leaps during the year.
“I told the players after the game, how very proud I am of them,” Hoggard said. “In my 25 years of coaching, I have never seen a team in such bad shape mentally. From the end of the ‘11 season through Christmas break and into January, they were mentally in bad shape.
“To come from where they were in January to where we ended up, I was very pleased with that. From a winning standpoint, we didn’t win all our games and I’m disappointed we didn’t play well in the two losses — offensively, defensively and on special teams.”
Richmond’s two setbacks were by a combined 11 points to Scotland and Jack Britt. The Fighting Scots, the No. 1 seed from the 4A Mideast pod, will travel to face the East Region’s top team, New Bern, for a spot in the state championship game. The Buccaneers will take on Garner, the No. 1 seed in the 4AA East Region.
The Raiders have now reached the third round of the playoffs in five of the last six years. Last season, Richmond was upended in the opening round by Northwest Guilford.
“I ask every senior group to make the team better than the year before,” Hoggard said. “The last group was 8-3 and we were 11-2 this year. From a program standpoint we improved.”
While Hoggard beginning the task of inventory, Richmond defensive coordinator James Johnson was in his office watching video from Friday’s contest.
Johnson thought his unit performed well during the season, giving them a “B or B-” for their effort.
The one thing which sticks out in Johnson’s mind from Friday’s loss was what could have been. He talked about the injury which sidelined starting safety Robert Williams in the second half of the Jack Britt loss.
“We built the defense around playing three safeties against them,” Johnson said. “We thought that would allow us to play an 8-man front. It was working until Robert was hurt. At halftime we made the decision to go back to our base personnel.
“I thought when we had the three safeties together it allowed us to play really aggressive. As a staff from the head coach down, we didn’t feel bad about having our cornerbacks covering their wideouts and tackling their quarterback in space. If I had to do it over, I would still do things the same.”
A week after putting rumors to rest about his future, Hoggard talked about his coaching staff, specifically Johnson and possible changes before the next of the 2013 season.
“The guys from 30 to 35 (years of age), we’re starting to lose them to coordinator or head coaching jobs,” Hoggard said. “I have a feeling some will be offered head coaching jobs because that happens every year. I will be shocked if the staff remains together.
“But I will not be looking to force changes.”
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.