PEMBROKE — For the first eight minutes of the game, Purnell Swett stood toe-to-toe with third-ranked Richmond Senior.
After using a fake punt to keep their second drive of the game alive and getting a 54-yard run from Issac Jacobs, the Rams moved the ball inside the Raider 10 before settling for a 27-yard field goal attempt by Tristian Hunt to put the contest’s first points on the scoreboard.
The only problem was Purnell Swett didn’t score on the play, Richmond did.
It was the shot in the arm the Raiders needed to pull away for a 56-0 Southeastern Conference victory Friday night at “Big Mo” Stadium.
Hunt’s try never got into the air and bounced off several lineman before squirting out towards the right sideline. Richmond’s Mikey Steele scooped up the loose ball and raced 93 yards for the game’s initial touchdown.
“I was thinking it may be another fake and I was reading my guy,” Steele said. “Then I saw the ball shoot out and I didn’t know if I should pick it up or hand it to the referee. I saw everyone running towards me, so I started running down the sideline. I had to hurdle a guy at about the 40, then I cut back in and picked up some good blocks, then cut it back out.”
Purnell Swett coach Mark Heil thought Steele’s return marked the beginning of the end for his team’s chances against Richmond. The Rams finished with 157 yards of total offense in the contest, 70 of that coming on the fateful second possession.
“I thought Richmond came out flat and we took advantage of it and broke that big run,” Heil said. “If anyone has followed Purnell Swett football all season, we have found a way to give up big plays in unusual ways. Tonight, it was a field goal attempt that turned into a touchdown for Richmond.”
Richmond coach Paul Hoggard blamed his team’s slow start on a change in philosophy.
“We went into the game with a different gameplan,” Hoggard said. “We wanted to pass it first and run the ball second. It was very blah.
“This was a tough game. They’re struggling and our kids know it. It wasn’t the most hyped game but once we settled in, we got going.”
The Raiders used the momentum from Steele’s touchdown to score on four of their next five possessions to take a 35-point lead into halftime. Diquon Cox ran for two scores in the first half and Elijah Goodwin added a 32-yard dash into the end zone. Goodwin rushed for a game-high 112 yards in the game, while Cox recorded 60 yards on seven carries.
Richmond moves to 7-0 on the season and 2-0 in league play, while Purnell Swett drops to 2-5 and 0-2. Despite being winless in the SEC, the Rams are still alive for one of the automatic playoff berths.
Hoke County knocked off Lumberton 35-7, while Scotland rolled past Pinecrest 34-11. The Fighting Scots remained tied with the Raiders atop the SEC, while the Bucks and the Patriots are both 1-1 in the conference. The Pirates fall to 0-2.
Next week, Purnell Swett will play host to Pinecrest, while Richmond will travel to Lumberton and Hoke County will welcome Scotland to Raz Autry.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at email@example.com.